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LETTERS TO LAUREL

A SPUG For Life - from Kai Redman (Tindall)

This year, I am coming up on my 6th fall without being a gymnast. While many of us say that being a gymnast is a life-long mindset, there isn’t enough money in the world to make me do mat push routines again. 😊 There are some things that I do not miss about being a ‘active’ SPUG, and not just a cheerleader on the sidelines (or more likely, running around inquiries while trying not to trip over mats in high heels). This list is quite short, and includes: -Carrying the board everywhere as a freshman (although thank goodness we didn’t fly with it by that point). -Picking up 5 different clothing items before finding the one with your name on the tag -Face tattoos. I mean, they looked awesome on….until you sweat profusely and they drip blue ink down your face. Or until you try to take them off and…well, I had to convince myself that as a full grown adult in college, I should not have a 3 day old face tattoo on in class on Monday. - Ice baths. Sorry Jason, but even putting rubber duckies in the whirlpool did not make this routine enjoyable. Poor Shannon had to hold a heat pack just to keep her teeth from chattering! The shuffle to fit a seventh person in the pool, and the subsequent shift of the icy water to new places. EEK! And ice bath minutes are definitely way longer than microwave minutes, for the record. Every moment wasn’t sunshine and daisies, I know. But in my life as a retired SPUG, there are many things that just aren’t the same now. For example: -Airports. As a SPUG, we walked through airports like we owned the place. All matching, and following Laurel like ducklings. People always asked us questions about who we were and what we were doing, and oh the efficiency! We went through security like a well-oiled machine. Picking up bags at baggage claim, there were 15 people looking out for the trainer’s kit. Now, it’s just me looking out for the 5 bags my family checked while someone goes and gets the rental car! - Photo-ops. Looking through old photos, I realized that being a SPUG meant that every time we took a photo, we got at least one serious and 3 goofy shots. Everyone was ready at all moments for a photo-op, and getting in group formation could be done at the snap of the fingers. Now I feel like the odd one out trying to wrangle other adults into taking silly photos. Yikes! - Planned workouts. Now this one was both a blessing and a curse. Did I enjoy getting up for 5:30 am weights? Not particularly. Being so nervous to be late to a workout that you would nap in the dorm lobby so as not to miss the group heading down. I could live without that part. But what I really miss is that we would build our lives around our training schedules. I never had to bribe myself to workout, because it was a given. I couldn’t talk myself out of an early morning workout, because I knew my teammates needed me there. It’s not quite the same when its just you and a workout video at home! - Game Nights. This one I really miss. Everywhere we went, we had enough people for some epic game nights. Some of my fondest memories are of those nights playing Hamilton, laughing until our sides hurt. Being kicked out of wherever we were playing because we were being too loud. Now, getting a group that size together all agreeing to play games takes a minor miracle, and there is no way that they are doing it without their phones, and or alcohol. - Theme days. We SPUGs sure liked to dress up! Looking back at all the pictures, I remember that yes a nude tank was a valuable part of any costume, and no, there is no limit on the amount of spandex acceptable to wear on a daily basis. - Finally, the Adventures. The excitement of meet season, when every week held a different adventure. Missing class to jet set all over the place, taking in the sights, as well as the local Subway for our pre-meet lunch. One of my favorite trips was to Alaska, where we ice skated in our tennis shoes walking downtown, and also in our car trying to drive into the mountains. In all seriousness though, being a SPUG was one of the most fun and memorable times in my life. There were hard times, for sure. There were days when I thought, “You know, if God wanted me to this skill, he would have given me suctions on the bottom of my feet so I can stay on the dang beam”. But through all the trials and all the successes, there was this amazing group of people to cheer or cry with. I have never been able to replicate the nervous energy that accompanied the cheers we did before march in. That feeling of accomplishment when I did a no wobble full turn at the top of a stairstep assignment on beam. The deep breath in the starting position of my floor routine, right before music started. The connection of this team is something that I will always remember fondly. And right there in the middle of it is Laurel. Thanks Laurel, or should I say mom, for making all of it possible.

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