Saturday, April 3, 2010

884 Days in a Leotard

Blaire has been doing gymnastics for years. She started out at BREC, which is the Parks and Recreation Commission for East Baton Rouge Parish and was a recreational gymnast. But in 2006 her coach moved over to CG's Gymnastics, a local gym and became the Girls Program Director. Blaire went with her and started competitive gymnastics as a level 3, age 10.

I can't remember exactly, but I think she started out going 3 days a week for a couple hours each time. Since gym was only 2 hours each time, whomever drove her there would stay and watch practice, instead of driving home and driving back to get her. I even got my job because of Blaire's gymnastics! The mom of one of her teammates gave me a job because Duane talked me up so much!

By the time she reached level 6, this season, she was going 14 hours a week. She had gym Monday through Friday, every night for 3 hours, except Wednesday, which was only 2 hours. She'd come home tired, sore, happy and hungry! And I'm not going to sugar coat it. It wasn't fun barely seeing her! But she loved it!

I'd get home from work at 4:30 and she had to be on the road to the gym at 5:30, so either we ate early, or she ate alone. And then her Daddy would drive her 20 minutes to the gym, come back home and then leave again to pick her up, getting home around 9:30. Just in time for her bedtime. Except she still needed a shower, sometimes had homework to finish up and of course hungry, after all that working out! And I was usually asleep by the time she got home.

She didn't just learn gymnastics at the gym. She gained a whole other family at the gym. Met lots of friends and had a coaching staff that took care of her during the time she was there. During the summers her practice changed from nights to days, so she would go there in the morning for summer camp, get pulled out of camp for practice and then go back to camp after practice. She also went to Bela Karolyi's camp out in Texas a couple of summers and stayed for a week each time. The first year her Daddy drove her over there, but the second time she went I was able to make the drive with them and we got to see Bela and his wife, Marta! Bela even drove the shuttle bus that took us from the cabins to the registration area. That was a treat, especially after watching him during the Olympics for years!

Towards the end of each year the competitive season would start and she would start having meets during the weekends. We traveled between New Orleans and New Iberia mainly, but last year we went to Texas and her Momma even took her to a meet in Florida this year.

During home meets we would have to work at the gym. We all spent a lot of time over the years working the concessions and setting up and taking down the gym. I can't tell you how many times I vacuumed that big red floor mat. Thankfully we got a new floor last year, so when I vacuumed it this last time it wasn't red anymore. It was blue and that made it feel like I had never done it before!

That first season she would end up with 5 medals each meet. One for each event and one for her overall performance. As the seasons went on, the medals became harder to receive, but Blaire never came home empty handed. She started out with Balance Beam and Floor as her strongest events, but in the end it was her Vault that was her best.

For obvious safety reasons, you can't use flash photography when the gymnasts are competing, which made it hard to take good pictures. The gyms she competed in usually didn't have a whole lot of light in them and the girls were usually competing a good distance away from the bleachers we sat in. Factor in all the movement and I'd usually end up with a ton of grainy photos of dark blurs! But this last meet was held at the Alario Center in Westwego, LA and they have huge windows that let in a bunch of light and while the photo's weren't exactly perfect, they were usable. Luckily the girl's Aunt Penny and Uncle Terry came down to see this meet! Terry bought a D90 for Penny for Christmas and I used it allll weekend and got way better pictures than I would have if I used my D60. Hint hint Duane :)

You would think that with all the hours of gym she was putting in her grades would suffer. But gymnasts lean towards better performance in school and Blaire was no exception. She was able to maintain her good grades. I'm sure it helps when you know that if the grades go down, that activity that you love so goes away.

After many long hours of gymnastics, sore muscles, ripped palms, sweat, smiles, tears and tons of medals, Blaire decided that this was her last season of gymnastics. She is starting High School in the fall and as you can imagine, when you spend all your time in the gym you don't have as much time for a social life. She missed a lot of hanging out with her friends from school, basketball games, first quarters of football games and just being a kid. Granted, I don't think she would have changed a thing, but now that she's going to be in high school there is going to be a whole lot more that she'll want to participate in.

And she's trying out for Freshman Cheer later this month! With all that tumbling and watching her sister cheer since Junior High, tryouts should be a cinch!

Dear Blaire,

Your Dad and I couldn't be more proud of all you have accomplished during your time in gymnastics. We watched all of your hard work and long hours pay off during your competitions. We've watched you grow from being a tiny little thing jumping around the gym into a graceful, young lady who was always a pleasure to watch during your meets. Watching you at your final meet last weekend was bittersweet. I don't think I'm ready to see gymnastics go away completely yet, but I sure am going to enjoy having you around more! So please don't stop doing the handstands down the hallway to your bedroom or the kicks in the kitchen. I'm just not ready yet :) But I am excited for your next chapter. Go Wildcats!

Stephanie (:


  1. what a lovely tale of blaire's gymnastics adventure. i applaud her knowing what she wants to do next. and you for capturing it all.

  2. What a wonderful documentary, you do so good and we are so proud of Blaire.Hope to see all of you the weekend Dottie Jean is here. Love all of you, Mom

  3. Stephanie,
    You are an awesome writer! I'll still have Faith at the gym, but it's not going to be the same without Claire and Blaire there. Keep in touch...

  4. Aww, Steph - how sweet this is. What a wonderful testament to all that gymnastics has been in her life and yours! We are gonna miss y'all at C.G.'s

    Love y'all!


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