As a gymnast, flipping through the air on a four inch beam requires the highest level of concentration and balance. I have spent over 15 years of my life practicing balance beam, and at times, I still lose my balance.
In life, just like gymnastics, balance is one of the hardest skills to achieve and also one of the most important. I believe it is a lifelong, learning process that requires self-discipline and adaptability. Achieving success as a student-athlete in the classroom and in competition is absolutely impossible without it; and I have learned this lesson the hard way.
I stayed on top of my school work, managed to get A’s and B’s, and focused the majority of my time and effort on my passion…gymnastics.
My hard work in the gym paid off, and I was given the opportunity to compete at the collegiate level on full athletic scholarship. Something I will forever be grateful for.
However, college presented itself with a whole new set of challenges. I had two realizations after my first semester of college: school is hard; and I love being social. Because I spent the majority of my life prior to college in the gym, my social life was nonexistent, other than my teammates who were more like sisters to me; but I was completely fine with that.
My drive and determination to excel in gymnastics and compete for the best college in the country (UGA) trumped any desire to have a social life.
June, 2013, I moved into the dorms at UGA. I was suddenly surrounded by hundreds of people that shared the same love of sport that I have. We all spent our entire existence dedicated to our sport, something that few people understand.
I made so many friends freshman year. Often times, I would sacrifice studying for hanging out with friends. It wasn’t long before my GPA began to suffer. I knew I had to make a change.
Instead of limiting the amount of time I spent socializing, I began to sacrifice sleep; and believe me when I tell you, I need sleep! I quickly realized that playing egg toss in the hallways until 1 a.m. with the swimmers that lived next door, or teaching the baseball players how to do flips on the couch (luckily there were no serious injuries) was not the wisest use of my time. My lack of sleep was beginning to affect my concentration in the classroom and in the gym.
Sophomore came with nagging injury, maybe resulting from a lack of focus, that added to my stress and frustration. I wanted to be healthy, I wanted to compete, I wanted to reach my full potential in the sport I love, and in the classroom. I needed BALANCE.
I knew my struggles in the gym and school were God’s way of telling me, “you have to make a change.”
I needed to invest my time into relationships that would last a lifetime rather than sacrificing my studies or sleep for friends that are there for me only when it’s convenient for them. I knew this transition wouldn’t happen overnight.
It was going to take me exerting self-discipline in consistently making good decisions that would put me in a position to reach my full potential in all areas of life. I knew it would be tough, but God creates His toughest soldiers through life’s hardest battles.
The end of my sophomore season as a gym dog was steadily approaching, and things were finally beginning to look up. My ankles were almost at 100% and my GPA was on the rise.
I continued to strive to make good decisions with my time. Taking on a support role for the beginning of the season was new to me, but it taught me to be encouraging, patient, and hungry for the spotlight again. I sought out every opportunity to prove myself in the gym.
The last few meets of the regular season were upon us. When Coach Danna Durante began to call out the lineups for the upcoming meet, everyone was silent. I would say a prayer every time, “God, pleeeease let her call my name. I want to compete soooo bad.” But every time I heard, “…and Morgan will be the alternate.” I had to take this as a challenge. A challenge to work even harder in the gym; to continue to push my teammates and prove that I was ready to compete.
The last meet of the season was at home vs Utah. Danna called out the lineups; but this time, I was not an alternate. I was competing second on beam and first on floor! I was excited and ready.
I hit had a solid beam routine, followed by a memorable floor routine to tie my career high score of 9.9. I secured my spot in both lineups going into post season. My team and I went on to win Regionals, and then later placed 9th at the NCAA Championships.
Halfway through my college career, and I continue to strive for balance in all areas of my life. It is a lifelong process. With different stages in life, come different things to balance. Prioritize what’s important, rely on God to take care of things out of our control, and live a peaceful, balanced life full of happiness rather than stress and anxiety.