McKenna describes her love of gymnastics in this story. The lessons it taught her and the people she met along the way are invaluable to her, and she will carry these lessons with her throughout the rest of her life.
McKenna: The reason that my mother put myself and my two younger siblings in gymnastics, um, was because my younger brother, who is three years younger than me, he always used to stand on his head in his car seat, um, like, as my mom would buckle everybody in. My siblings are twins, so getting everybody in the car was an ordeal because she didn't have enough hands to possibly buckle everyone in at once. And my brother would always slip on to his head in his booster seat and hold himself up there, and kind of swing around. And there were a couple close calls of him, you know, making some choices that maybe weren’t the safest for him.
My mom put us into gymnastics, because she thought, you know, that this would be a safe place for them to learn how to be monkeys and not get hurt. Uh, and maybe not to put themselves in a headstand in the car seat.
My brother, after - he did gymnastics only for a few years with us in the very beginning, and he quickly decided that that wasn't for him. And my mom for the most part was our chauffeur, here, there, and everywhere for gymnastics, um, although they both always made a point - sometimes, my sister and I had different meets, and we’d be in different places, so they would have to separate out for those meets.
I think that, as I got older, a lot of my friends stopped doing it competitively, so I was - at one point I was like the oldest girl in the gym, other than one other girl who is a year younger than me by, like, a landslide.
And, so. At that point in time - I don't know. I felt a little disconnected from my peers in that moment, but. Gymnastics is very physically demanding and, I mean, I dislocated my hip when I was thirteen and I tore some tendons in my ankle at 17.
And there were days that I - there were 100% days where I was like, “Why am I doing this? Why am I here? I could be with my friends, I could be doing this,” whatever that could be might have been. “Why am I here?” and I think the life lesson from pushing through those days, and looking back on it now, the character I have for that, and the grit that I learned to say, “Okay, I made this commitment.”
Some of my very greatest life lessons-and I constantly reflect back on things I learned from doing gymnastics-as like, you know, okay, back up and take a breather and we approach the situation as like, life skills as opposed to just physical sports skills. I learned a lot from gymnastics in the physical sense but most in the, like emotional and mental well-being and awareness sense. That I, I think I was ready to part ways. I felt like I had, I had learned what I could as a person. And sure, I could have kept going and learned new skills, and sure, I could have, if I really wanted to, have gone further with it but I just, I came to a point that I knew my body was not gonna be able to keep going.
But, gymnastics was the first place that had an understanding that family could be more than just blood related. You come to college and you kind of have your home away from home or your home in a person more so than a place kind of thing and I learned that from gymnastics.