The USWNT (United States Women’s National Team) has won the World Cup again. This is their 4th World Cup championship, and USWNT was formed in 1985!. The women are legit, and they are so much fun to watch. There is controversy though! Although these amazing women perform year after year-outpacing the men by a long shot-in the national arena; they are still paid way less than the men. The men did not even qualify for the World Cup last year.
After this win, I got to thinking about how Jake and I both were involved in World Sports where women are the leaders today: Jake – soccer; Me-Gymnastics. Watching women in soccer and gymnastics is fun for everyone who appreciate these sports, but both are plagued by the crisis of our time. I mentioned above the USWNT is plagued by unequal pay and treatment. The USA Gymnastics is in a big huge ugly mess with a sexual abuse against so many of the gymnasts by a trainer-Larry Nassar, and it was known. Adults failed the children because winning is everything. I have some things I want to say. I hope I can be heard without anyone thinking I am angry all the time, or attempting to tear down things that happened that were good despite a very bad system.
Here is some background on Jake and I with our sports. Jake was a really good soccer player. He made club teams above his age group early on. This caused drama of course, but Jake is a 9 on the enneagram- he just did his thing. He has played in Wales, Sweden, England and Denmark. Jake and his high school team – Norman High – won state in 1993. Jake was a freshmen – one of two freshmen who played on varsity at that time. Jake ended up quitting his senior year though. There was so much drinking and partying going on, and it frustrated him. He could not play this way, and coach wasn’t doing anything about it. Jake-a really good player and wanting to win the right way-had to quit. He continued playing club, but there is nothing like playing for your school. He gave up lettering and everything.
My gymnastics story is tough. I am quite small, so when I began gymnastics at a young age they were really excited about me. The problem was, I wanted to play with my friends outside. They kept asking for more days and more hours, and I couldn’t stand it when I was 8 years old. I even got to hold Bart Conner’s gold medal from the 1984 Olympics (I went to his gym is why). I had no idea that was a big deal. My parent’s did though. It was really heavy-if you are wondering. I wanted to play with my friends, and begged my mom to let me quit.
In Fifth grade I decided I wanted to return. I went back and worked really hard, and made the team in a year. The problem was I developed in that year. In the early 90s, gymnastics wanted prepubescent girls. I was treated like I was too old and too heavy. They weighed us every week. Made us write down everything we ate, and crossed out what was not approved. I would get on the scale and would be told: “too heavy”. I’ll never forget that. I was made to jump off a balance beam with a trophy, and was told if I lost weight I could go higher. When my hands would rip on the bars-I am talking huge rip in the middle of my hand- I was told I was a real gymnast now and get back to work. It hurt so badly. I was flattered to hear real gymnast though. If I could not stick a balance beam routine in practice; I would be completely ignored, and then forced to tell everyone how many routines I stuck. It was humiliating. I just wanted gymnastics to be fun. I loved practicing high level, but the abuse killed it. I could not develop being treated like this.
There were good things though. I was there when Nadia Comaneci (the first perfect 10 gymnast) defected to the USA from Romania. Bart Conner was her friend, and she contacted him. They are now married. I also did a hand stand and walking on my hands contest with one of my favorite coaches, and I won. I was really good at walking on my hands; better than my feet. He bought me a coke. Big deal in gymnastics.
My back ended up taking me out of gymnastics, but I was miserable. The abusive coaching was too much for me. It was sad-what I loved didn’t love me back. I would be in my room making up floor routines all the time. My step-brother would tell me I was making too much noise. We had a two story house, and they could hear me downstairs.
I find my spiritual life seems to mirror my gymnastics career-except with a twist. I was loved early on in my previous heritage, but not appreciated when I was ready to be serious and get in the game. Now I am at a church that appreciates me. You are telling me I am not too old, and have believed in me when I had no idea I could believe in myself. Plus, I was really scared. This isn’t what I planned coming here.
Jake is now coaching club and high school soccer. We have gone through it with Texas youth sports. I found my voice through soccer, actually. But when it fell apart – I had to exit; Jake stayed. We have a team that is doing what we dreamed of doing in a world saying you have to win now- or winning is the only way. Jake is telling a different story. Both of us dreamed of soccer and gymnastics to be fun. I wasn’t able to do it in gymnastics, but I also had this desire in the faith world. We can be excellent, but also have a lot of fun. Abundance. We are looking for people who aren’t always asked to participate. That has been life-giving for us all.