Travel

30 In 30

Well… It is just about that time in my life. I will be 30 years old in 30 days. The time in my life in which I thought I would have it all figured out. Probably have a house, cars, wife, children, dogs, and be successful. You know, that “American Dream” crap people always talk about. Boy was I wrong.

Actually, I wasn’t really wrong. I’ve had most of those things at one point in time. I have tasted success on high levels. I have had and continue to care for several fur babies that I love more than anything. I have loved and lost. I’ve been through many apartments and vehicles. More important than any of that is what I have gained over the years. Especially the last five or six years.

I am wealthy in knowledge, adventure, experience, and wisdom. I have done and achieved things that most people twice my age don’t get a chance to do. I have been able to impact a handful of people in this world and make a difference in their lives. I have given… Abundantly given of myself to the people around me to try to improve their days, weeks, months, years, and lives.

I have “figured it all out” many different times, only to be reminded that I don’t know one damn thing about this life or this world. I have bet all my chips on things that have left me high and dry. I have had things unexpectedly pop up that were more wonderful than anything I could have planned for or created myself.

I have known extreme darkness and extreme light. Massive highs and massive lows. I have also… Just existed at times. I’ve had no clue where my next paycheck was coming from and I have had heaps of gifts and bonuses and other blessings. The same maintenance is also true for this area of life as well.

Here are the really important things to me, as I look back on my life. I have realized that everything happens for a reason. We don’t always know why or how or when or anything, really. But there is a reason for it all. Sometimes it is just to teach us a lesson, like making the best of a really awful situation. I have learned why I am who I am and how I came to be a this person. I have learned how to read other people and why they are the way they are and to strive to understand instead of to judge or condemn them. I have learned what lights my soul on fire, what makes me happy, and how I want to impact the world around me. I have learned to be comfortable in my own skin and my own life, no matter what that looks like to other people. I have realized that there are only a couple things in life that are really important… Your happiness is one of those things. Pursuing that relentlessly and tirelessly is worth it in the end.

And this brings me to the other thing that I have learned. This is probably the most important thing I have learned… I have wonderful friends and family that will do anything and everything for me in pursuit of my happiness and my goals. Fantastic people that will give of themselves freely and abundantly on a moment’s notice. I have learned that the most valuable and powerful thing in this world might not actually be our own happiness, but doing what we can for others around us to impact their happiness. Giving to others and giving back to the people around you is the best and most rewarding thing you can do.

I wanted to write this post as an acknowledgment of sorts and to clear my head of the thoughts that I have. My life isn’t what I thought it would be as I approach this milestone, but I believe it is what it should be. I also believe that the next several decades will be bigger, better, and more amazing than the previous ones. I constantly see things about some of the great people in our world and how they didn’t do this or that until later in their lives… Maybe my timeline isn’t the same as everybody else’s… Maybe I have to take the long way to the success and achievement that I so desire.

My final thoughts on this post are that progress is progress. It might not be a large bank account or wild and crazy achievements or things, but I have progressed mentally and emotionally by leaps and bounds and I am thankful for that. I believe that we all should be kind to everyone around us, including and especially ourselves. I also believe that we need not compare ourselves to those around us and judge our speed or timeline against theirs. Things will come when they are meant to. Continue pressing forward with your head held high. Remember the things you have learned from all of the knowledge, information, experience, and wisdom you have gained. And most importantly apply that wisdom to all the future experiences you have and try to impact the people around you positively without any concern for your benefit or reward.

Goodnight to you all. I hope my journey through life helps you somehow.

 

What’s New

Well… It’s been a long time. I haven’t been on here for several reasons. I was just down in Charlotte, North Carolina again last weekend for the camp at International Gymnastics and I had some good conversations with people down there that told me they still read my blog. I was surprised at that because I see the numbers, but it was encouraging to hear and made me want to start getting more information out. I also confessed to some people that I felt like nothing I did on here would ever be as important or relevant as what I was able to do in the wake of Andrea’s accident. Seventeen-thousand people viewed that blog post in about a week, which was incredible for me and for her friends and family. Not that I want to one-up that, but it just doesn’t feel as important.

