There is no easy way to start a letter like this, so I’m just going to jump right in. Leaving you and the sport has been one of the most difficult decisions of my life. I may not be in the gym every day anymore, but I am always here for you. I always have your back.
We’ve spent a lot of time together over the years and gotten extremely close. Most of you have been with me through some of the biggest events of my life. In just this past year, when I got married and when I completely my doctorate, you were there, giving me endless support and celebrating with me. You are my people, and I will always have a place for you in my heart. No matter what, I will always continue to cheer you on in gymnastics and in life.
It’s been an honor to watch you grow into beautiful and strong young women. As your coach, it was my job to teach you in gymnastics, but remember, I care more about you as a person than as a gymnast. With that in mind, I have a few pieces of advice as your journey continues on.
First and foremost, love yourself, as you are for who you are. All those things about you that you think are flaws are what make you beautiful and interesting. I know this is the worst cliché, but it really is what’s on the inside that makes you beautiful. It’s who you are that counts, not how you look. Celebrate your imperfections and stay true to who you are. It’s important to be kind to others, but it is perhaps more important to be kind to yourself.
Those callouses on your hands are a testament to your work ethic. Your crazy hairdo is not because you have bad hair or because you are too lazy to style it. No, it’s because you are not afraid to throw your hair into a messy bun on top of your head to get it out of your way and get to business. The bruises on your legs from crashing hard on beam are evidence of your resiliency. Your muscular arms are proof of not only your strength, but of your dedication. Sure, you’re a bit more beat up than most girls your age, but you’re also more committed, driven, and hard working. You are amazingly wonderful. Never forget it.
Second, it is okay to be afraid. I’m afraid all the time. I’m pretty sure most everyone feels scared at one time or another. That doesn’t mean your weak or incapable, it simply means you are human. We’re all afraid, but don’t ever forget it’s important to face your fears. You’ll be a better gymnast and a better person for it.
I know you’ve seen your friends crash hard and that you’ve crashed hard a few times yourself, but don’t let that stop you. Look your fear dead in the eye and face it, challenge it, and conquer it. You are more powerful than you know. If you don’t try, you don’t give yourself the opportunity to succeed. Don’t rob yourself of that. Your potential is limitless, but only if you allow it to be.
Third, keep at it. Be relentlessly persistent. Just because it takes you a while does not mean you won’t get there. The journey to your goals is equally as important as whatever it is your working toward. That being said, don’t lose sight of your end goal.
Remember to keep your eyes on the end of the beam. Only by concentrating on where you want to be are you able actually get there. Life will try to throw you off balance, and when it does, keep your eyes laser focused on your goal. Should you lose your balance, fight with all of your might to stay on. You may just surprise yourself.
Finally, at one point or another in your life, someone will make you feel inferior or look down on you specifically because you are female. They will think you are incapable or undeserving of something, whether it is a physical activity, a job promotion, a career path, or as much as it pains me to say it, of having a voice.
When that happens, you have a choice. You can let them be right and give up on your dreams and silence your voice, or you can stand up, relentlessly pursue your goals, and scream from the rooftops. Only you can take away your own voice. And please, don’t silence yourself. You have something to say and it needs to be heard. Don’t ever let anyone make you think otherwise. Your story is important and your voice can change the world.
If you’ve learned nothing else from me, I hope you have learned that you can do anything and be anything that you put your mind to. That is not to say it won’t take a whole lot of work and sacrifice. There may be obstacles in your way, but don’t ever give up. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. As you get older, you’ll learn that being a woman means something, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Being a woman means you can be strong and independent, as well as nurturing, caring and loving. You can want a career, and you can want a family. Whatever you want, they are your dreams and your goals. No one can take them from you unless you let them. Don’t let them.
I am so proud of you. You are our future and we are behind you. Dream big. Work hard. Stay passionate. And most importantly, stay you.
Your favorite beam coach