BEHIND THE PLATE: Youth class serves as reminder of the fun in sports

She gets excited every Tuesday morning, almost like Christmas comes weekly.

Her outfit and belt with several sewn stars are packed as a little red-haired lass anxiously waits for her day to pass by before the best part of not only that day but every week. As the sun begins to hide behind the Sierra, a little giddy Irish princess arrives for her gymnastics class, her first sporting experience in her short three-year life.

As the coach welcomes her Tuesday night class to warm-ups, Kyra Emerald quickly takes off her shoes and socks and joins her cousin as they stretch and perform basic activities before moving to the larger floor. She acts bashful almost every week during warm-ups. She’s not afraid of the coach or her fellow gymnasts, but she feels reluctant because of the fear of making a mistake. She’s only 3 and already worried that she might do things wrong.

After two months of weekly gymnastics classes, this shy girl had one of the biggest breakthroughs of her young life.

Learning how to crawl and then walk. No problem.

Drinking from a lidless cup. Piece of cake.

Helping feed her little sister. Where’s the challenge?

After mastering her Toddler 101 classes, Kyra aced her first sports challenge this past week. Jumping on the trampoline, walking the beam and learning to pick herself up from falling preceded the biggest highlight of the evening when she made her parents and family extremely proud and happy.

Tucked in the corner sat a marshmallow foam-filled pit that also featured monkey bars and a 10-foot ladder. At the end of the ladder is platform that has only two exits: a long jump into the pit of blue and red marshmallow foams or a twisty slide.

During every class, Kyra needed help from her coach to jump into the pit. She was too scared to do it alone and feared the worst would happen if she took the 10-foot plunge. Some of the other kids were timid, while one or two were brave enough. But on Tuesday as she climbed the ladder and approached the biggest jump of her life, Kyra leaped without hesitation and rose from the pit to a loud applause as if one of the older kids just mimicked Jake Dalton’s Olympic routine.

She climbed back up the ladder and did it again. After conquering the monkey bars, Kyra completed the hat trick and dropped into the pit for the third time of the evening.

It was amazing sight to see this young lady conquer her fears and make a big stride in her early athletic career. She may end up being a gold medalist in gymnastics or could find success in other sports, like volleyball or softball. Or sports could fall out of the picture completely as she strives to become a doctor or teacher.

These gymnastics classes are a reminder about what is often lost in sports: fun. Too many times, the concept of enjoying yourself without worrying about the pressure to succeed is missed, especially when children begin to discover themselves and what they want in life.

You see many elementary children enrolled in ultra-competitive programs or leagues because in order to succeed in college’s highest level, they must start as early as possible. But watching our 3-year-old daughter react to accomplishing one of her biggest fears of jumping into pit truly defines one of the main purposes often lost in sports.

Thomas Ranson can be contacted at


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