Flipping out with the gymnastics team

Gymnastics slideshow – photos by Julia Van Lare


In the back hallways of the school near the sports trainers’ office, the girls gymnastics team practices three times a week, flipping from bars and beams to prepare for competitions. Despite being obscure and unnoticed by most, the 18 girls that participate in gymnastics say they are proud to be members of a team.

Despite the lack of attention the team receives, they have done very well in the past. “I think a lot of people don’t know we have gymnastics. We’re the best kept secret at the school,” Head coach Joe D’Emidio said. “About 3 or 4 years ago, we sent four girls to the national championships in Florida, representing Virginia.”

Although the team contains experienced and well accomplished gymnasts, they are welcoming to all skill levels. Practices are a mix of girls who have been competing since they were six and girls who learned to do a handstand three weeks ago, when the season started.

“You don’t have to be able to do gymnastics to be on the team. We’re here so we can help people,” senior and team captain Katie Webster said. “There are some amazing gymnasts but then we want to help other people to do gymnastics, because it’s fun.”

Gymnastics is a physically and mentally demanding sport, but according to the team, it is extremely rewarding. The gymnasts and coaches say it makes young people as well as older people more confident, and increases body awareness. Gymnastics can be a lifelong sport, which it has been for coaches D’Emidio and Melkis. The two have been coaching for a combined 80 years. “It helps with body awareness, strength, and flexibility. It helps you with any sport down the road,” Coach D’Emidio said. “We run into a lot of girls down the road that are still interested in it. It’s a lifelong thing.”

“It’s an outlet for me, I get to express myself in a different way than talking. It’s something that I work towards, getting goals is always something that’s good for people,” senior team captain Rachel Bradley said. “Competing is always a thrill. You’re out there by yourself, so it’s all up to you. It brings confidence to people and it made me more confident, as a person.”

The team says that gymnastics is often underestimated by people who don’t know much about it. The strength and mindset required for the sport are huge, but the girls on the team make tricks and skills look easy. “It’s a lot of physical as well as mental [strength]  – it’s very in your head. The strength that it takes is a lot more than it might seem for simple skills. I think people sometimes underestimate it,” junior member Bella Golden said. “It takes a lot of guts and being in the right mindset to throw the tricks that you have to… a lot of people will get mental blocks because fear is very a big portion of it. It takes a lot to get over it, because you might very well may be able to do it physically, but if your mind isn’t in the right set, then you won’t be able to do anything.”