Anyone else find this a little humorous? Because today it finally hit me. I was helping coach the Level 4-6 girl’s team with two other guys when I realized that here we were, three strapping young men demonstrating how to dance and do back-walkovers to a dozen little girls ranging age 8 to 13.
And the thing was, for the last several months I was utterly oblivious to my sidelined masculinity, blinded by my competition driven need to see straight knees and proper demi pliès. I was literally doing chasè split leaps while screaming “You need to be pretty like I am!”
This is not an isolated phenomenon, either to myself or even my gym. At the State meet last week, I got my first look at the famed Georgia Elite team from Athens Georgia. They’ve won like 3 of the last 5 State Championships in our division, and I was curious to see who their coach was. Turns out it’s a 6′ tall black guy with a shaved head and chiseled biceps, who probably had to have his T-shirt sewn on over his shoulders. Now that my eyes have been opened to this He-Man gymnastics coach phenomenon, I remember that guy and laugh at the thought of parents signing their daughters up for the team. I imagine him growling out in the voice of Mr. T, “I will teach her how to do beautiful cartwheels!”
And yet, I feel no shame. I love what I do. Plus, I figure I’ve got at least 4-5 years before my newborn sons are old enough to be embarrassed by me. Still, as I prepared myself this morning for another day on the job I held my razor in my hand, looked in the mirror, and thought maybe I should grow a beard, just in case…
So it’s a new semester at the Cobb County Gymnastics Center. I’ve now been working there for more than 4 months and I’ve gotten to know the kids and most of them know me. But there’s still a few things that I’m tragically unfamiliar with.
This semester, I’m teaching 2 cheerleading classes. Yes, I did cheer for 3 years in college and I own up to it. So this week, I was teaching a group of 6-8 year old girls how to do Russian Toe Touches. I demonstrated it a few times, and… I ended up splitting my pants!
So I had to finish the rest of the hour trying very hard to keep my legs held very, very close together. When the lesson was finally over, I had about 10 minutes before my next class started. I told another coach what had happened, and he said that the manager usually had some lost-and-found clothes in her office.
I ran to her office. The lights were out (she was already gone for the day) but the door was still open. Behind the door I saw the box of clothes, but it was dark so I looked for the light switch. There was a whole panel of about 6-7 switches on the wall, so I just started testing each of them, flicking them on and then off.
By about switch #4 I started hearing little children screaming in fear and confusion. I was down to the last switch when someone ran in and told me to stop! Apparently that was those were the master switches for the gymnasium lights! What was worse, they were a special kind (and old kind?) that needed about 10 minutes to warm up before they could turn back on.
And so all of the 6:30pm groups that day had to spend the first little bit of their classes with only one strip of lights working. Shhhhh, don’t tell them it was me!
And I still had to teach my next class in ripped pants.
It’s been awhile since I’ve done anything professional with my gymnastics or dancing skills. And by “professional” I mean more than a couple of handstands or back flips PER MONTH. I’m 30 now, knocking on the door to 3,1 and to be honest I expected that my best best days were behind me and the rest of my life was going to be a long slow downhill for my body.
In the process of looking for a decent job to work in the evenings I came across the Cobb County Gymnastics Center. I’ve taught gymnastics before, and I used to take pride in both my tumbling skills and my ability to teach, so I thought I’d go and try it out. I got hired as an instructor for a really excellent competitive team, the Cobb Challengers. My team is a level 3 team of about 15 gymnasts. They’re very athletic, disciplined, and they love to learn. The only catch; it’s a girls team! A few new skills, some unfamiliar equipment, but I’m doing a good job following the learning curve.
But the biggest deal out of it all, I’m picking up my gymnastics again. Initially I expected to find it difficult; find that I’m out of shape and that I’d forgotten how to do most of my skills. But what I found was almost the exact opposite. Not only could I tumble about as well as I used to, but some of my skills had “miraculously” improved!
On pommel horse I was never able to do hip circles very well. 2nd try I did two good ones in a row. My kips on high bar used to be hit or miss. Now, after a couple of warm up tries I’m pulling off near perfect ones each time. How do I explain this phenomenon? After spending years teaching students proper technique on how to do their skills, I seem to have absorbed the knowledge on accident. It’s really cool.
Now that I seem to be in the best gymnastic shape of my life, I feel motivated to exercise more and expand my talents. I’m going to see if I can learn how to do double back tucks on the floor and the iron cross on the rings. Wish me luck!