I have also had my fair share of struggles recently. We have two level tens, two level nines, and a level eight boy. I have been working with several kids in the afternoons, which has kept me really busy. This is my first experience with having athletes at this level in my own gym and there has been some learning I have had to do. I have started to do TOPs with my kids and that has me pretty excited. My level eight boy finished third at Future Stars Regionals with a bad showing, but still qualified to Nationals in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He did well there, but ended up finishing just barely in the bottom half of his age group. On top of all of this… I have been devoting almost all of my free time to golfing. I have gotten to the point where I can shoot even par or several over just about every time I go play. The other big thing that has kept me busy is the best news of all. We purchased the building, property, and equipment from the other gym in town and we are in the process of renovating it to be a world class facility. It won’t be huge, but it will be laid out perfectly with pits and resi mats for every event, boys and girls. We will also have a trampoline into a pit and a resi mat, which I am excited about. I will hopefully get to flip again like I use to!

Here is a little bit of what we have been doing…

I haven’t done a very good job of videoing everything that I want to. The two nines have been doing well and so has my other ten after being out of the gym for another sport. The boy has been working on, and getting, a bunch of skills that will stick with him for the rest of his career. Tippelts, Yamawaki, Diamadov, Stutz, ect. It is an exciting time for me and for my gym. We have several youngsters that I am excited about and all of the kids have been working hard for the season. I have also begun to work every week with all of the coaches in the gym to share my knowledge and experience with them and try to make them better at what they do. We are going to continue to meet every week to try and make SOGA the best facility for gymnastics, tumbling, and cheerleading that it can possibly be.

I mentioned before that I was in North Carolina again… The camp was amazing. They added Alex Bard, a Canadian National Team coach and repeated Olympic coach, to the roster of great coaches this year. I met Alex several years ago at Woodward and he is amazing. Camp was great for all the kids and the coaches and I look forward to going back next year. The week before I was in Cincinnati at Gym Nation to work the Region Five Forward Progress camp. That was also great. The region looks strong and ready to do great things. It was wonderful to be able to work a high level camp with so many friends and I learned a lot from them while I was there. I am finally home for a couple weeks and then I get to go back down to the TOPs A camp at the Karolyi Ranch.

So… I am posting this and then I am going to work on bar changes and the tap swing in every flip, possibly some other posts. I know I have a lot to learn and I am extremely far from the best coach around, but I want to share what knowledge and experience I have with everybody. So… here goes. I guess since it is cold I have time to devote to this instead of golf.

Sunrise

I woke up this morning angry, frustrated, and disappointed. These emotions quickly were replaced with confusion… I forgot about the time change. After I realized that my smartphone was smarter than me, I went back to being frustrated and exhausted. Yesterday was tough, to say the least… And six in the morning has never agreed with me.

I got ready and took off in my car. I was headed to a meet in the pitch black darkness of the morning. I continued to brood and steam as I drove for the next forty-five minutes… And then… I looked in my mirror.

I saw no headlights, no darkness, no problems, no frustration. I saw the beginning of the sun rising. I began to think about how beautiful it was. Quickly all of my emotions changed. My thoughts did as well.

I realized that this could very possible be the last time that I ever get to see the beauty that is a sun rise. I realized that every day is another chance to get it right, to get better. Every day is another chance to live beautifully. I remembered that we aren’t promised anything in this life and to appreciate everything you have and make the best of every opportunity and situation.

It is amazing how something so simple can change your attitude completely. I just wanted to share this experience with any potential readers.

Weekend Observations

There were good kids in every group at camp and there were several stand out kids at the camp at different levels. The overall level of the athletes and groups was just not the same. I didn’t expect it to, but the camp did not have the same look or feel of a Region Five or even Ohio camp.

Before I get started with the details, I know that all of these things are not exclusive to this camp, state, or region. I see a ton of the same stuff at Woodward every summer from all kinds of other states and regions. I see the same problems at Region Five camps, Ohio camps, and even in my own gym. I seem to see less of in in my own state and region.

One of the biggest things I noticed immediately was form. On bars toe points were scarce, in particular. The body shaping was generally okay but it didn’t have the same look of the athletes I am use to seeing. There were a lot of flat backs with a pike and not the smooth, even round shapes I am use to seeing. I quickly spotted a couple Region Five girls on bars. You could just tell from the body shapes and the details.

