After the Whistle: The challenges of being a gymnast

Local Sports

On this week’s edition of After the Whistle Karassa Stinchcomb takes a look at the challenges of competing in gymnastics.

Thanks for watching After the Whistle, I’m Karassa Stinchcomb.

It takes strength, flexibility, coordination, and knowing what you’re doing even when you’re upside down. I’m talking about gymnastics. Gymnasts I spoke to say there’s another aspect to it all that you may not think about.

“You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable,” said Robbie Werchau.

Werchau is the Minot High gymnastics coach and has been coaching for nearly 30 years. She understands what it’s like getting comfortable with being uncomfortable because she was a gymnast too.

“There were days when I was always sore and I was like I don’t think I can do this anymore. So I understand how the girls are feeling when they feel like they can’t do it or they’re just too sore to do something or this is too hard or this is too scary,” said Werchau.

During her career, she’s coached gymnasts of all ages.

“I love it. I love being with the girls I love learning new things and getting them to do things they never think they could do,” Werchau said.

This year is different though, her high school team doesn’t consist of high schoolers. Four 7th graders and one 8th grader make up the team.

“When I was little I really loved like jumping around my house and my mom was like hey she should try gymnastics and I just kind of fell in love with it,” said Sophie Bell, 7th grader.

“I decided to do gymnastics because my mom had done it and she wanted me to try it and ever since I’ve just fallen in love with the sport it’s really fun,” said Haley Conklin, 8th grader.

But there’s a side of gymnastics you don’t see from the stands: the injuries.

Werchau says during her career as a gymnast, coach, and judge, she’s seen a lot of them.

“Dislocated elbows, and hyperextended elbows, and broken ankles and a lot of broken toes. It’s a weird injury but a lot of broken toes. Lots of pulled things. Pulled hamstrings that kind of thing. Bad backs a lot of backs that need physical therapy and that kind of thing,” Werchau said.

Bell and Conklin are no strangers to them either.

“I rolled my ankle a couple times but it’s always hard coming back from those injuries but you just have to know and build from those and learn from the mistakes that you made before,” Conklin said.

“I fractured my shin. I’ve done some crazy stuff to my ankles,” said Bell.

What?! How did you fracture your shin?

“I was doing I was involved and I just kind of fell and knocked my shin on the metal,” Bell added.

“But yet they come back it’s just it gets in like I said it gets in a person’s blood and they’re just gymnasts,” Werchau said.

But sometimes, the reason for going back goes beyond the love of the sport.

“To redeem yourself sometimes because it’s a really hard mental game gymnastics and just it feels good to know that you can do that skill again even if you’ve gotten hurt on it before,” Conklin said.

“It was really hard to come back because it was really painful and I just told myself that hey you got to get back in it and do it,” Bell said.

Often times, the gymnasts persevere out of pride. They say it’s worth it, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

“For people who think gymnastics is like super easy sport but it’s not as easy as it looks, yeah!” Conklin said.

“They are flexible, they’re strong and they’re supposed to look pretty all at the same time, and graceful and to make everything look easy all at the same time,” Werchau said.

While they’re excited to be back, they’re already looking forward to the future.

“My goal for the season is to do a souk on the vault which is a half-on and then you flip out of it so hopefully I can complete that,” Conklin said.

“I really would like to improve on my new floor routine and I think probably bars because it’s difficult,” Bell said.

“As a team, hopefully, we can try and qualify for that team day at state but I mean we’ll just see where the season goes I mean nothing is promised,” Conklin added.

To try and stay flexible at home when they couldn’t practice, the girls did a variety of workouts, but they say nothing is quite like being in the gym.

The first competition is scheduled for December 18th.

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