The gymnasts arrived in their sparkling leotards and personalized warm-ups. Also part of their uniform is a large hair bow. This accessory was not of my choosing but I do admit that the idea of having all the girls match (from head to toe) has grown on me.
Right after starting our open warm-up, one of my gymnasts asked if she could use the restroom. She’s a talented nine-year-old that was probably feeling the nerves of her very first meet. I told her to hurry then turned my attention toward the remaining 19 squirrels. Did I just call them squirrels again?
A few minutes later, this gymnast returned from the restroom in a panic. Her eyes were red and she gasped to breathe between sobs. Though she was struggling to talk, she was finally able to convey to me that her mom had not fastened her bow sufficiently tight and it had fallen into the toilet.
“Where is it now?” I asked.
“It’s still in the toilet,” she replied.
I left the rest of the team to my co-coaches and took this gymnast to the restroom. Upon entering, I found her bow submerged in the toilet bowl, floating in the lightly tinted water next to a piece of used toilet paper. I had two jobs to do: retrieve the bow and calm a hysterical nine-year-old. I was counting on her to have a great meet and I didn’t want this to get in the way of her performance.
For about two seconds I contemplated how I might remove the bow. I wished I could force my gymnast’s hand into that water but felt she was already too traumatized by what had happened. I also wished for some kind of instrument to fish it out but there wasn’t anything handy nor did I have the time to look for one.
So I did it. I dipped my thumb and pointer finger into the water and grasped the loop of the bow that was floating closest to the water’s surface. I gave it a quick shake then moved it to the sink trying not to think about the urine on my hand. (Luckily, this was a one-seater restroom so not only was it private, the toilet and sink were in close proximity.)
I washed out the ribbon while prompting this gymnast to take deep breaths. I gave her the pep talk about how talented she was, how she was going to have a great meet and that this silly bow was not going to keep her from being successful. I was also mentally telling myself that this act alone should earn me the Coach of the Year award. I washed my own hands and then noticed that this particular restroom was equipped only with an air-blower and no paper towels.
With the sopping bow between my dripping hands, I gave a few final words of encouragement followed by a careful hug. I told this gymnast to get back out on the floor and that I’d finish solving the problem. I tracked down some paper towels and then beckoned this gymnast’s mother from the stands. Perhaps it should be mentioned here that parents are not allowed on the competition floor. If they enter the floor without permission, it can cause disqualification. In hindsight, I suppose I could’ve gotten the mom do to the fishing, but again, time was of the essence. At any rate, I handed the bow to her mother at this time to finish drying the bow with the restroom’s blow dryer so that I could return to the team.
This gymnast went on to have a good meet. She contributed to our team score with her very impressive vault. When she thanked us at the end of the meet, I added, “Just remember, I reached into a toilet bowl for you. That’s how much I love you.”
And no one can question my dedication to my team.If you’re wondering about Alyssa, she had a pretty good start to Level 6. There’s still lots of room for growth but she came away with four new medals jingling around her neck so she was happy. She got first on bars, and third on vault, beam and all-around.