The Real Reason I Quit My Sport

About Me

Hi everyone.  I’m coach Rebecca Smith, the founder and director of Complete Performance Coaching, and today I am going to share with you the real reason I quit my sport.  My hope is that when you read through this, you are going to learn a little bit about me, my background, and why I do what I do.

Hopefully, you can learn a little something that will help give you hope, give you tools, and give you skills to navigate this crazy world of youth sports.

Where It All Began

I started gymnastics at two years old, and then my mom pulled me out because I was too hyperactive, and I didn’t go back into gymnastics until I was about eight. At that point, I went into pre-team, and then I went straight to level four.  The first level I ever competed was level five.

My Fears Set In

I started late, I was too tall, and I wasn’t that confident, but I loved it.  I was actually talented and naturally graceful.  My posture was great, I had really nice form, and I could point my toes; the only problem was I would get scared of things.

My fears started happening around level six.  I started working on the back walkover on the beam and I would think to myself, “Oh, I don’t know about this.”

Sometimes it was fine, and sometimes it wasn’t.

I would have my coach up there with her hand up saying, “Come on,” and then I would go the second she put her hand up to spot me. 

Some days I would go, some days I wouldn’t.

Good Coach, Bad Coach

I really wanted to impress my coaches, so I did the best I could.  I always tried to do what they told me to do.  Sometimes it just wouldn’t work.

Negative Self-Talk

Beam was my best event, but I hated it.  I had talent.  I was a little too tall, a little too old, but I was pretty good and I was very passionate.  I’d get up on the beam and I’d say to myself, “Okay, I’m going to go.  I’m going to go,” and then I would hit this imaginary brick wall. 

Time to Quit

I decided that at 14, my ship had sailed and I was just done, and I really believed it.  I told myself, “It’s okay. I’m done with gymnastics.  Thank you anyway.  Goodbye.”  I quit. 

At this point, I was feeling like this wasn’t for me anymore, so I started to make excuses. 

The Start of My Coaching Career

I remember having a conversation with my mom, and she said, “You want it?  Get a job!”  And I said, “Okay.”  So I called the gym and asked, “Can I have a job?”  I started coaching when I was 15 and coached all the way up until just a few years ago.

Even though I quit, I never fell out of love with gymnastics.  I loved it more than anything.  There were times in my life where I had other jobs, but I always came back to gymnastics because I loved it.  It was the only job I ever loved.  It was my happy place.

I was in the gym just as much as I was before because I loved it.  Now, I didn’t quit because I didn’t love gymnastics, I quit because I did not believe in myself.  I quit because didn’t believe I could be good enough.  This carried throughout my life, and that’s really the point here.

Deciding on Sports Psychology

After I went into coaching, I decided I wanted to be a sports psychologist.  I knew this actually from two years prior.  I went to a gymnastics camp and there was a sports psychologist there who had us all lay on the floor and close our eyes and do some deep breathing. 

She had us imagine ourselves doing a skill that we wanted to be able to do by the end of that weekend camp.  For me, it was a cartwheel back tuck dismount off the beam.  I was terrified of this skill, but I wanted it so bad cause it was so cool.

I remember lying there, imagining myself doing it and feeling confident, feeling like there was a chance.  Then that week, guess what I did?  I got up and I did it, and I didn’t just do it scared, I did it confidently.  Then I thought, “Whoa, that is awesome.  That is the job that I want. That is my dream job.”

Sliding into Depression

Fast forward to my first year of college. I was really depressed and really unhappy with myself.  Actually, I ended up getting a really bad grade point average and I told myself I wasn’t cut out for college.  I had a tendency to bail when things got hard.

So I went and I got a real estate license.  I thought, “I need to be really rich because I have all this potential,” and everyone always told me I had so much potential, but I was not living up to it. 

Once I became a realtor, things took off and were going really great, but I was so miserable.  I was hiding.  I was basically living this double life of “Everything’s great.  I’m going to pretend like I’m 30 even though I’m only 19 because I really want to be liked”.

I was leading a double life that was run by my fear.

Running from My Fears

I didn’t know how one would face fear or how one would deal with anxiety or deal with people.  Honestly, I didn’t have any tools.  I just wanted to be perfect and I wanted to live up to my potential.

Finally, I decided that this was not what I imagined for my life.  I didn’t want to be a real estate agent.

A Fresh Start

I actually ended up moving.  I split from that state altogether and decided to coach gymnastics again.  That’s where my heart was.  That’s what I loved and what I was good at.  I was waiting tables, coaching gymnastics, and was divorced by 22.

