A Handshake and a Smile

The gymnastics business in America can tend to be an inhospitable, cutthroat, steal their gymnasts before they steal yours, don’t tell anyone your secrets because they might use them against you terrain.

Assistant coaches or coaches may leave the gym where they have been working for years taking with them the best gymnasts. Coaches have refused to talk to or even acknowledge other coaches, with whom they are angry, for years in spite of being in the same region and at the same meets for year after year. Competition often extends beyond the gym floor.

Everyone agrees that this is not an intelligent, responsible adult attitude but it often affects the tenor of whole meets.

The notable exceptions exist everywhere.

I would like to relate a small story about an international meet quite a few years ago in a land far away. A well-known coach attending the meet made a decision to break out of the common mold and try an experiment.

The first day of the meet, instead of mumbling the usual unintelligible greeting, he walked up to every gymnast and coach in the gym and introduced himself and stuck out his hand for a handshake with a big smile on his face. After every event whenever he got the opportunity, he congratulated the gymnasts and coaches with another smile and a handshake.

That night at the restaurant and the hotel, he continued his friendly attacks saying hello to everyone and smiling and introducing people to others.

The next day the disease had spread. People were talking, congratulating other team’s gymnasts, talking gymnastics skills and techniques, encouraging each other, trading phone numbers and addresses, setting up visits to each others gyms and in general getting along together.

The third and final day had degenerated into a totally fun experience that many of the participants categorized as the best meet they had ever attended. A number of lifelong friendships and gymnastics relationships developed from this experience.

One person, a handshake and a smile can change the world. One person can really make a difference.

And what an example this would be to our younger gymnasts who are looking for role models.

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