Thursday, December 19, 2013

Inspiration from A Young Heart-An Interview with Shawn Johnson

This past Monday I had the pleasure of meeting a beautiful and inspirational young lady…Shawn Johnson. Shawn was in town promoting the upcoming 2014 P&G Gymnastics Championships being held at Consol August 21-24, 2014. (Tickets are already available for those interested in attending!)


In Shawn’s 21 years on this earth she has accomplished so much…multiple Olympic medals and the ultimate trophy on Dancing with the Stars.


What’s amazing is that she still has her whole life ahead of her to reach for all her other dreams. Dreams of getting a degree at Vanderbilt in Sports Psychology and Dietetics and reaching other personal goals she has set for herself. I so enjoyed talking with her and hearing her stories about her experiences. She shared candidly with us about the struggles and challenges that she has experienced.

Shawn started gymnastics at the young age of 3. Not because her parents were convinced that she would someday be an Olympian but because they knew she needed an outlet. Shawn smiled as she told us that she was a very rambunctious child. She said she was always climbing up onto furniture and jumping off with no fear. Her and her parents quickly found that gymnastics was a wonderful outlet for her and the bonus was by the end of the lesson she was exhausted. As a mom I can agree that there’s nothing better than a wiped out 3 year old who willingly goes to bed! The rest is history as they say. She flourished in the sport and moved up quickly to higher levels. She shared with us that at one point even though she asked her parents to let her go to more classes they debated. They didn’t want her life to be all about the gym. They wanted her to be with her friends and have a normal life at school and home.

We asked Shawn about her parents and whether she had any advise for other parents. “I’m not a parent and I can’t speak for them,” she said, “But I can tell you what they taught me.” Shawn shared that her parents never pushed her in her sport. That she knew if she ever wanted to stop or wasn’t having fun they’d be 100% ok if she stopped. She went on to share that her parents were her safe zone. She said that they never pushed her. They let her coach be the one to push and she knew as long as she tried her hardest, followed the rules and put it all out there they were proud of her…no matter what the scores or judges said. If she was struggling or things were tense in the gym she always knew she could come home and put it aside. Shawn said that she knows that her parents were nervous through her entire career but they worked hard to not let it show. They were strong for her and guided her along the way…they were her rock.

Shawn also shared some amazing insight on young children. She said that no one can look at a 4 year old kid and know what they are going to do when they are older….no one. Any child can show talent or ability in a certain area but that doesn’t mean that’s what their destiny is. She said that some kids are gifted with amazing talent for the sport gymnastics but have no interest in the sport at all. Then there are others who may not be as naturally talented but they have the drive…the determination…to dream big. Those are the kids you often see achieving amazing things. She shared that it’s so important to support your child’s interests and teach them drive and work ethic. Let them have fun and let them learn through that fun. “If a kid is where they are supposed to be you don’t need to teach them. They will excel naturally because they love it.” Wise words!

I shared with Shawn about Monkey and his struggle with Juvenile Arthritis. I explained that there where thousands of kids living every day in pain but still dreaming big dreams. I asked her if there were any tips or tricks she would share with those kiddos that she used to work through her injuries and the pain from them. Shawn said that working through her injuries was a frustrating and humbling experience that taught her perseverance. She said that if she could tell JA kids anything it would be that NOTHING is impossible. If you put your mind to something and dedicate yourself to it, giving it your all, you can overcome any obstacle.

Shawn also told us about something that her coach taught her. When she was at a competition he had her close her eyes and visualize her routine, visualize her scores, visualize the outcome. Her coach told her to imagine herself in a bubble and block everything else out. He told her that in a large arena or auditorium it’s easy to let yourself get lost. By putting yourself in that bubble you don’t loose focus and you have the ability to reassure yourself of your abilities. I was so happy she shared this with us. I think it’s something that any person could apply in their own life. It’s so easy to get distracted by the world around us and loose sight of who we are or what we are here to do. I know as a mom I’m easily distracted by the chores that need done, the screaming and fighting from the boys, the blogs I want to write. I’m going to take a little time in those moments to put myself in a bubble and visualize myself completely the things I need to do. Visualize my dreams and see myself working toward them on step at a time.

I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to meet Shawn. She’s a very down to earth and mature young woman. She has so much ahead of her and I know that she’s going to continue to achieve great things. I appreciate the time she took to talk with us and the candid responses she gave. She is a wonderful role model…If I had a daughter I would definitely love for her to look up to Shawn.
Want to learn more about Shawn and follow the projects she’s working on? You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to also check out the 2014 P&G Gymnastics Championships being held at Consol August 21-24, 2014.