My name is Lauren Beers Stanton and I am a daughter, sister, graduate student, friend, wife, and a senior on The University of Alabama’s gymnastics team. I wanted to share with you my story and the challenges that have influenced who I am today.
I was born April 1st, 1994 in Sayre, Pennsylvania. My parents, Rick and Trish Beers had no idea what they were getting into when they entered the world of parenthood. Seven children later, I now had five brothers and one, precious, sister. I had a rather unconventional childhood. Not only am I the oldest of seven siblings, but I was homeschooled and grew up on a dairy farm. I know…sounds like the perfect combination for either a total nerd or a tomboy.
Luckily, I am both of those things but I am also so much more. From a young age I was totally in love with animals. My mom tells me stories of how I would put toads in my doll stroller and push them around the yard.
That is, until my brothers decided that they didn’t want to play dress up and tea parties. It was now my turn to play army, Legos, and Indiana Jones. When my sister was born, I was able to revert back to girl play for a short time before I discovered a new passion that would take me farther than I ever imagined. This passion was gymnastics. After watching the 2000 Olympics, I was mesmerized by the girls flipping around on the TV and told my mom that I wanted to do that. I started classes soon after and the rest is history.
Flash forward to 2006 when I was 12 years old. I had switched club gyms at this point and had been doing gymnastics competitively for about five years. I was now a second year level 10, which is the highest level you can obtain before becoming an elite gymnast, and facing one of the biggest challenges in my young life.
I had been having issues with my elbow for about a year and one day at practice it collapsed and my joint locked. We went to many different doctors, including specialists, who told me there was nothing they could do for me and I would have to quit gymnastics.
Just imagine, a 12 year old girl being told she had to quite doing the sport she loved and there was nothing that was going to make her arm normal again. To say I was devastated was an understatement. I still remember the first doctor we saw when I first was injured. My best friend, Megan, went to the doctors with my mom and I and we both cried hysterically when he told me, “You can’t play gymnastics anymore”. It was at that moment when I decided that I was going to prove this man wrong and not only do gymnastics again, but be successful at it.
I prayed that God would provide a way for me to do both these things and He did. We were able to see an arm specialist in Indianapolis and multiple car rides and surgeries later, God had answered my prayers. We knew from this point on that my elbows were going to be an issue the rest of my life but through the reassurance of my doctor, I could continue doing gymnastics and have relatively few complications.
Fast forward to 2009 and a different part of my life. I had been best friends with a boy name Nicholas Stanton for about two years at this point and I knew he had “liked” me for a while now. I ended up accepting his offer to attend our church’s formal as his date and the rest is, again, history.
God has a plan for everything and He can implement it whenever He chooses. For me, that just so happened to be when I was just barely fifteen. We continued to date throughout high school and into our college years before we decided to take the next step. Marriage.
Now, before we get to that, I have to go back to my gymnastics career. In September 2010, I made the decision to accept a full athletic scholarship to the University of Alabama. Soon after, my faith was tested again when I needed another surgery on both of my arms. My future coaches were extremely supportive and I was back on the road to recovery before I knew it. Now, I’d like to take the time to say that God ALWAYS has a plan. Before this episode I was having with my arms, I was considering moving away from home to train at a better gym to give myself a better chance at the 2012 Olympics. Because of my surgeries, I decided not to. I truly believe that because of this, I am where I am today. I finished out my club gymnastics career at home and then moved to Alabama in August of 2012 to start the next step in my journey.
The first two years of college were amazing and terrible at the same time. While I loved school and being a part of such an amazing team, I missed Nick and I struggled with self-esteem issues that I continue to deal with to this day. I pushed myself in both academics and athletes while maintaining a 4.0 and becoming an All-American.
The summer before my sophomore year Nick and I decided that we didn’t want to have a long distance relationship anymore. After a lot of prayer and thinking, we brought up the idea of marriage to our parents who, although they were shocked to say the least, were supportive. My mom and I planned my wedding over the computer and on May 24, 2014, I got married to the love of my life.
We faced many different challenges in our dating relationship but through it all, we stayed strong and came out better for it. When people see my ring they are always so surprised to find out I am married and even more surprised to find that I’ve been married for almost two years. I enjoy being able to share my love story with others, especially if I can encourage them to follow what they feel God is telling them and not what the world is trying to conform them into.
Moving on to the last two years, to say they have been a rollercoaster is an understatement. My junior year, my team won our second SEC Championship, I celebrated my one year wedding anniversary, and I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in just three years of school. Then, I had four surgeries and didn’t do gymnastics for almost six months. During my junior year, my elbows started acting up again and I knew I would need surgery soon.
So once season was over, I had a “clean-up” surgery on each of my arms. This wasn’t so bad, especially since the recovery wasn’t more than a few weeks. However, when I did start training again, I took a nasty fall and suffered a spiral fracture in my hand that required another surgery with external fixations in order to heal properly.
Coming from someone who had never taken more than about two months off of gymnastics for an injury, this was a new situation for me. I was sidelined from the end of April until October. During this time I struggled a lot. I’ve always been a planner and now my whole plan for my “awesome senior year” was completely thrown off. I didn’t even know if I’d be able to compete at all in the regular season. But being the person I am, I set a goal. To come back as soon as possible, while still being safe. I worked my butt off day after day and soon enough, I was back. I was now done with my first semester of graduate school and about to start the competition season.
Without going into detail, I can say that my season has been a crazy rollercoaster of amazing successes and utter failures. Going from someone who had only three falls in my entire collegiate career, to falling off beam four times in one season was heartbreaking. This was not what my senior year was supposed to be like. I was supposed to be the rock of the team, not the most inconsistent one. Frustration became a daily issue. I knew I needed a change of heart and through the help of prayer, Nick, my coaches and teammates, I was able to let go of the need to be perfect and just enjoy the last few weeks of the sport I love so much.
It’s crazy to think that something that’s been a part of my life for over 15 years is coming to a close, but I know that with the closing of this chapter comes the bringing of the next. I will be graduating with my Masters in Sport Business Management this summer with a 4.0, and starting my MBA in the fall. Looking back, I know my success has not come from myself. It has come because God gave me the opportunity to use the gifts He gave me to glorify Him. I can look forward to the new opportunities that God presets me and be confident in stepping into the next roll he has planned for me.
For anyone out there struggling with something, whether its relationships, your career, just being generally unhappy with your life, I want you to know something. It’s going to be ok! It will pass. If there is anything that I have learned in my short 22 years on this earth, is that this is all temporary. My sport is temporary, my school career is temporary, a bad grade or a bad meet means nothing in the broad scope of the future.
While it’s important to love what you do and have passions and goals in life, just remember, it doesn’t define you. God defines you as a most perfect being worth of unconditional and unfathomable love. So what is my new ultimate goal in life? To serve those around me by loving and giving all I have to give. I’ve been given my talents and current place in life for a reason and I can’t wait to see what’s in store!