Sometimes being a high-level athlete comes at a price. Almost every athlete has been hurt while practicing.
As a gymnast with the Olympics as my goal, pushing myself to the breaking point came at a cost. I was hurt three times in nine months. Not being able to do full training led to not being able to reach my potential and caused me mental anguish. I had been training eight hours a day. Going from training to sitting and watching my friends strengthen their skills was heartbreaking.
Nine months out of gymnastics is a lifetime. It took me months of intensive training to get back just to where I had left off. I was starting to worry I wasn’t going to be ready for the competitions. Being benched had me questioning everything and forced me to ask myself if I even wanted to do gymnastics.
I did decide I didn’t want to do elite anymore. Elite is the highest level, it’s Olympic training level. Elites train five or more hours a day. We would leave school at noon and head to the gym. The injuries and stress were why I decided to stop the elite path.
While out, I grew six inches! Every inch you grow can cause you to lose strength, so the growth spurt also made elite training harder for me. For instance, if I wanted to do a double back flip, it would take me longer to get my legs around. Details like that sound small, but in the elite world they can be a make-or-break factor.
There is one thing I would tell young athletes: Whatever sport you choose, if something is hurting you, tell your coach or parents so they can treat it right away. If you don’t tell, it may hurt you and your attempt at goals more.
I also think every young athlete needs to know that a setback can sometimes make you come back even better and make you work even harder, and that’s good.
Meagan Miller’s students, Ivy League School, Smithtown