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How working with kids has changed my life

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How working with kids has changed my life

By Audrey Fisher, Round Table managing editor

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My first “official” job was a pre-team gymnastics coach. I was exactly fourteen. I had always known I had a passion for teaching and kids, and was enrolled in the child development courses at my school. But before this, I grew up with tons of younger cousins and babysat frequently. My mom always joked with friends and family about how I was the, “baby whisperer.”

Because of this, that first job as a pre-team coach came easy to me. There were around ten girls that I coached. They were all fairly young, between the ages of three to six. When I first started I treated it like any other job. I came in, did my work, and left. I hardly thought about it when I wasn’t there.

I was a pretty hard gymnastics coach for those girls. I knew that they had to prep to make it to team in the coming years, and I wanted to see them succeed. Along with the other coworker I coached with, we had a no attitude and no slacking policy. Despite this, we still treated all of those girls as if they were girls of our own and taught them above all else, they had to have fun and love the sport. While it could be hard at times, the girls did love it, and before I knew it, I loved it too.

I remember a day where one of the little girls had an attitude. Our policy was that after the third warning the girls who were causing trouble would have to go sit in the lobby and we would talk to their parents when they got picked up. So, this little girl was sent to the lobby because she wasn’t working and had an attitude.

I talked to her grandmother when she got there and everything was fine. I left after my shift and didn’t think any of the incident again. The next practice however, the little girl came in visibly upset. I asked her what was wrong and if she was okay. I still remember her saying, “I’m so sorry Miss Audrey. I’ll work better today.” She then gave me a big hug and handed me a drawing of a bee that she did.

I still have the picture today. In fact, it’s framed and hangs in my room.

It’s the moments like that that made me realize that every time I walked into the gym I had the opportunity to make a little girl out there happy. I had the opportunity to make them feel safe and loved. And through this, I soon realized I had the opportunity to teach more than just gymnastics or preschool lessons, I had the opportunity to teach life lessons.

After spending a year and a half doing pre-team gymnastics, I stopped coaching for some time. However, I was still heavily involved in child development and spend almost every day of the week with kids. A while later, I came back to gymnastics as well and started coaching team.

When I first started coaching team gymnastics again there were very few kids involved in the program. I coached the lower levels and the Xcel team. At first it was incredibly difficult. Most of the girls hardly ever wanted to listen, let alone work. However, regardless of all of this I had made a promise to myself and to them, that I wouldn’t give up. I wouldn’t walk away.

It took a lot of time to get them to trust me. Probably about a year. But then I noticed it. The girls would come in excited to work and excited to practice. They started telling me about school, about their families, and so much more. And as all of that came, they improved so much.

I was able to watch them grow as athletes, and as people. And during that process I learned a lot to. The girls I coached taught me the importance of never giving up. There were so many days where all I really wanted was to lay in bed. I didn’t want to go to school. I didn’t want to go to practice. I didn’t want to do anything. But the moments that made it worth it happened when I would walk into the gym and one of the girls would come running up to me and say, “Miss Audrey, listen to this crazy thing that happened at school today!”

Some of the athletes I coached went through incredible hardships. There was one girl in particular who got injured every single season I coached and was eventually diagnosed with syndromes in her legs that made gymnastics really hard sometimes. But I never saw her give up. Through the casts, and the braces, and the bad days, she never walked away.

It’s inspiring. That’s the only way I can think to explain it. To know that you have a group of girls looking to you to be their role models pushes you to be a better version of yourself too. The days where one of my girls would stay extra after practice to ask me for advice with her friends, or the days when one of the girls would come in and tell me she had the worst day of her life but then leave with a huge smile. That’s what made it worth it for me.

While I’m no longer a team gymnastics coach, I still work with kids closely. And I still haven’t stopped being inspired. Everyday that I have the opportunity to touch a kids life, or inspire them, is a day well spent.

The easiest way to summarize this is to say thank you. To the girl who drew me a picture of a bee because she got in trouble. To the girl who told me that I was her hero. To the girl who showed me what it’s like to never give up. To the one who made me laugh on my worst days. To the one who made a handshake with me and always asked me for advice. To the kids who light up when they see me. Thank you all, because without you, I wouldn’t be me.

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