My final hurrah

Charlotte Stephan

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As the months of 2023 continue on, the number of gymnastics meets I get to participate in begin to fade. I began the season with what seemed like an unlimited amount of meets, but I am now able to count the remaining on one hand. 

 I always knew that I would become a senior and that my sports career would have to end, but I never expected it to come so fast. I don’t remember my first meet of the season because it seems like years ago, but in reality, it was a month and a half ago and the time has been moving incredibly fast. I never thought I would feel the way I do about a sport that I hated and was ready to be done with just a little under a year ago, but I am so glad I continued on. 

I began this chapter of my life when I was six-years-old. I spent countless years spending time in recreational classes and just having fun in the gym. Younger me loved jumping on the big yellow trampoline, swinging on the bars, and jumping into the foam pits. It is crazy how times can change. Now I hate the trampoline, bars are my least favorite event, and I am terrified of tumbling into the pit.

After falling in love with the sport, I only wanted more of it, so I began my competitive journey in the fifth grade. I participated in a program called “performance team” where I performed in a few in-house competitions each year. I spent weeks on end trying to learn my routines and make them perfect so I could show my parents how much I had learned. Slowly, that team dwindled down to nothing, but I was able to gain an even better experience instead.

I ended up in my gym’s USAG Xcel program, which is just a less time-consuming competitive program. My first year started off rough, but I was overjoyed just to be able to have the experience of being there. I quickly learned how much I truly loved the sport, and I was eager to head to the gym every day to practice. I ended up moving up one level for the next season, and I had even more fun except for the fact that I had nobody except for my coach and parents. My gym was very small and just getting this program started which meant I was the only girl representing our gym at that specific level. Every meet was all about me and only me. My scores only affected myself and how I placed on the podium; it didn’t matter to anyone else. I never got to truly experience the sport as being a full team effort until high school. 

Once I entered sophomore year and decided I wanted to join the high school team, my gymnastics life flipped upside down. Scoring in high school gymnastics is much different than I had ever experienced, and our scores do not earn us medals anymore. It was difficult for me to feel proud about the routines I was performing because I didn’t have the satisfaction of being awarded a medal, and it was especially difficult for me to get used to the full team setting since it had been absent my entire life. But being a part of this high school team is one of the best things that has happened to me. After the first two years, I felt extremely burnt out from the sport, and I never wanted to come back. I ended the season with an injury that caused me to compete in easier routines than at the beginning of the season, which is the complete opposite of what is supposed to happen. While our team ended up making it to the state competition, I didn’t feel the excitement that I had hoped for, and I was ready to be done with the season. The entire summer passed by, and I didn’t step foot in the gym. Luckily, I convinced myself that I needed to come back for my senior year, and I couldn’t be happier about that decision. 

This year started off rough since it had been seven months since I had done any gymnastics, but I had high hopes for the rest of the year. The team ended up getting new coaches who have helped push me to finish my career at levels I have ever been before, and I couldn’t be more grateful for it. This season has been tough, but it has also been the most fun, and I am so glad that I get to spend it with some of my best friends right by my side. 

As I reminisce on all of the years, I remember why I loved the sport so much and why I came back for one last hurrah. To my club coach, Katie Peterson, and the best fake assistant coach ever, Joel Cornea, thank you both for believing in me and for being here for me every step of the way, even as I continued on to high school. To my high school coaches of two years, Lauren Suzio and Hannah Biesbrock, thank you for helping me figure out how to be a part of a team and learn how to be a leader. Finally, to my current coaches Jordan Lytle and Marie Clark, thank you for helping me find my love for this sport again and supporting me through this final year.

All athletes have their moment in the sun, and I am glad that I had the opportunity to have had many.