I spent a lot of my time on vault, bars, and floor talking about the usual things that I do with kids at camps. On vault I talked a lot about being aggressive and actually sprinting, as well as long hurdles. For the yurchenko kids I talked a lot about being ready for the blocks and punches. So many kids would try to bend and push off the hand mat and then punch the board with their chests leaning forward. When they touched their hands they would bend and then try to push out again. I instructed a lot of kids to make sure they were anticipating the contact instead of reacting to it. Most of them got the idea. One other problem was kids doing layouts over the table. I know a lot of coaches explain yurchenkos as a layout over the table but I disagree. It is a whip. The athletes should be in a strong hollowed position when they contact the board and then transition quickly into a long, stretched arch position over the table. The bigger the athlete can change their shapes and remain tight, the more snap they will get off of the table. I told a lot of kids to open and stretch back over the table instead of doing a hollow layout. I had vault the second day and at the end of the day, so to be completely honest there was not a ton of productivity there. The kids did make some good, small corrections for me. A lot of the problems came from a lack of aggression, in my opinion. The kids weren’t attacking vault, they were hoping to survive vault.

On bars there were several things I came away thinking about. Number one, there were not very many good, strong clear hips or giants from the younger kids. I did a lot of talking about keeping the belly and hips away from the bar on clear hips and opening early and strong. They didn’t seem to want to do that. Clear hips seemed scary and hard and not something they got good at during their level six year and were working to perfect in their optional years. The usual early arch and early tap was ever present on giants, as well as girls not curling around the bar. Lots of giants were finishing before handstand in an arch and momentum was barely pulling them on around the bar. One huge problem was head position. Not the normal head back position, but chin on chest position. The kids couldn’t tap properly from that position so they kept doing glide swing giants and falling off the front of the bar. For the older kids there were a lot of overshoots and straddle backs and some releases. There were some girls working on pirouetting and dismounts as well. Those were all sort of the usual mistakes that were pretty easily identified and helped. One thing I kept telling girls was to make sure they were aggressive on their giant fulls. So many girls did tiny, wimpy taps into them and then hoped they would make it over the bar. A lot of times they would come up short and fall off or split their legs to try and help shift their weight and then end up falling into the second half of the full. In my opinion, a lot of problems can be solved by making sure the athlete knows to be aggressive on the tap swing into the blind or the giant full instead of trying to just make it barely into handstand. A lot of the weight shifting problems and form deductions started to disappear when the girls started to be aggressive.

I seemed to do a lot of twisting work on vault, bars, and floor. For all of the events, twisting was a big problem. I understand it on vault and on bars, somewhat, but on floor I don’t. I did a ton of talking on floor about actually throwing the arms up and out wide for front or back twisting. I explained to the kids that as you are punching forward or backward that you should be extending your arms upwards and out a little bit to set the flip. The reason for the out part was explained like this. If you spin in a chair with your arms and legs out and then bring them in tight, you spin faster. If the kids set the flip and initiate a little bit of their twist as they rise then the twist will accelerate much better as the arms come in high and tight to the chest. This is especially important when an athlete gets to double fulls and rudis. The flips almost have to stall out in the air and twist just a little on the way up before the athlete brings the arms back in to spin faster. This keeps them on their feet and helps them spin fast enough to finish the double full or the rudi before they contact the ground. There were so many kids that got so much better at twisting over the weekend. I changed arm positions and emphasized the arms throwing upward and forward or backward. I also emphasized the wide arms, but not too wide. I felt really good about all the twisting improvements. I even taught a few kinds how to deal with the twisties.

The other thing I found myself thinking over the weekend was… why is vault so damn hard? I don’t mean physically or mentally or even for the athletes. I mean… why do we have ten million board settings in one group and how do people arrive on these? Personally, I have two. All vault boards go two feet from the mat or table with the hand placement mat long ways against the board, except for yurchenkos. They go one foot away from the table with the long mat against. One quick side rant, there are two sides to a hand placement mat. The flat side is designed to fit against the front of the board and the angled side is designed to point towards the athletes so they don’t trip over the lip. Back on topic. The reason I have two feet as the setting for all vaults from dive rolls to tsuks and front-fronts is something I will explain more in depth in another post, but basically it is a happy medium so they don’t have to go straight up or straight out. I want those vaults to leave the board at basically a forty-five degree angle. The one foot setting for yurchenkos is because I want them contacting the table on the rise. I want their hips going straight up as their hands go back to the table. If it is too far away from the table for yurchenkos then the angles are all wrong and they contact on the way down. I don’t mind helping the kids on vault and working with them, but why the hell do we have short mat four inches away and the board at five foot, nine inches? Put the board at one foot, put the long mat in front (the proper way) so there is no gap, and see what happens. Another thing, the rectangular mat is three feet by four feet. The square mats are three by three. If I have the short mat six inches away from the board, why not just turn it long and put it up against the board? Take away the ability for them to miss their hands on the mat or for the mat to slide.

