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Fearless  Rylie Harrington

I was a level 9 gymnast, and we were now preparing for the competition season. I was having a successful start to the year until my first bad practice. I was by the balance beam and all of a sudden, I doubted myself. I couldn't get myself to do my beam dismount. My coach called me over and asked me what was going on. She said it was okay if I was having a rough day. Then my coach said to not worry about doing my whole routine and to just do some dance throughs, which means doing my routine without any of the big skills.

I was relieved I didn’t have to do any hard skills at the moment because I was overwhelmed and frustrated but that soon turned to laughter. I now felt better and before I knew it, beam was over.

Over the next couple weeks, it was getting worse and worse. The other events were coming along, but my frustration and negative attitude from beam made them worse. 

My used-to-be-positive-self had now disappeared. I finally had to admit it. I was afraid. Practices that used to be fun turned into dreadful times. When I forced myself to get up on the beam, I would do a back handspring then stop. I was supposed to do another back handspring into a layout full dismount, but I told myself that I wasn’t going to be able to do it. 

Meet week came quicker than I hoped. If I didn’t do a complete routine with all skills everyday before the meet, the coaches wouldn’t let me compete in the meet for that event. My events were fairly strong and I felt confident in all the skills… except beam. Beam was my last event that day. The other events went smoothly but as I walked over to the beam my heart was pounding out of my chest. I still was having bad days, and I didn’t feel quite ready.

It was my turn to show a routine. The pressure was on. Then the time to do my dismount had arrived. I stopped, tried again and stopped like I knew I would. My coach said I just needed to show her a dismount, but I couldn't. I was too afraid. 

The next day my coach decided to give me a second chance. And guess what, I pulled it off. I got to compete in all four events! At the meet, beam was our last event and I was shaking with nerves. When it was my turn, I did my entire routine. I did the pose before my dismount and distracted myself by singing a song in my head. Then I did my dismount, and it was really good but I wasn’t exactly confident. I was still scared and decided I wanted to change my routine.

It took some time and a lot of work, but I got more comfortable and confident with my new routine. My mood was becoming better, and I was becoming happier. 

The rest of the season just kept getting better and better since I changed my routine, and I was making improvements in other areas too. 

I used to be ashamed of being afraid until I realized everyone gets afraid. I didn’t exactly realize this until after everything had happened. You see, of course I know everyone gets afraid, but the amazing thing about gymnastics is you relearn valuable lessons everyday. I’ve learned that you definitely don’t want to ignore fear, you want to fight it. 

The fear that I experienced changed me and taught me valuable lessons. I wasn’t happy so I changed something. It took me a while but now I know that if I am not happy I need to change something. I let fear conquer me because I was afraid of fear. But now I know I am stronger than I believe. 

© Rylie Harrington. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.