By Mike Peal
She did a back bug with a flying Kazuki and a pint and a half on a balanced bean!
I’m a gym dad. Been one for about seven years and I’m finally beginning to catch on to the “gym lingo.” I now hear real words instead of grunts and groans followed by hand signals and head shaking from the coach.
They’re so in touch. I thought only my dog and I had that kind of non-verbal communication. I can grunt, groan, dance, wave my arms and shout for five minutes only to get a look heavenward from my daughter, to acknowledge my presence.
I make it to about two or three meets a season. I pick up or take her to practice a couple of times a week. If I have to stay the four or five hours, I usually wait in the van with a burger and a book or watch the ball game on the mini color TV I recently acquired for this endurance test.
I don’t take notes or critique each move she makes in the gym as some parents do, but I do let her know important things like when I think her “leo” is getting a little too snug, or not to forget her grips next time as I start the 20 mile trip back home to retrieve them.
The financial pounding started with Training Team. That was the period when she just looked “adorable.” My wife would coo, pointing to her cute little pink, black and white team leo. (The term leo I have gathered from all evidence, is short for leotard or something close to that and probably named after some super gym dad.)
The Training Team is not actually training for the kids, as one might suspect from the name. It is to train the parents to believe their kid is a sure shot Olympic prospect or at the very least up for a “full ride” scholarship to the institution of her choice. My wife and I were so well trained we immediately had our daughter’s hair cut exactly like Mary Lou Retton’s, and then noticed the other 12 kids on training team had the same hair cut. Of course, the tuition doubled as the levels increased, even though college was some 10 years away.
There were so many exhibitions at nursing homes that my daughter developed a phobia to elderly folks. Even today, she cringes when her grandparents want a hello hug or kiss.
There were performances at malls, (she knew where every bathroom was in every mall in a 40-mile radius), schools, churches, festivals and even the grand opening of a “Hooters,” although my mind is a little fuzzy about that one!
I wasn’t prepared for, nor forewarned that as they climb the level ladder, they would travel.
“Competition where?” I shouted.
“Arizona ” stutter, gulp.
“Bermuda, the one in the middle of the ocean?” I asked.
“Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Sri Lanka, I’m sure they said Sri Lanka.”
“But she’s only 12,” I blubbered.
“Parents must not travel with their children. We travel as a team.” Coach Round Off announced, triumphantly smiling at my stunned expression.
So a few moms would pile into the most road-worthy vehicle and drive the eight to 10 hours to the meet or to catch the red eye to heaven knows where, usually arriving at about 3:00 a.m. then they would repeat the process in reverse the next day, just so they could watch their little darlings for about eight minutes.
We sell candy, mulch, entertainment books, bag groceries, work concession stands at football and baseball games, do product testing, become medical guinea pigs, clean the gym floors, donate kidneys, anything to support our gym addiction and to help defray costs.
The gymnasts condition their bodies and souls for hour upon hour, building flexibility and strength. They do pretzel twisted things with their bodies, hundreds of crunches, thousands of push-ups, and millions of leg lifts before the real workout even begins. My daughter could probably “whip” any boy in the seventh grade if so motivated.
The way I see things now, I’ll be a gym dad for many years to come, unless my daughter’s future husband tells her it’s time to quit the gym and stay home with the kids.
By the time all of these events come to pass, I will know the proper terminology like a flyaway, a Tsukahara, and a back tuck gainer dismount off the balance beam. So, no matter what happens to come tumbling down the old gym mat, I’ll be ready, thanks to that one enduring dad who pioneered the way for all us gym dads. My hats off to you Mr. Leotard, wherever you are, you’re the gym dandy of all gym dads.