In 1987, yes we had color TV’s back then, my parents and I made a life changing decision to move me across the state of Florida to pursue my dream of the Olympics. At the age of 14 I left my gym, my house, my dogs, my friends, and worst of all, my family. I say, worst of all, because little did I know that the day I moved away from home would be the last time my family would ever live together.
I visited my family and my parents definitely visited me very often, but it wasn’t the same. Spending the weekend with my parents wasn’t even close to spending my life with them. I lived with “host” families, and although the families I lived with were nice and supportive, they really didn’t “parent” me. I experienced my adolescence growing up with other families’ rules, cultures, traditions, and values.
My most influential years were spent soaking in other families’ influences. And the one thing that I needed the most, was the one thing that I didn’t get; time with my family. I didn’t get to have my mom help me with my homework, have family dinners and talk about our day, cuddle on the couch and watch TV, go to my brother’s school functions, go to any other family member school functions, or get to hear the daily advice and ideas that usually are talked about.
When I was 23 my dad died of leukemia, when I was 34 my mom had a debilitating stroke, and I have a brother that I stopped knowing when I left my house. Looking back, I realize that although my Olympic dreams did come true, I really did miss out on my family.
Recently I have been approached by parents asking me my advice on having an athlete move away from home to pursue their dreams. I am torn on this subject because I did achieve my dream. Moving away from my family ended up working out for me. Through gymnastics and our decision to pursue my dream I was able to travel the world, meet amazing people, and my parents, brother, and I were able to experience things that we could have only done through gymnastics, and if I had to do it all over again, I would. Yes, I would still move away from home.
We weren’t the family that was financially able to visit each other every week or have the entire family travel to each other’s sporting events. We did make numerous phone calls and send many letters and cards. My parents were very involved as much as parents that lived 250 miles away could be involved. So what more could they have done?
I’m not sure if there was anything more they could have done. The fact was that I moved out of the house and we made a choice that had repercussions. I sacrificed my family for a dream. I have come to terms with this decision and I understand that every decision comes with pros and cons. So when parents ask me my advice on moving their child away to pursue their dream, I say to go into it with open eyes.
First, Does your athlete truly have the ability to pursue their dream? Second, Is your family aware of what they will be sacrificing? Third, Are you willing to sacrifice your family for an experience? Fourth, Be prepared if the dream doesn’t come true.
There is no guarantee that moving away from home will result in true success. Moving away from home will only give them an experience. It is that experience that they will be moving for. And in a sporting world where at the times it seems like parents and athletes will do anything for a shot at success, remember that sports will come and go and in the end it is not the jackets, rings, medals, or trophies your athlete wins, but the person they become because of sports.