Finally, I was starting to follow my heart again and I was getting away from the idea that I needed to be successful, amazing, perfect, and great, and that people needed to notice how good I was in order for me to feel okay.  I decided it was time to fix me and learn some skills.

Personal Growth

That’s when I started taking leadership trainings and personal growth workshops that allowed me to look at what it was that I was afraid of.  I surrounded myself with communities of people who were like-minded and learned tools, various tools that seemed simple but fundamental for working through fear in my life: how to deal with a tough situation, how to talk to humans, how to be okay in my own skin.

I learned these tools and I got this little nudge.  I’m a very intuition driven person, and I got this gut feeling telling me to go back to school.  At first, that didn’t make any sense at all to me, but I had made a vision board with some girlfriends, and on it in big white letters on a black background, it said “the graduate”. 

Baby Steps

Here I had this vision board, “the graduate” staring at me and I couldn’t grasp the idea of going back.  I had this deep feeling inside myself saying, “I’m a failure when it comes to school.  I can’t do school,” but that switched to, “You know what?  Take one class, see if it feels good.  Baby steps.”

Two or three weeks into that first class, I wanted to quit.  I called a friend and I said, “It’s too hard.  I can’t do it.  It’s too much,” and she said, “Okay, why don’t you just do the homework and go tomorrow?”

I said ok, and then I did.  And then I did it again.

Success!

When all was said and done, I ended up with a 4.0 grade point average in community college and a 4.0 as I finished out my degree.  I went from failing to cum laude.  I had a really good GPA because I hadn’t received less than an A since I went back.  Well, I got one B, which a therapist actually said, “Well, what a success!  You’ve gotten a B.  Your perfectionism isn’t killing you anymore.”  I think I still was a little irked by the B.

Showing Up

I had tools and I had support.  I had people on my team who were helping me grow as a human.  They did their part encouraging me and I did my part of showing up.  Then I decided to go to graduate school.

I got married in September and started my doctorate program.  I eased in and I got A’s, tore into the coursework, worked full time, and was married.  It was scary, but I did it.  Then I kept hitting these walls in my life where either I learn the lesson or I quit.  I knew I had to learn it in another way.  Now I had the tools and support and belief in myself.

I finished my program and I dove in and I started this business.  I thought, “I’m going to be everything to everyone.  I’m going to try to help people perform their best – the business people and oboe players and all the people,” and nothing, crickets.

Sharing My Story

Finally, I decided to talk about my experience and why I got into this.  That’s when I realized why it all happened, how all the puzzle pieces fell into place.  The people who I loved to work with are the young athletes – the one who is a perfectionist, who’s smart, who is too aware of all the risks, and too aware of all the possibilities for failures.  They’re too aware of their potential and it’s crushing and it crushed me. 

It crushed me in sport, forcing me to quit.  It crushed me in my first round of college, and what I know now is that there are tools that are so simple and that’s what we need.  That’s what this type of personality that I am and that maybe you are or maybe your athlete is. 

What we need is tools.  What we need is support.  We need to not feel alone.  That’s what I’ve created.

At first, I started with these one-on-ones that I would do with athletes, which I still do to this day, where it was all the same thing.  It was fear, mental blocks, perfectionism, performance, anxiety.  I would help athletes to feel better because then they were free to do what they want to do and not be running on fear anymore.  Then they get their confidence back.

Growing my Business

They’d get their confidence back, and it would come and go, up and down.  What I realized is that they needed exactly what I needed – not just tools, but support.  Tools and support and to not feel alone.  That’s why I created PerformHappy, which is my online community.  Athletes will come in and they’ll do their training with me or with one of my coaches, and then they stay on.  They get live support every week from 12, 13-year-old gymnasts and figure skaters who are on there helping each other.  That is where I’m seeing these permanent results.  It’s amazing.

Here to Help

I’m here to help those kids not cut and run.  I’m here to help them not bail, not quit, and not get stuck in fear and everything.  As a result, which obviously didn’t get ruined, I had this circuitous path.  It could have been a lot straighter if I had known what was going on.

So, we only open the doors to this community for existing one-on-one clients, or we open it quarterly to new people.  We’re going to do it soon, so leep your eyes and ears open if you want to join us, and just know that you’re still not alone.

If you’re struggling with fear, reach out to me.  I would love to help you personally with what I’ve learned.  I just want you to know that there’s so much hope that you’re not just stuck.  If you’re a perfectionist who gets afraid easily, who wants to quit, there’s so much hope.  Feel free to reach to me at rebecca@performhappy.com if there’s anything I can do to help and I’ll see you around soon.

Is your gymnast struggling with mental blocks or fear?  Check out my FREE resource for parents.