In competitive gymnastics, there are ten levels. Reaching the ninth level — almost at the top — took freshman Emily Bridges seven years. She said reaching that point took many hours and tears.
Then a wrist injury shattered everything — however, Bridges chose to continue pursuing her love for gymnastics in coaching and cheerleading.
Bridges is a member of the Blue Valley High Cheer Squad and also cheers competitively at Diamond Gymnastics.
“[Cheer is] not as hard as gymnastics,” Bridges said. “That’s probably why I went to cheer — because my wrist could do it.”
Bridges said cheer often conflicts with her coaching job, but she learned effective time management techniques during her gymnastics days.
She said she tries to teach virtues like this to the girls she teaches.
“I coach between ages eight to eleven,” Bridges said. “Right now, they’re in a level where their mind is wandering so much and it’s kind of hard for them to learn it [well.]They’re just focused on ‘Oh, I want to learn this skill.’”
Bridges’ team of girls competes in various meets in the Kansas City area, and Bridges hopes to become coach to a top team. However, she said getting to that point takes a lot of work.
“I haven’t been as strict with them yet, but at the same time I am strict with them,” she said. “They don’t like my conditioning,.”
Though Bridges herself had big dreams in gymnastics when she was younger, she said her current students don’t seem to have those goals.
“They’re just doing it for the love of the sport right now,” she said. “They may want to grow up and get to a higher level, but I haven’t any of them say, ‘I want to go to the Olympics’ or anything like that. They know Olympics will be lots of hours and you wouldn’t really have a life.”
Bridges said her own Olympic goals were short-lived.
“When I was younger, people did mention that I should get Olympic training,” Bridges said, “But my mom decided against it.”
Gymnasts training for the Olympics would have to be homeschooled and completely dedicated to gymnastics, with no time for enjoying a normal life, according to Bridges.
“[I] saw how much work it was,” said Bridges. “[I] decided I’d rather go to school than be homeschooled and go [to gymnastics] thirty-six hours a week.”
But the years spent training weren’t wasted. Bridges said the skills she learned in gymnastics helped her with tumbling for cheer, and the life lessons are invaluable.
“Good sportsmanship. Self-discipline. Many of the Blue Valley virtues,” she said. “Everything was taught in there.”