Another vault thing. We were vaulting into a pit. In previous posts I talked about how we do one timer and then flip. One of my athletes came over quickly to vault for her rotation. I set her board and said, “Flip the first one.” She confidently nodded and then easily did a very nice tuck yurchenko into the pit. The second turn was a pike, also done very well. The third and fourth turns were layout attempts. They were not done as well, but they were not bad. At this time, the rest of the group came wandering over and one girl asked what my athlete was doing. I told them that she had already taken four turns and they were just getting over there. The girls all kind of put their eyes down and then looked at each other. I tell this story because my athlete went on to take at least another ten or so turns and make significant strides on her vault, while the other girls only did probably one or two flipping vaults.

I got some great experience for my future as well down at camp. I got to work on tons of double twisting, double flipping, bar changes, pirouetting, and flipping vaults. There were a few full-ins done at camp that I got to work on, I got to help with some single rail releases, and I got to coach a lot of girls doing twisting vaults. I have had experience with all of those before but to me… the more the better!

All in all the camp was great. The form, the twisting, and all the millions of vault settings were the things that stuck out to me. In my opinion, those are all easily correctable things that need some focus. All of the problems I encountered at this camp had been encountered before at Woodward, Region Five, or Ohio camps. It just seemed to be a large concentration. I believe I helped the kids, as did all of the other coaches. I was impressed with those good kids and those standout kids I mentioned earlier.

Perspective was a common word used on Saturday between one of my new friends and myself. I mention this because that is the number one thing I am coming back with. I have a better perspective on what other gyms, states, and regions are doing. I see that these problems are all extremely common. I see that I am spoiled to have so many great athletes, coaches, and gyms in my state and region.

Again… thanks to everybody who helped make the weekend so great. It was a wonderful learning experience for me and I am coming back with more knowledge and a better perspective than before. If anybody has any questions or wants more details about the trip, feel free to contact me.

Weekend Recap

I was planning on doing live updates throughout the weekend, but I have been way too busy to do that. My flight into Charlotte was on time but everything was just sort of slow. I had to wait a while on my bag as well as the usual docking and unloading and all of that. Two of the Woodward directors picked me up at the airport. We used the ride to the gym to catch up on life and gymnastics. It was nice to see them and catch up. They have been part of my life for the last four years. We had to stop and grab food on the way to the gym and we arrived exactly at noon, when the camp was supposed to start.

I quickly rushed into the gym and changed into my athletic clothing to coach. I hate being on time and I hate being late even more. I am always early, but this situation was out of my control so I just let it go. I went into the gym and was greeting by lots of yells and smiling faces. I looked around for my athletes and quickly found them. I checked with them to make sure they were fine and ready to go for practice. I went around the gym and said hello to everybody that I knew and gave out high fives and hugs all around.

I had no idea what events I was coaching or how everything worked at camp so I found the camp director and got the necessary information. I started with bars for five straight rotations before our snack break. There were levels seven-ten at camp and I got to see almost all of them in the first morning of camp. I used the snack break to finally eat the food that we had purchased before camp started. I was starving. After the quick snack break I had another rotation of bars and then floor for the rest of the evening.

After the camp finished for the night I went back to find the camp director again to find out about my hotel and transportation information. I found out that I had a room mate and he would be my transportation as well. It was a new friend that I had made earlier in the day. I met a lot of great people down at camp this weekend including athletes and coaches. I got to meet some college coaches as well. After a little chit chat in the gym, my new friend and I headed over to the hotel and decided to go to grab a night cap and talk for a while. We talked for a good few hours about gymnastics, coaching, sports, and all sorts of other things.

