Tuesday, April 14, 2015
My son Elijah, who just turned 10, has been enjoying gymnastics training since he was four years old. As a three- and four-year-old, he was always banging his body all over the house, and just naturally developed a talent for cartwheels and handstands. When he was four, Lisa and I enrolled him in soccer, and he did really well, but when the ball wasn't anywhere near him, or after he'd scored a goal, he'd do a cartwheel or a round-off. As any involved parent would do, we decided to enroll him in a recreational gymnastics program at Broadway Gymnastics School. His first coach took one look at what he could do, and said, "Um, this kid's good. We'd like him to try out for the team." Why not, we thought? Elijah tried out for the team, and the rest is history.
Now, as we have completed his fourth full season of competitive gymnastics. As he began his second season as a Level 5 gymnast (there are 10 levels before hitting "Elite" and/or collegiate levels, which would be Olympics-quality talent), we really didn't know what to expect. We'd seen Eli grow in strength, flexibility, and confidence, but who knew how that would translate in a competitive context?
From his first 2014-15 meet, the Judges Cup, Eli showed us just how well he'd made use of his training. While not an official scored event, Eli's showing at the first meet was just the beginning of what he did. At each of his next five meets, Elijah ranked in the Top 10 all-around of his age group (age 9-10 or just age 9). He consistently made Top 10 in at least three individual apparatus as well, with Still Rings, Vault, and Floor Exercise being his strongest events. He earned championship medals in Vault and Still Rings more than once.
At his first State Championships (which consisted of the top 63 athletes in Southern California ages 9-10), Elijah ranked seventh all-around among 9-year-olds (his best finish), and ninth all-around for the entire group, which earned him a spot at the Region 1 Championships. This meet consisted of the best 9-10 year old boys from four states: California, Nevada, Arizona, and Hawaii. We were so excited for him! However, it was important to keep things in perspective, for us as well as for him.
I knew that Elijah would do well at Regionals, but from discussions we'd had with other parents, we set our expectations realistically. As he'd been in the lower half of the Top 10 all season, we didn't fully expect him to finish in the Top 10 in the region. He ended up finishing 19th out of 63 9-year olds, and 33rd out of all 123 finishers. An amazing accomplishment!
Elijah is probably done with Level 5 gymnastics now, and will begin training for Level 6 in June. This will involve additional training time, going from nine to 14 hours per week (and three days to four), and additional meets, going from six to probably nine or ten, with additional travel. Schoolwork will be a challenge, as will honoring family time, but as long as Elijah stays committed to and passionate for the sport, we'll be with him all the way.