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First meetI love this time of year! In our state, this is the beginning of the competition season for gymnastics. Each year the group of Level 4s I coach gets cuter and cuter and while it is so nerve wracking, I just love the first meet.

For those of you unfamiliar with competitive gymnastics, Level 4 is the entry level for competition in most gyms. Level 4 gymnasts are primarily 6-12 year olds and for most of them this is the first time they have competed or performed in front of an audience.

This afternoon my Level 4s will arrive at the gym (the first meet is a home meet, thank goodness) decked out in their new competition leotards and warm up suits. They all had their hair done in identical styles last night at practice and they will be looking so cute.

Our group is big this year – we have 19 girls on the Level 4 team, so they will be split into two groups – which is fine since we have two coaches. Only 5 of the 19 girls have ever competed before and all but 5 are ages 6, 7 or 8 so it should be fun. With the little ones it is always interesting to see who will remember their routine, who will not, who will fall on a random skill and who shines when the pressure is on. Basically coaching young level 4s in a meet is like going the craps table in Vegas – you just don’t know what the outcome will be on any turn.

You would think after all these years of coaching (23 to be exact) that I would not get nervous, but I do. It is more of an excited nervous, but I do sweat out every single beam routine, watch every floor routine with care, anticipate every vault and am there just in case on bars. You would never know it though! I am calm and cool on the outside – to keep my gymnasts focused and relaxed.

The best part about this first meet is the amazing transformation that happens to these young athletes after they have competed in their first meet. The little girls go from being girls who take gymnastics lessons to being GYMNASTS. Practices take on new meaning, the camaraderie among their team mates strengthens, and their self confidence soars.

Tonight I am a coach, then Sunday afternoon I get to swap hats and be a parent as my own daughter kicks off her 4th season competing. And that is a post for later this weekend…


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Guest Post by Jennifer Lawton

Soccer ballMany girls sports such as soccer, softball, volleyball and basketball have tournaments. Some tournaments that happen toward the beginning of the season are a way for the team to practice and really “gel.” A lot of league sports have playoff tournaments to determine which team is the champion for the season. Either way, tournaments are something that the kids enjoy and look forward to.

Running a sports tournament can take a lot of work, though. Here are some things you can do to make sure your sports tournament runs smoothly:

1. Plan Ahead. The more time you have to plan for your tournament, the better. This can also help you find needed volunteers, sponsors for donations and publicity for the event. Time is your friend.

2. Prioritize. Get a commitment from vendors, sponsors and volunteers for the most important aspects of the tournament first. This includes securing the fields, getting schools on board and planing for the two fund raising aspects of your event: sponsors and concession stands.

3. Assign Jobs. Ask your most committed parents to be over the main areas of the tournament areas such as scheduling teams for play, getting referees, sponsors and concessions. Then these volunteers can seek support from other parents to help get the job done, such as creating a volunteer schedule for the concession stand. Making a volunteer assignment specific and measurable will help them accomplish the tasks that need to get done.

4. Obtain Sponsors. Sponsors help defray the costs of putting on the tournament and can be a good part of your sports team fundraising efforts. Some items you may want to find a sponsor for are refreshments and trophies. You may also want to get sponsors for “giveaway” items such as visors or sunscreen for the crowd. Sponsors for a sports team event are best found among your player’s families. For example, parents may work for a company that can donate items or cash to help pay for supplies.

5. Get Players.
You’ll need to contact other teams directly to get them signed up for the tournament. This is best done by phoning the coaches or schools where the teams play. You may also want publicize your event in local newspapers to get the word out.

6. Say Thanks.
It is important to thank all your sponsors and volunteers. Include the names of your sponsors in a program if you have one, and on a “thank you” banner displayed at the tournament. Your announcer can also acknowledge them over the loud speaker between games. Also say thanks to all of your volunteers. A thank you note, a small gift and/or verbal recognition at the tournament are a few ways that you can thank volunteers.

7. The Kids. The focus of the sports tournament should always be the kids! This is a time for them to have fun, develop their skills, build confidence and learn about good sportsmanship. When planning a large event, sometimes small details go awry. But if you focus on the kids having a good time, on the bigger picture, any setbacks you experience will not matter nearly as much.


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Runners Take Your Mark

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The starting line at the Great Train Race

The 8 year old girls are ready to run at The Great Train Race 1-miler.

More Wordless Wednesdays can be found at 5 Minutes for Mom or at the official Wordless Wednesday hub.


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