Since John and I hold season tickets to the LSU women’s gymnastic team meets, we get invited every year to an event at which the team members are introduced. There’s an explanation of the scoring system used at meets and usually food.
This year the event was held in the fieldhouse where the team practices, and they held a mini-meet to demonstrate scoring and introduce their new routines.
The practice facility is decorated with inspirational slogans, such as “WIN: Whatever Is Necessary” and “Who out there FEARS us?” As I looked for a place to sit, I passed by a small bulletin board/white board combo with “Tigers to the TOP” written on it, a letter from Wheels to Succeed thanking the team for helping out at a fundraiser, and two newspaper clippings.
|The sign above the clippings says, "Happy people don't have the best of everything, They just make the best of everything."|
The clippings were not, as I first thought, about the team. They were stories about Malala Yousufzai, the young Pakastani activist who had been shot.
Gymnastics is an odd team sport. Every member of the “team” is actually competing against each other as much as against the opposing team at the meet. Furthermore, each team is competing against every other team in the country at each meet. Teams are ranked according to their scores, so it is possible to lose a head to head competition against one team and still move up in the rankings over several other teams. The LSU Fighting Tigers compete at a high level in college gymnastics, having been to a Super Six in the last several years.
Yet you can’t see a better example of sports etiquette than at a meet. Team members cheer for each other, even though they are also competing against each other. They offer comfort for a team member who falls, praise for one who does well, and at the end of the meet, they congratulate (with a hug)the members of the opposing team who win events. I’ve seen gymnasts look disappointed, but I’ve never seen one sulk.
So it doesn’t surprise me that these hard working, competitive young women can stretch their idea of team to include one more young tiger, fighting for her life and for all women, halfway around the world.