poem for a departed gymnast – from a coach

An excellent poem on a most important subject. Every competitive gymnastics coach can relate.

For gymnasts everywhere who for various reasons have had to move on…Hold on to all the good things this sport has given to you….and you will be courageous, focused, strong, confident, dedicated…you have been amazing…you will always be special…and you are ready for life’s challenges and adventures.

E-mail me if you need to know why I asked if the squirrel was blind

Charlie Amerosa

Just Like You

When we first met you were so little, too scared to utter a single word
Not much muscle and no split to speak of, as helpless as a baby bird
But there was a flicker in your eyes, a determined look on your face
And as your light grew brighter, your home became this place

Seven years later you’re a special young lady, with a strong and confident glow
And you have etched moments in my mind, some of which I’ve wanted you to know
Almost Three thousand hours of training, medals, podiums and now Jr. high
It has been quite amazing and sometimes painful, to watch you learn to fly

I would talk and you would just stare, your eyes wet and glistening
Not knowing what you were thinking, or if you were even listening
Watching you from afar, still on the floor when everyone else was done
Trying again and again to kick over from a bridge, to you this was serious fun

There was the stunned look on your face, after you made your first kip
And then the panic in your eyes, because what followed….your first rip
Watching front handspring front tuck, you landing on your behind
Finally you stood one up, I asked you if the squirrel was blind

Your working back tuck on floor kept me awake for a few nights
But you figured out the timing and I watched as you reached new heights
You would wipe your hands on your legs, while standing frozen on beam
You flew up and stuck a back-handspring, and asked me “Is this a dream?”

When you’re being coached hard and your eyes get wet, but you refuse to cry
When you’re excited about a new skill and you keep asking for one more try
When you’re not grouped with your friends but still determined to have a great night
When you won’t look at me as I’m coaching you and I know we’re in for a fight

When I hear the thump, you’re on the ground, but you say it wasn’t you who fell
When I see you drag a suitcase bigger than you are, into the lobby of the hotel
When you’re on the podium leaning forward for your medal, such a beautiful smile
When you truly expressed yourself in your floor routine, it made it all worthwhile

When you knew what mat I like to use, so you always made sure it was in place
When you greet a competitor you’ve known for years, with a warm little gym embrace
When your beam routine looked like an oil painting, you were seriously in the zone
When I see that frustrated look on your face, and I know it means to leave you alone

When I overheard two young gymnasts who were sitting quietly watching you
One whispered, “I want to be just like her” and her teammate replied “ Oh me too”
Then they darted off to the side, trying to imitate the dance in your routine
And I thought to myself, that is the greatest compliment I have ever seen

There have been so many great moments, and heartbreaking ones too
Your Mom’s face at a meet in the city, she has always been so proud of you
Walking perfectly in line with your teammates, you’ve been with them for so long
And they love you and treat you like a sister, to them you can do no wrong

So maybe you’re not as naturally gifted as some other girls may be
You’ve had to work a lot harder, you’re skills never came for free
But the results are truly astounding, in both your body and your mind
You’re strong and fit and focused, your stars are all perfectly aligned

But lately…I could feel that something was just not right
You seemed a little unhappy during training each night
It was becoming clear, you didn’t want to be here
And every now and then, I thought I might have seen a tear

I knew your knee was giving you some pain
The doctor said maybe it was a ligament sprain
But you weren’t working too hard, even after a month of rest
And I wondered to myself why you seemed to be depressed

I asked you if maybe it was about having some fears
And as you answered me, you had to fight off some tears
“I’m not afraid of giants if that’s what you think”
“I will be ok” you assured me, and you gave me a wink

And now a few weeks later you say you think you’re done
That it’s not in your heart anymore, its no longer any fun
“I’m almost 13 now, there are other things in my life”
And hearing those words, cut through me like a knife

I know how important your friends are to you
How it feels good to chat and go out at night too
I know the gym can be hard, some nights don’t go so well
And you can’t remember the last time, you rang the new skill bell

How your body hurts at night and the next day at school
How some coaches can sometimes seem a little bit cruel
But it’s being a gymnast that has separated you from the rest
And for years, after so much hard work, you have passed every test

I know I can’t change your mind, so I’ll take your picture off my shelf
Because this isn’t the kind of sport you can do for anyone but yourself
So you’re free from the hard work and pressure, now go and have some fun
But remember it will be hard to compare, to what you already have done

Please for the rest of your life, be proud of what you have achieved
And I will always be proud of you, and grateful for the gifts I received
The pure gift of knowing you and coaching you, I learned so much as you grew
Under “This is how a gymnast behaves”, the textbook shows…a picture of you!

You’ve been gone for a few weeks now and the gyms not the same
Your teammates are a little quiet, they don’t mention your name
Not because they are angry or disappointed, its just part of healing
You were a joy and a role model to them, they have an empty feeling

I’m going to miss you amazing girl, especially your warm smile
I’m sure I’ll feel better about it, but it’s going to take a little while
A new season is approaching, and of course there’s a new baby bird
And last night, just like you, the little one…didn’t utter a single word

Charlie Amerosa

Published by

Rick Mc

Career gymnastics coach who loves the outdoors, and the internet.

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