I Believe in the Power of a Cartwheel

Natalie - West Chicago, Illinois
Entered on December 10, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe in the power of a Cartwheel. Truly, it is a struggle to learn and it is a great leveler. Rarely does one pick up a Cartwheel instantaneously; it takes almost everyone some amount of time to be able to complete one to some degree of perfection.

I coach gymnastics and as I see the kids watching the perfect-cartwheelers around the gym I can feel their hunger for the ability to rotate oneself in a circle. If a child gets frustrated, all I have to do is show them my Cartwheel (which has had nine years of practice) and they are addicted to the learning process all over again. They stand ready, biting their lips in fierce concentration and reach down to the floor to begin the skill. Their legs go up over their head, usually bent, and then when it seems like they have it, they crash. They end up in a small heap on the floor, frustrated. Over and over and over is the process repeated until one day they don’t fall.

As it is with all things, some are happy with the bare minimum accomplishment of not falling, while others are holding out their happiness for something more worthy. They’ll smile, pleased at having found themselves upright but they won’t celebrate yet until the Cartwheel is a little more perfect.

There are the criers who give up. They get so frustrated that they sit down, cry and won’t move forward. There is another class of criers, the ones who let the tears of frustration run down their cheeks but keep working, and keep pushing on. And there are those who keep making the same mistake over and over again while the corners of their mouths turn up as if to apologize for their lack of progress. And then, and perhaps the most memorable, are those whose eyes radiate determination as they fiercely pursue the skill. As the coach I stand watching the triumphs and the failures always giving the right words of encouragement, because once, many moons ago, I was standing where they are, or rather, I was collapsed on the floor after another failed attempt. After watching my students I realize which type of cartwheeler I was. Eight years after acquiring the skill, I am still after that same perfection, except now I am after perfecting more advanced skills. I never wanted to leave the gym and begged my coaches “just one more time,” whether it was working a Cartwheel or the back-flip on the high beam.

Thankfully, much of that attitude spills over into my life outside the four bricked walls of the gym, my second home. Where would I be without that first addiction to the perfect Cartwheel? Unequivocally, I wouldn’t be striving to teach the tumbling skill. Perhaps I wouldn’t be so dedicated to my learning. And maybe that level of intensity and passion for the things and people that I love wouldn’t be so strong. I’d like to think that I would’ve always been this way, but everything we do contributes to our character and creates us as individuals. I have grown from my struggles with gymnastics, become stronger, more determined and now I watch as the little ones go through the same pain and elation that comes from learning. I truly do believe in the power of a Cartwheel.