Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Gymnastics Beckons

To date, this has been a blog about soccer. Exclusively. Local, national, and world soccer topics, but still only about soccer. Not today...

Today, I'm going to talk about gymnastics because sometimes Gymnastics Beckons. And sometimes the things we do for our kids need to be passed on as lessons for other parents.

For the readers who are soccer fans, I'll give a little background on me and gymnastics.

I grew up playing soccer as the only sport that I played in any kind of organized capacity. In the neighborhood, I played basketball, football, roller hockey, tennis, golf, baseball, and some made up combination of any of those together, including the periodic basketball game while riding bicycles or scooters. My wife grew up primarily playing basketball, softball, and volleyball. When we had kids, we assumed that they would play one of those sports because that's what we knew.

That's Alex McMurtry of U of Florida and
one of the more unique beam skills
My oldest daughter, "L," tried soccer and didn't really like it. My middle daughter, "D," tried soccer and liked it and was pretty good at it. Yet, we put them in a couple dance and gymnastics type classes at the Y and it turned out that they liked those more. So, despite not knowing much more about gymnastics than what I saw during the Olympics, the occasional Big Ten, Pac-10, or SEC competition on television, and the movie Stick It, I've become a gymnastics dad. Which is really just a euphemism for "being financially ruined."

"L" turns 12 in a couple weeks and has been doing gymnastics/tumbling since she was 2 years old. "D" turns 10 this week and has been doing gymnastics/tumbling since she was 2 years old. My little one, "E," turned 5 this week and has been doing gymnastics/tumbling since she was 18 months old. She has literally never known anything else beyond being in a gym and when asked, has absolutely no desire to try any other sport. "I'm a gymnast."

That's our life. A life that few can understand and relate. We've spent thousands of hours combined in just this past year in meets or practices (this season, that has been 3 nights a week for 4 hours at a time, but started out as 4 nights a week for 4 hours), as well as the exorbitant amount of time my wife spends being the gym's booster club president for the past three years. Our gym hosts a meet every year and during her tenure, we're the first ones there every day and the last ones to leave. We also help clean the gym for the gym owner. If I'm not at home or work, there's a good chance I'm at their gym.

One of the unique things about gymnastics in Indiana is that we don't know when our girls will compete until a week or two before the meet day. We know the weekend that the meets will occur, but the final competition schedule for any specific meet isn't finalized until right before the meet. With two girls competing (for now), that has meant that we routinely will have one girl compete on one day and then return the next day to watch the other compete. Sometimes that happens here in Indianapolis and sometimes that happens in different towns like Lafayette, Bloomington, and Richmond. It's an odd way to run meets, but it's something that we grown accustomed over the years.

This year, my girls competed in the same level. Due to my girls' proximity in age, they've been in the same level a couple times as it is common for gymnasts to repeat a level until they have mastered certain skills that will allow them to advance to the next level. The State meet for my girls was in Richmond, about an hour and a half drive. This is an important detail because it's at that driving distance that doesn't necessarily force us to stay overnight depending on when they compete.

When the schedule came out, "L" competed at 5:00 PM on Saturday night and "D" competed at 8:00 AM on Sunday morning, with the Daylight Saving Time change taking place during the night. No choice but to stay overnight.

My rare optimism that we would be able to have both girls on the same day or at times where an overnight stay wasn't necessary was suddenly shot to hell and we had to scramble to find a hotel in the metropolis that is Richmond, Indiana. Since it's the State meet, many parents assume that they are going to need to stay overnight and available options a week before the meet were minimal. Yet, we found a room. In a national chain. So we booked it.

The day of the meet, we make the trek over to Richmond early so that we can support some of our gym's other gymnasts (this is State, so the girls' competition times are based on their ages and in the session before "L" competed, there was only a single gymnast competing from our gym. We're gymnastics parents so went to support.). We piled into my smaller, but better gas mileage, car rather than the wife's van and got to the, rhymes with "Ay's Dinn," early to check in before we went to the meet.

As we pulled into the front of the hotel, my wife and I shot each other a glance. Mine said, "What have we done?" and her's, I found out later, was "we should have driven the van because it would have been a better sleeping option." Is it really any wonder that men have such a hard time deciphering women when all that can be attempted to be said in a look...

