A challenging and disciplined sport pushes TJ gymnastics to raise the bar.
Gymnastics requires a special type of focus and intensity; each step so calculated, and the need for precision so crucial or the sport becomes dangerous. Some challenges gymnasts face are focusing on each movement while smiling, making sure the hair doesn’t come undone, and making sure the pain doesn’t show on the outside. The mental aspect of gymnastics is a challenge in itself. Gymnastics has been a sport for a very long time, and like every sport, it has evolved, progressing with each generation. There is a need for each person to be younger, better, or smaller than the person before, and the list goes on and on. There is no possible way to be perfect, so the important thing for gymnasts to remember is that when they accept their skills, believing they are good enough, they are.
At TJ Gymnastics, the head coach Molly Sifers speaks about how she tries to help her gymnasts cope with the stresses of being perfect in the unforgiving sport. She says, “It’s just as much physical as it is mental, which I think we forget about. It can be as hard as it looks.” While Sifers touches on the physical portion, team captain Erin Pointet touches on the mental aspect. She says, “[Gymnastics] is not something where you can be completely physically prepared and be able to do it, your mind has to be there.” She shares that at TJ, they try to make the gymnastics culture more nurturing and kind to its gymnasts, but if she could change one thing about gymnastics in general, it would be the “body shaming, and negativity, like eating disorders, [including the way] you never feel good about how good you are because you are always trying to be better. That is the point of gymnastics…you’re chasing someone else’s view of perfection when perfection doesn’t exist.” Every young woman who competes in this sport has to have a mindset that visualizes how each movement or skill will look, and Sifers works hard to make that a reality for her team while keeping their mental health a priority. Pointet shares her opinion on how being perfect affects not only her mindset but her teams’ and how they cope with it. She admits, “It’s hard. You really are being graded on how perfect you are… the main thing to keep in mind is to have a balance between knowing what you’re doing right and giving yourself corrections too.” Pointet emphasizes it is very important to “[think] of one step at a time.”
TJ Gymnastics has done well for being a small high school gymnastics team, and they continue striving to be the best they can be. Sifers speaks about how it can be hard coaching high school and having a constant circulation of different gymnasts can be difficult. Although this is true, she comments that the best thing about being a coach is “when somebody has been working on a skill for however long … and you see them get frustrated that they don’t have it, and then they get it, and they get so excited, and you get so excited that you got to help them and be part of that moment, that’s really cool, to see people achieve their goals.” As Sifers continued to talk about her girls, it was very clear that there is a family aspect to the sport. For example, the team learns little parts of their teammates’ routines and does it with them. With the support of the girls around every gymnast, it is easy to see the positive community TJ creates for its gymnasts by allowing young women to step out of their comfort zone in a safe environment, push their limits, and ultimately better themselves. Pointet states that even though their team is small, “it’s just more personal.” She further explains,“During stretching we all talk to each other instead of having little groups, which I notice in bigger teams that I’ve been on and bigger teams I have seen.”
TJ Gymnastics is a strong program that allows each athlete to grow at their own pace while pushing them to be better, stronger, and healthier. With all the stigma and talk about bettering the sport of gymnastics, it is amazing to see the Spartan program support its girls and give them skills such as discipline, hard work, and determination.