Finally, bed time. I fell asleep later than I wanted to, but it wasn’t too late. The alarm came quickly and I rolled out of bed, noticing how sore I was from all the spotting the day before. My room mate and I got ready and then walked across the parking lot to grab some breakfast. We came back to the hotel and ate while we waited on two other coaches that were riding to the gym with us. Saturday morning brought rotations on bars, floor, and then a lot of vault. I had the level tens on floor and vault, which was really exciting for me. The only real hitch of the day was just how tired the kids were. They had done a lot of work the day before and they were all feeling it. It really caught up to the kids that were on vault for the final rotations. I had to give them some soft, easy drills to do to try and save their bodies. They appreciated it greatly. There was an open gym rotation at the end of the day that wasn’t as productive for my athletes as I had hoped, but we made due. They all went to beam and showed me what they were working on during the weekend and then we went to the tumble tracks and worked for quite a while on front and back twisting.

I made my girls stretch well and then we huddled up and talked. I told them I was proud of them. They worked hard all weekend and they did it with great attitudes. I got many compliments on the kids and I told them that. I asked how they felt about the weekend and they all gave me positive feedback. They accomplished just about everything I had hoped that they would during the weekend with some small misses here or there. All in all… great job. The parents took some pictures and we talked for a while. I thanked them again for bringing the kids down and then I headed back to the hotel.

Now the really fun part. The coaches all went to dinner at a nice bistro outside of Charlotte. The food was delicious, the drinks were strong, and the atmosphere was great. We were in a small side room all together. I have said before that I am always the youngest person around and yet again this was true. I took some gently teasing from everybody about this and other things, but like I always I laughed it off and tried to give it back. For me… sitting back, listening, and watching these veteran club coaches, college coaches, directors, and young aspiring coaches all talk and interact was the best part of my weekend. We sat and talked for something like five hours and I will never forget that small room in the bistro. I hope I will have the opportunity to do it again in the future.

Finally, my new friend and I went back to the hotel and went to bed too late again. And yet again, the alarm came way too early. The camp director picked myself and another coach up to take us to the airport and I found out I would be flying to Cleveland with this coach. We said our thanks and then headed into the airport. The trip back was completely uneventful for me, which is just the way I want my travels to be. The one great thing was being able to talk to the other coach on the plane. We spend the entire time talking about everything under the sun and it was great. We got into Cleveland and said our goodbyes there. I walked away from him feeling like I had a good friend for life and I will happily be seeing him at some meets this year.

So that’s what happened. Cut and dry. I come away from the weekend feeling like I have made some new great friends, some new connections, and bonded much more with the old friends that I have. I cannot remember ever having a more fun weekend and I can’t thank everybody enough for all of it. It is wonderful to be asked to come to a different state and region and be accepted by everybody. Especially by the old farts that have laid the groundwork for people like me.

I am going to type up a separate summary of my observations on the camp. Up soon!

Departure

My day is well underway already and it is 8:30. This is extremely unusual unless I have a gymnastics meet or I wanted to get up early to golf. I have never been a morning person. I stayed with my friend in Columbus last night and he drove me to the airport this morning. So far so good, except I forgot my sun glasses and TSA took my Red Bull. I am not sure how I will survive the day.

Of course I went and purchased another Red Bull for a small cost of nine million dollars inside the concourse. Anybody who knows me knows that I love Red Bull, but I don’t drink it very often anymore. Anyways… we start to board the plane in about fifteen minutes or so and then a couple hours later I will be in Charlotte. I can’t wait. I was told that the kids at camp were excited for me to come. It was flattering, but I think they are just excited for camp. I am excited to see all of them. I was told that a girl started doing tkatchevs by herself that I worked with this summer at Woodward. I’m excited to see that and all of the other wonderful athletes and the coaches.

I am not sure how much time I will have when I land. I think I am being picked up by a friend at the airport. Hopefully I will get some food because I’m already kinda starving. After that it will be time to coach! I find myself with some butterflies as I type that, but I just remind myself to focus on making the athletes better and I take a deep breathe. Approach every situation with calm confidence. I tell myself that every time I step into something new. I can’t wait to start the camp!

I will post my next update when I can. I think I have a break sometime today, but I can’t remember for sure. I am trying to mentally juggle this trip, a camp that one of my boys is doing this weekend, and my trip later this month. All the schedules have sort of blurred together. Out for now!