I pulled to the front of the hotel and she went inside to check-in. A few minutes later, she emerged with a fearful look on her face, only to tell me that the room wasn't ready yet and that "the place is a shithole." Confirming everything that I had been deciding for myself from my view of the outside.

Nothing to be done at that moment, we proceeded to the meet and during the downtime when "L" wasn't competing, I spent time on my phone searching for another sleeping option. All booked. Even going over the border into Ohio, everything said they were full. So we were stuck. Stuck in a shithole for the night.

NOTE: NOT a photo of actual shitholetel
Photo Source
Afterwards, (where "L" competed well I might add, finishing top 10 in the State in the All-Around), we headed back to the shitholetel. One of our other friends was also staying at the same "Ay's Dinn." As we waited in the Arby's drive-thru, my wife received a text from our friend who had not seen the "Ay's Dinn" in the light of day that read, "We're afraid to go in. "M" says this place looks like the hotels in horror movies." As we drove up to the shitholetel at night, "M" wasn't wrong. As bad as it seemed during the day, by the light of the moon, the street lamps, and the nearby interstate traffic, it somehow seemed worse. Creepy and foreboding, but we didn't have any other real options.

The inside of the room was...ok. The heater worked really well for the half of the bed that was right next too it, but the rest of the room felt like it didn't get any heat and was loud enough that I eventually turned it off knowing that it would likely keep me awake. Little did I know that the review that I read of the "Ay's Dinn" while I was at the meet that indicated there was a nearby train would have drowned out any noise from the heater.

There was a train. The tracks ran immediately next to the hotel. Ever see the scene in the Blues Brothers movie where they're at Elwood's apartment and Jake asks Elwood "How often does the train go by?" and Elwood replies, "So often you won't even notice." That was not the case at the "Ay's Dinn" shitholetel. I heard trains go by at 1:30 AM, 2:00, 2:30, 3:00, 3:30, 4:00, 4:30, and 5:00. Spaced just enough that you DO notice and it wakes you every damn time.

As we settled into bed, my wife slid in close to me. Close. REAL close. I love my wife, but we've been married for a long time and this was not a night for intimacy. This was a night for survival. Which is apparently what she had in mind because she whispered into my ear,
"This is how we're sleeping, right?" to which I replied,
"No. Get off of me."
"If we're going to die tonight, we're going to die close together."

And that's how she fell asleep. Close enough that I could hear and feel her breath all night when I woke up with every passing train.

Given that the Daylight Saving Time change occurred while we were there and I didn't want to cause my daughter to be late to State, I set the room's alarm, but also set my watch and phone alarms. While the alarm clock was as bright as the sun next to my head all night every time I woke up with every passing train every half hour, to my surprise in the morning it didn't actually function as an alarm clock. I'm not sure if I was expected to plug in a device to provide it music when it went off, but it just sat there and glowed its blue glow when it was time. Luckily, I had the other two alarms.

By this point, I couldn't wait to get out of the "Ay's Dinn", but grudgingly decided to take a shower because I can only feel dirty for so long. And a restless night in a shitholetel only made me feel dirtier. However, this was the kind of place that even taking a shower doesn't make you feel clean.

Packed and ready to go, we went down to partake in the continental breakfast. The hotel staff seemed genuinely surprised to see people actually walking through the doors to take part in their breakfast. Given that it consisted of Fruit Loops, Cheerios, a couple honey buns, some bagels and muffins that didn't look that fresh, milk that didn't taste quite right, and no orange juice, apple juice, nor water, it became clearer why they seemed surprised. I refused to eat there.

Headed away from the "Ay's Dinn" towards a Kroger to get us some morning breakfast and bottled water, I realized that I've reached a point in my life where a stay at a shitholetel is no longer an option and will never happen again. In my youth, a stay at an "Ay's Dinn" type place would have been rough, but I would have rationalized it by saying I just need it for a few hours of sleep. However, my husband and fatherly protective nature kicked in that night and their safety are more important to me and we'll be reserving a room well in advance and some place else next year, regardless of what it costs me.

"D" also competed well, finishing Top Ten in the All-Around and was a bronze medalist on the Uneven Bars. We remained at the meet all day, supporting the rest of the gymnasts from our gym, because that's what we do.

Gymnastics has become our lives. It's what we do. It's what we watch. It's what we discuss.

Sometimes you'll stay at a shitholetel and listen to trains go by every half hour, because Gymnastics Beckons.

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