In the sports world, age and health are two important factors when playing a sport. Many athletes retire or quit at a young age because their body just can’t take it anymore. Think football players: they retire in their late 30’s, or ballerinas: even earlier in their late 20’s. Rhythmic gymnasts retire in just their early 20’s, sometimes at the tender age of 18 or 19. Time is of essence for an athlete and quarantine has drained both time and hope from many athletes.
Meet Ella Gadi, a high school freshman and a rhythmic gymnast. A rhythmic gymnast’s career is brief and unless you keep your body in shape, injuries will arise. Rhythmic gymnastics isn’t just about flexibility or apparatus manipulation; it is so much more. When you think of apparatus manipulation you immediately think about the ribbon, the symbol of rhythmic gymnastics. There are other apparatuses such as ball, rope, clubs, and hoop. The ball requires slow and careful movement. Rope requires precision and much energy. Clubs are really sassy and fast when using them to do circles, throws, or other manipulations. Finally, the least popular apparatus is the hoop, which is unexpectedly heavy when throwing it up in the air. With any sport, without a healthy body and clear mind it is impossible to excel and accomplish your goals.
Ella was injured for half the year due to an accident where she broke her foot and returned just a couple of weeks before quarantine happened. Her plans to go to many competitions and finish the year on a strong note was unfortunately interrupted by COVID-19.
State and Regionals were cancelled. I was kind of sad because this was my last season but I only made it to one competition [so far].
Ella faces a startling choice: continue rhythmic gymnastics in hopes of having a successful year but risk another injury, or quit altogether and coach for the rest of high school. Many young athletes must consider this type of dilemma when evaluating injuries with their athletic goals.
In the face of this pandemic, it is hard to stay motivated and active when you can’t go outside. Giving positive self-talk and setting a schedule is a helpful way to handle the situation.
I am trying to stay motivated by keeping up with stuff and knowing that if I don’t keep up I will get behind. Also, team practices are now virtual. We have Zoom meetings about two times a week with our coach.
Another way to keep up with daily life is virtual classes. Unfortunately, many athletes require an expansive space or a manipulated environment. For rhythmic gymnastics, high ceilings are a must. Without high ceilings, gymnasts find themselves with only simple stretches to practice and no apparatus work. Apparatus work is at the core of rhythmic gymnastics. Ella has been taking classes with her coach in her living room: an unlikely place to be doing rhythmic gymnastics. We have all had to adapt to these changes and for many their living room is the biggest space available.
To conclude the interview Ella gave some general strengthening exercises that everyone can do. She said she does these everyday to help recover. To also avoid overexerting her injury, she uses the extra time to rest and relax. Her mom is a yoga instructor and they typically do exercises together on the dock near her house.
Just the usual warm up routine. This includes many stretches that I have practiced over and over: 8x bent knees stretches, lunge hold 8 seconds, and side lunges. I have also been doing a lot of cardio in the form of jump roping.
Jump rope is a great way to do cardio and all you need is a jump rope! Ella goes outside and does jump rope including double unders, singles, bicycles (she does them backwards too).
Ella as of now has decided to quit rhythmic gymnastics and join the circus later this year. The circus is where many rhythmic gymnasts go to further their training in a different field. There is more trapeze and acrobatic work that requires being flexible (an important aspect of rhythmic gymnastics). This will give her the time she needs to recover without joining in the middle of a year, and try something new that she has always wanted to do.
In the face of this pandemic, it is hard for anyone to adapt to this situation. Life will not be the same for a while and this is the new normal. It is important to stay healthy and motivated. Remember, athletes: we are ALL in this together.
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