It is tournament season across the nation; the time of year where we are reminded why we love prep sports. Texas has its playoff football, Indiana has its basketball, and Minnesota’s has its state high school hockey tournament. This year on the opening day of the large-school hockey tournament, there were 10 NHL games across North America. With 19,040 attending the first session of the day and another 18,580 attending the evening games, only three NHL games had greater attendance totals that night. These are the tournaments which fill stadiums and receive the most attention. However, the life-changing forever-moments occurring at other tournaments across the nation produce life-long memories which are also worthy of note. One of my favorite prep state tournaments is gymnastics.
The Minnesota state gymnastics meet bestows some of the best prep gymnastics in the nation, and the tournament is a joy to attend. This state meet represents the InSideOut culture we all strive for in our schools and programs—here’s why:
- Participants from competing teams encourage and cheer each other on from introductions to the awards presentation.
- Fans never argue or yell at each other—there isn’t any “negative” cheering directed at different fan sections or the gymnasts participating.
- The judges are never heckled or jeered by participants, coaches, or spectators alike.
- While there is a team and individual aspect to the state meet—participants only compete to perform their own personal bests.
- When there is an amazing skill or routine performed, hundreds of people stand and applaud—it doesn’t matter which community or school the athlete is from.
- Coaches are working together throughout the day, helping each other with equipment, settings, or even a spot if needed.
- There aren’t any complaints—what a wonderful experience to watch a state tournament final where the building leaves happy.
As one gymnast prepared for this state meet, she explained to her local newspaper, “I am more than excited; I can’t wait…The amount of excitement; we almost have tears in our eyes because it’s literally the best day of our lives. Every single year, it’s so much fun. Being there with everyone and you have those memories that are going to last forever.” There are many ways of defining success in our programs and for our athletes—I’d say this gymnast perfectly summed up what a successful experience might look like. It’s my hope we are all able to be a part of this kind of transformational experience!