With the balance of Catwoman, the agility of Batman and the flips of Spider-Man, 234 young gymnasts — many clad in superhero-themed leotards — converged in Sherman this weekend for Gym Con 2017.
The Saturday and Sunday competition at the Gymnastics Sport Center on Texoma Parkway brought in 5-18-year-olds from across Texas and Oklahoma to compete in junior, senior and elite levels. Ben Whitfill, owner of the Sherman gym, said the competition was a cumulative event for the season, and it provided an event where the gymnasts compete as a team, as well as individually.
“Every other meet of the year they get individual awards, and it’s just a self sport,” Whitfill said. “But today it’s actually a team cumulative sport.”
Gym Con, which Whitfill noted is the reason for the superhero theme as it is a play on Comic-Con, is an American Gymnastics Association sanctioned meet. Marsha Mayo, president of AGA and also a coach, said that while she enjoys seeing her gymnasts win, the sport is more about teaching life lessons and having fun.
“I want them to win — I love them to win, but I teach them that my goal is for them to be the best they can be at that moment and be happy with it,” Mayo said.
Mayo said it’s important that these gymnasts get something else out of the sport than just the competition aspect — though she noted that the sport could lead to scholarships or more for some competitors. She said it also teaches positivity, responsibility and how to be a good sport.
“Even if they decide they’re done with gymnastics, later on in life they will be able to pull something from the sport that will help them be a better person as an adult,” Mayo said.
Celeste Roberts, the mother of 11-year-old Lorelei Roberts, said this season is her daughter’s first as a gymnast. She said Lorelei just fell in love with the sport, which translated to the skill displayed by her competitions scores, which bumped her up to a more advanced level.
“It makes her happy; as long as she’s happy then we’ll make it work with whatever we got to do,” Roberts said. “She absolutely loves it, and we really enjoy watching her compete.”
Lorelei, who received first and second place awards, said she was introduced to the sport by watching a gymnast on YouTube. She said her favorite event is the floor, and she enjoys performing back flips. She said if gymnasts aren’t having fun, than they’re not doing gymnastics. She said the sport teaches to never give up, even when things get tough.
Roberts said it is scary sometimes to see her daughter out there performing the moves of gymnasts, but she has gotten better over the season at handling it.
“They learn a lot of life lessons with it,” Roberts said. “It’s not just competition, they have to learn to work with other girls, they have to learn to work super hard.”
For her gymnasts, Mayo said the first thing she stresses is safety. The next aspect is having fun, and that’s followed by learning. With the skills learned in gymnastics, Mayo said they transfer well to other sports.
“The thing about gymnastics is that if you’re a gymnast, you can do any other sport there is, but the reverse is not true,” Mayo said. “Gymnastics builds their balance, their strength, their confidence so that it makes no difference what other sport you’re doing.”
Whitfill said the sport has a family atmosphere where competitors intermingle, talk and play, and coaches just hang out together. He said the gymnasts develop arm, leg and upper body strength that’s similar to what’s seen on television.
“Anytime you watch TV — superheros are the big thing right now — anytime someone is shown to be superhuman, well they tumble and flip — they show powers like that,” Whitfill said. “As far as what these girls are getting, they’re able to come and show their friends that, ‘Hey, I can do what they’re doing on TV.’”