Watching your child compete

Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,

It was your first real gymnastics meet, Izzy.

You had been nervous for a week leading up to the meet.

“What if I don’t do well on the beam?” you asked. “What if I fall? What if I don’t stick my round off on the floor routine?”

I reminded you how many months you had practiced. How many times you have done each routine on the floor, bars and beam.  Each vault.  Still, you fidgeted on the hour long drive North for the meet.

“Are we there yet?” you asked at 10 minute intervals. More of a nervous tic than a real question.

We pulled into Gallatin about an hour early. Max, you decided it was time to carry on the Nikazy family tradition. So you threw up. All over yourself. Just like Kate did the morning of Izzy’s first away swim meet last summer. Never a dull moment. We took a detour to Dollar General to get clean up supplies.

When we arrived at the Gallatin Civic Center you ran to the front door. Mommy and I followed with your brother and sister.

A strange emotion gripped me as we walked into the gym set up for the meet. It smelled like a gym full of wrestling mats. The energy was the same, tiny athletes everywhere, scoreboards, and officials in USA sport coats. I wasn’t prepared for it. I’m not sure what I expected a real gymnastics meet to be like, but I had not expected my heart to flutter when we walked in.

As much as I love triathlon, I’ll always be a wrestler first. Memories came like dark slow moving water. I squeezed your hand as we walked in, Izzy.

You immediately pulled your sweatsuit off and started doing cartwheels, roundoffs, and splits while your brother and sister ran around the gym eating gummy bears.  I asked you to save your energy.

your team, holding hands, in prayer. Brother Max standing close by.

After a team prayer and presentation the meet started. 4 teams of tiny gymnasts from across the mid-state. Your team started on the bars, rotated to the beam next, then the floor, and finally the vault.

You did great! No mistakes on the bars, only one fall on the beam, a perfect floor routine, and a great vault. Mommy, Nana and Papaw, your uncle Chris, your cousins, brother and sister and I watched each routine. I paced the floor, too nervous to sit. I smiled a lot, so that other parents didn’t think I was one of those “intense parents”.

True to your character you congratulated or comforted each of your teammates after their routines. One girl cried after her beam routine. You sat beside her and whispered to her quietly. That’s my Izzy.

Throughout the meet we watched how you shuffle your feet, swing your arms, draw deep tummy breathes, bite your lip, fix your hair. You can’t sit still between events. Your nervous energy is obvious.

“Why does she do that?” asked Mommy. “Were you like that when you wrestled?”

Again with the memories. Finals matches across the state. Championship matches at UT Chattanooga. Tears, laughter. Always the shuffle of my feet, the swinging of my arms in circles, deep breathes, closing my eyes for vision. 20 years ago I had no idea I would feel it all again.

It’s so much harder watching you compete than it was competing myself. But it’s so much easier to be proud regardless of the outcome.

I love you baby.  My little swimmer, triathlete, and gymnast. On top of being a very special kid so full of love, you’ve also become a great little athlete. Congratulations on an awesome first event.

– Daddy

Training: Offseason

Monday: Ran 30 minutes

Tues: REST

Wed: led the Back Alley Workout group: “Submission to Authority” workout

Thurs: Swam 800 yards at 5am / Ran 30 minutes at lunch

Fri: REST

Sat: planning to race a local 5k

Sun: planning to ride 25-30 miles