The Gym

I sat in the parents’ lounge of the gym and listened to the coach count off choreography over the blaring of my daughter’s cheer team routine music. The lounge is just a narrow room with old office chairs and an empty vending machine, but there’s free wifi, so I was watching the Yankees/Red Sox playoff game.

I got curious, though. I wanted to see what all this counting and shouting was for, so I packed up my laptop, exited the lounge and perched myself behind the barrier at the end of the gym to watch the last 10 minutes of practice.

Everybody is about half a second behind the counting, which is not exactly keeping time with the soundtrack. Their movements are not sharp. The two stunts they’re working on aren’t working, and most of the team clearly don’t remember the choreography. Their faces are red and they’re all breathing really hard. I’ve never seen my kid work like this.

Practice ends and the coach sits them all down in the middle of the floor for a dressing down over their not knowing the choreography and their poor tumbling. The prescription is for more individual practice, not at home but at the gym. “You guys need to be in the gym more!” he says. They’re all looking at the floor.

I’m in coach mode myself as a spectator. This is the first I’ve seen of the actual routine my daughter has been working on, and it’s a little alarming. I want it to be good, and that is clearly going to requires a lot of practice.

But she’s already here nearly five hours each week. She’s 10.

I’m watching two things here: does she actually want to spend more time in the gym? She has loved this since she started and there’s no sign yet of dissatisfaction with it, but she’s also never been challenged so directly to work harder and put in more time. That may take a mental and emotional toll.

The other thing I’m watching is school work. Extra gym time will come at the expense of homework, for sure. Even if she loves the gym and wants to put in extra time, the priority has to be school, right? If that starts to slip, the gym has to be curtailed.

I’m playing this all out in my head during the coach’s lecture when I’m suddenly caught by a vision of how good she’s going to be at this after a few years.

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