Legacy. Tradition. Pride. Friendship. Family. When I think back about my time spent at Texas Woman’s University, particularly my time spent on the gymnastics team at TWU, I think about these things. The legacy of TWU gymnastics is built upon many years of tradition and pride. The girls I competed with are some of my dearest friends...we are family. Many of them I do not see often, if at all anymore. We rarely talk on the phone, although many of us do keep up on facebook. But get us back in a room together and it’s like no time has passed at all.
I had an opportunity to get away and spend some time with these dear women this past weekend, and let me tell you...it was so refreshing! ...And a bit sad and surreal, as we witnessed the end of an era. Our coach, Frank Kuklac is retiring at the end of this season. He started the program 33 years ago has poured his heart and soul into making it what it is today...a USAG Powerhouse, with 9 USAG Collegiate National Championship Titles, two conference championships, numerous all American titles, and a slew of other accolades. Coach Kudlac did not just teach his team about gymnastics, he taught us principles for life. Hard work, perseverance, unity, belief in a system - in your teammates - and in yourself, the pursuit of excellence, poise, integrity...
I am so thankful that in 1995 Coach Kudlac saw potential in me, an inconsistent and inexperienced barely level 10 gymnast, and offered me a spot on the team. I am so so thankful. At that point I had only been competing for 3 years. Most of my experience had been in cheer-leading and tumbling with a year or so taking gymnastics when I was little. I had always loved it. It really was what I was passionate about. I wanted to be Mary Lou. I still remember turning cartwheels down the hallway of a hotel after watching the Olympics and telling my mom THAT is what I want to do!!! But with the cost of classes, our moving to a small town, and my love for school sports, gymnastics was not a realistic option. I spent 7th-9th grade fully immersed in as many school sports as I could possibly be involved in. Volleyball, basketball, track, cross-country, one season of softball, cheer-leading...I loved every minute of it. But my freshmen year, while taking a tumbling class, my heart was drawn back into my love for all-around gymnastics. I was willing to give up everything else and pursue gymnastics full time. When I told my school coaches that I would not be returning to the team my sophomore year they told me I was crazy....”to be good at gymnastics you have to start when you’re little bitty” they would say. “What do you plan to do with gymnastics? And why would you give up a chance at a college scholarship running track for this?” I couldn’t explain it. They were right. It was crazy. I had loved my time playing those sports, but gymnastics was IN me and always had been. I just had to take the chance. I just had to.
Looking back now, I realize just how crazy it was. I had no guarantees I’d be any good, and even if I was decent, there were no guarantees I’d get into college doing gymnastics. I was 15 and couldn’t do a kip on bars...in-fact I scratched bars nearly my entire first season because I couldn’t do the skills necessary in the routine...and once I could do enough of them to compete it was...let’s just say....entertaining! Beam was another tough one. I was so inconsistent (at least that’s the way it felt!). Because I was learning skills so quickly to “catch up” with my age group I didn’t have the time to perfect them like you need to do to be a solid beam worker. But I had floor and vault, and that was enough to keep me going. I was a 16 year old level 6 gymnasts competing with a bunch of 8 and 9 year olds. I meddled a lot that year, simply because there were not many girls competing in my age group! My teammates in high school were great too. There were two other girls that were just a year or two younger than me, and then a slew of little girls that I loved! They were all so supportive and encouraging. My coaches Mary Jane Ousley and Kristi Walters were great too. They kept pushing me ahead towards my goal, expecting great things from me, but helped me be realistic when my experience level didn’t measure up to my expectations. They really laid a quick, solid foundation for my collegiate years.
Okay, I’m not sure how I ended up hijacking this post with my walk down memory lane, but let me just say, that I am so thankful for my years in gymnastics. The friendships, the memories, the life lessons, the character building...it’s all priceless! So THANK YOU to all of you out there who were a part of my gymnastics journey. What amazing memories I have of that time in my life! And thank you Lord for giving me the talent, the desire and passion, and the courage to take the risk!
And now, here are a few shots from my weekend with the girls! And just for grins...a video of a video of my vault and floor routine from Nationals my senior year! (still makes my heart race and my palms sweaty to watch).