When I was pregnant with my second child, I frequently joked that I had a gymnast or an acrobat in my belly. That baby (we didn't know if it was a boy or a girl until I delivered) was so active, so often, that it just had to be one or the other.
At 2 years old, my daughter Emily is just as active as she was before she was born. And it turns out she really likes gymnastics.
We've been taking her to Harford Gymnastics for about a year. We started last spring in the 1- to 2-year-old Junior Tumblebees, then moved to the 2- to 3-year-old class. She loves her Friday class and her teacher, Miss Molly. (During one of the songs, the kids are supposed to hug the person who brought them; Emily always runs to give Miss Molly a hug, not me.)
She really looks forward to it all week, and at home, she bursts into the Tumblebees song at totally random times.
We have no preconceived notions that Emily is going to be a superstar gymnast, but if it's something she enjoys and she's relatively good at, we'll keep taking her.
Emily and I went to our first gymnastics meet last Friday night. My former neighbor, Becky Schaller, is the assistant coach of the gymnastics team at Towson University and last Friday was their last home meet of this season (they wrapped up the regular season Sunday in Virginia), so I thought Emily and I would have a girls night and go check it out.
It was really a lot of fun. I've always loved watching Olympic gymnastics, and while the girls aren't Olympic caliber, they're really good. They do things with their bodies and move them in ways I think I would kill myself if I ever tried. They run as fast as they can and do flips over a vault, or swing on the uneven bars, using incredible upper body strength.
With four events going on simultaneously, there's a lot to watch at a gymnastics meet. And I would encourage anyone who has young kids who are involved in gymnastics, even kids as young as Emily, to go check out a meet. It's a couple hours of entertainment, watching some great competition and some incredible ability and athleticism.
As Emily watched the girls on the uneven bars, she said "I can do that!"
(Sorry to break it to you, Ems, but you're a few years off from doing the maneuvers you saw those ladies doing. I know you like to swing on the bar, but it's going to be a bit – if ever – before you can swing in a full circle, launch yourself into the area, flip around and land on two feet!)
To be honest, we might never have known about Tumblebees and Harford Gymnastics had it not been for Becky, whom I lived next door to for several years. Many people may know her has Becky Robinson, who graduated from Fallston High School in 1995 then went to Michigan State University on a full scholarship, graduating in 1999 with a degree in kinesiology.
I wish I could have been able to watch Becky compete back in the day. She's very humble about it, and I don't know much about college gymnastics, but I've always figured she had to be darn good to get a full athletic scholarship to a school like Michigan State.
Her bio on Towson University's web site is impressive: United States Association of Independent Gymnastics Clubs (USAIGC) national all-around champion in 1992; two-time USA Gymnastics Level 10 national qualifier and national champion on floor exercise in 1992; Elite National Qualifier who won national championships on bars (1991) and beam (1993). That's just her youth competition.
At Michigan State, she was a "four-year standout" and an all-around performer who, as a freshman, helped the Spartans to a 27-3 record and a second place finish in the Big Ten Conference. As a sophomore, she was a member of a Spartans team that posted an 18-13 record and won the USA Gymnastics NIT championship.
Becky, who lives with her family in Forest Hill, can't do the moves anymore – wrist and ankle surgeries keep her off the equipment. But she's still following her passion. After college, she returned to Harford Gymnastics on the other side, coaching the upper level competitive teams. Then, two years ago, she was hired as the assistant coach at Towson.
It's not what she planned when she graduated, but she's happy with how things have gone. She wanted to become a physician's assistant, but quickly realized that it wasn't for her. And she'd taken a coaching job at Harford Gymnastics so she could have health insurance until she got married.
"I went back to what I knew. Then I fell in love with it again and got hooked," Becky said.
When she and her husband, Chris, started their family, her part-time schedule worked and she loved coaching kids. Her new schedule at Towson works too, now that her boys – Will and Elliott - are in elementary school.
"I'm content where I am for now, for me this is perfect," Becky said. "I'm lucky that it's worked for me. I don't take for granted that I just kind of fell into a DI college coaching job without having to uproot. I was given an opportunity I don't want to take for granted."
It was really interesting to watch Becky coach last Friday. I was kind of in awe, actually. She's on a big-time stage now doing something she loves. I'm really happy for her.
I only wish she could come back to Harford Gymnastics and coach Emily.