I Can’t

Olivia - Roswell, Georgia
Entered on December 18, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

I can’t come up with a topic for this paper, but I believe in not relying on the words I can’t. So I thought, and I thought, and I finally remembered why I do not believe in these two little words.

When I was younger, “I can’t” was the reason why I couldn’t. I was a gymnast until an injury indirectly took me out of the sport. Fear of re-injury caused thoughts of “I can’t” to creep into my head.

Eventually the doubt that those two words brought to my mind convinced me to quit the sport I loved and lived through for eight years. Even though my injury actually prevented me from continuing, the thoughts of “I can’t” kept me from persevering.

It has been three years since that phrase acted as a catalyst on my fear and helped me make my decision to quit. Now, I have finally returned to the gym, not as a gymnast, but as a coach, and with a coach’s perspective, I now see the powers of “I can’t”.

Now instead of me going to my coach’s and saying, “I can’t”, my kids come to me with their reasons of why “they can’t”. “Miss Olivia! I can’t because…I can’t. With “I can’t”, there never is a good reason.

As a coach, it is frustrating to watch the girls I teach fall into the endless downfall of those two words. Especially when I know all they need in order to try and accomplish a certain skill is an extra burst of effort. The effects of negative thinking can determine if and how quickly a gymnast will progress. My job as a coach is to build confidence. I encourage them to push through their belief that they can’t.

The colleagues I now work with were once my own coaches. When learning a new skill I would sit there and sometimes say, “I can’t do it”, however; my coaches showed no mercy. A particularly vivid memory is when my coach kicked me out of the gym for crying and saying that I could not complete an extremely difficult skill. I was not allowed to return until the crying stopped. When it finally did my coach asked me why I was crying and I explained that I was afraid that I could not do it and afraid of the skill. He helped me through and I eventually mastered this skill.

My dilemma now, as a coach, is, how do I get my girls to stop believing that they can’t? I pull from my past experiences and how my coach’s talked me through the defeating thought of “I can’t”, and I try to communicate the importance of this to my girls.

I have come to understand that there are physical disabilities that can prevent you from continuing on your path, but the more dangerous are the mental disabilities which can prevent you from believing that you can.