On Thursday 16-year-old gymnast Gabrielle (Gabby) Douglas did something that had never been done before. She was the first African American to win the women’s all-around gymnastics title. Winning the prestigious title didn’t come easy for the Virginia Beach, Virginia native. She and her family members put hard work and dedication to the forefront as Gabby chased her dream. As you have probably already heard, Gabby moved away from her home two years ago in order to train in Iowa with world class coach Liang Chow. No one ever said it would be easy for the teenager to leave her home and travel hundreds of miles away in order to go after something that she had dreamed about since the age of six. In fact, many people probably thought that what she accomplished could never be done. But she proved them wrong!
Gabby scored 62.232 points in the all-around competition to become the third consecutive American to win the competition following Nastia Liukin in the 2008 Beijing olympics, and Carly Patterson who took home the gold at the Athens games in 2004. After watching Gabby’s magnificent floor routine, it became obvious that she was not only the best competitor on the floor but also the most focused and had the greatest will to win. She overcame so man obstacles just to get to the point where the entire country rested on the shoulders of her 4’11″ body.
I’ll be the first to admit that prior to this year’s Olympic games I had no idea who Gabby Douglas was. Even though she is from my hometown, I wasn’t familiar with her at all. But, I have an 8-year-old daughter who within the past few months has started to express an interest in gymnastics. So as a father I immediately became interested in knowing more about Gabby when it came to my attention that a young African American girl from our hometown was going to be competing for the chance to be in the Olympics.
Coincidentally, right around the time that I discovered who Gabby was I began taking my daughter to a gymnastics camp. One day after picking my daughter up from camp I told her about this young talented gymnast who was from Virginia just like us. Once I said that I immediately noticed that I had gotten her attention. We got home and I pulled up some of Gabby’s footage on youtube and showed my daughter what the “flying squirrel” was all about. As I sat there watching her watch Gabby I knew that something had clicked. There was something about this young lady that touched my baby like nothing else had before. She was intrigued. She was captivated, and she was motivated. This wasn’t just any old Hannah Montana singing “Best Of Both Worlds” video on Youtube. This was something that actually had value and substance to it. She saw something on those videos that looked like her, doing something that she wanted to do. It was…amazing!
Since the first day that I introduced her to Gabby I have seen her interest in the sport of gymnastics increase tremendously. Just so you know, my daughter is a girly girl. She doesn’t like to get her hands dirty, and sports just don’t really tickle her fancy. She will rider her bike and skate circles around you on her roller blades, but with the exception of soccer she had never mentioned wanting to be involved in any sports prior to enrolling in gymnastics camp. But once she started watching Gabby she all of a sudden became a gymnastics expert. The way that she tells me about back bends, parallel bars, and pirouettes you would think that she was one of the NBC commentators on TV every night. She even began to show off some of the new moves that she learned in the middle of our living room. She will even tell me how “easy” some of the acrobatic moves are as we are sitting and watching the Olympics together. If self confidence was a sport, lets just say that she would win a gold medal because in her mind she can do it all! And I think thats how it should be. Children should be confident in themselves and have a sense of self assurance. They should want to try to learn new things when they find something that interests them. That is where dream chasing begins. There isn’t an age limit on setting a goal for yourself. Gabrielle Douglas has created a blueprint that any young girl can follow. If you find a passion, work hard at it, and never give up, anything is possible. I am a firm believer that goals and dreams should be chased relentlessly and without regard for what any non-believer has to say, and I try to instill that same mindset into my daughter.
Watching Gabby take home that gold medal did something special for me as a father. It reassured me that anything is possible with a dream, hard work, and dedication. Just eight short years ago Gabby Douglas was sitting at home in front of a television watching Carly Patterson win a gold medal and now here she is doing the exact same thing and inspiring a whole new generation of young girls to pursue greatness. Gabby doesn’t just deserve to have a gold medal in the Olympics. She gets a gold medal in life. No weapon formed against her was able to stop her from reaching her goal.
If your child has goals and dreams, make sure that you are doing whatever you need to do in order to encourage them. Today you may not understand the dreams that they are chasing. But, that’s because they are not your dreams. Let them experience a life of greatness and go for their own gold. There is a whole world out there. We need more Gabby’s and less basketball wives. Lets raise the next generation to be dream chasers, difference makers, leaders, and activists instead of reality tv stars and video vixens.
Gabby Douglas deserves to be celebrated. I can say that without a shadow of a doubt as an American, as a father, and as an unrelenting chaser of my own dreams that I salute Gabrielle Douglas!