Round off, back handspring, back handspring, backflip. Senior Rachel Rodgers took a deep breath; she had just completed her first tumbling pass.
Rodgers joined the East gymnastics team sophomore year. She quit the Eagles competitive gymnastics team, a team she has been a part of since fourth grade, after dislocating her ankle during her floor routine and becoming burnt out. Rodgers spent up to 20 hours a week at the gym and most times would have to leave school early for practices, her mom, Laura Rodgers didn’t let her quit immediately.
“It’s hard to watch your child leave something that they are good at, but they have to have the drive to continue. You can’t have it for them.” Laura said.
With all the time she has saved by quitting competitive gymnastics, Rodgers has allowed herself the chance to become more involved with school activities at East. She currently participates in cheer and pole vaulting while still competing in high school gymnastics, a sport that has helped her to succeed in these other areas.
“I was happy when she joined the East gymnastics team,” Laura said. “ The fun was put back into gymnastics for her”
Rodgers feels the East gymnastics team is much more laid back than the competitive atmosphere she was used to at Eagles. As a senior on the team, she has gotten the chance to be a leader for the younger members of team.
“She’s definitely one of the leaders; she’s nice to everyone and is always encouraging,” teammate Brooklyn Beck said.
Gymnastics has practices everyday after school at Shawnee Mission South for two hours. Practice starts with running and a group warm up and then the girls are given the rest of the time to work on learning and perfecting new skills with coaches who are available at all times to help.
Rodgers has to split up her time with cheer practice, a sport she tried out for junior year after being persuaded by her mom and a friend who was on the team.
“I would watch the cheerleaders at basketball games and football games and decided it looked fun,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers worked out a schedule with her cheer coach Mallory Gaunce and her gymnastics coach so she could make the most of both practices. Mondays and Wednesdays at South for gymnastics, and Tuesdays and Thursdays at East for cheer practice.
“I absolutely support her. I think it makes her stronger, although sometimes I do worry about overwhelming her because cheer takes up a lot of time,” Gaunce said.
Another sport Rodgers has gotten the chance to get involved with is pole vaulting for the track team. She joined the track team sophomore year after one of her gymnastics coaches who also coaches pole vaulting at Shawnee Mission North told her gymnasts make great pole vaulters.
Not only did Rodgers find a new sport she was good at, thanks to gymnastics, but pole vaulting has helped her correct her run for vault in gymnastics.
“Gymnasts generally run weird, so my coach for pole vault taught me how to run right,” Rodgers said.
If Rodgers was still competing with Eagles, she would have attended her five core classes everyday and then left school early before 6th and 7th hour for gymnastics practice. She wouldn’t have had the chance to be able to choose electives that catered to her interests and no longer would have the chance to participate in school sports.
Rodgers has had to work hard on balancing her time between the three sports and her school work by prioritizing assignments and practices. In the end she has meet lifelong friends and gained skills that will stick with her for the rest of her life.
“[Rachel] met some of her best friends through these activities,” Laura said. “She has also built relationships with coaches and trainers who are currently and will continue to be mentors to her in the future.”