The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – New Gym
One of the questions I get asked most frequently is “How was it changing gyms?” I literally get inboxed that question on a daily basis and it seems many athletes struggle with this. The answer is so complex, there isn’t one answer. Anyone that knows me knows that I am a brown girl through and through, I work hard in the classroom and gym to prove myself. Young ladies of color, we fight at every turn to be treated kindly, to show all shades of beautiful, to rock our natural hair without question, to be acknowledged equally and to be judged in the sport of cheer fairly.
Switching up programs, working with new coaches or even teams is difficult. I went through many emotions. I didn’t want to leave a gym that I had friends at, that molded me into the athlete that I am and honestly, I did not come to the decision easily. And then there was the unknown, what is on the other side, what opportunities lie elsewhere, will my parents understand, what will I learn if anything?
Well, here is what I have learned. Every team, gym and coach have good and bad points. The same reason that I loved being part of a gym where everyone looked like me is the same reason why I love being a part of a gym that is diverse, it’s part of the Black Girls Cheer mission statement “dedicated to showing the WORLD Black girls cheer and do so much more”. As I move onto post high school education plans, I am applying to universities and colleges where I will be the minority. If I attend any of those schools, I will need to know, understand and be able to deal with being a girl where no one looks like me and still shine. More and more, diversity becomes important because our country, workplaces and schools increasingly require we learn from one another.
Being a part of a gym where everyone looks like you is empowering. That feeling you get when you all walk in and look like one another and you can do what every other cheerleader can do is amazing. That is what it feels like being at a predominantly Black gym, its more of a “we” have come to conquer in ways that no other group may be able to understand. In a gym that is not predominately Black, you must prove I am the Black girl that deserves to be here, I can do what you can. I still get to shine my Black girl magic, just in a different way. My decision was more about needing to be put in a situation of not feeling so comfortable so I would be able to transition more easily as I move onto collegiate cheer.
So, let’s get real. Some of the things I promise you will experience if you decide to make a change are:
The Good: People who genuinely are happy for you will congratulate you on your achievements. You will learn from other athletes, other coaches and build new friendships. You will be forced out of your comfort zone, your opinions and mindset will be tested. You will get to experience and embrace new experiences, new perspectives and learn opportunities are plentiful. You will find out who you really are, transition expands your mind. You will become more flexible and adaptable and armed with more confidence when you walk into your next uncomfortable situation.
The Bad: Adjusting to a new place with new rules and with people you don’t know is initially an issue. More time can be expected than you are accustomed to giving, you may also have to travel more. My current gym is 2 hours from home on a good day and around 3 on a bad day, which means a few days out of the week, I get home at 12:00 am. One of the worst things that could happen is you realize the new change isn’t a good fit! If that happens, I would suggest figuring our why you left and if returning to your old gym is an option. You may even have to start from the beginning and research gyms but truly define why you want to leave, if possible try talking to coaches before making a decision final. Talking to coaches is an uncomfortable topic but if they aren’t decent and understanding, you are probably making the right choice.
The Ugly: Not everyone will understand or be happy for you. I have had many people unfollow me and even go as far as not speaking to me anymore, due to my decision of moving to a new gym. I have heard many other negative things from people who I thought would always be there to support me through my journey to success. You will have to understand that coaches are human, it hurts them to see you leave or reach goals without them, especially when there is a bond. There are people who take your choices personal, and you will need to know and accept this as you make decisions to move forward in almost anything. As I have grown older, I realize that trying to please everyone is a recipe for stress, misery and frustration. It is most important to be yourself and find out who’s down with that