7 Lessons Learned from Simone Biles at the Tokyo Olympics

Dear Simone Biles

As a coach, I want to thank you for being a great role model for my athletes.

Thank you for acknowledging that the mental side of the sport is as important as the physical.

Simone, your courageous decision to stop competing in the team finals made all young athletes realize that mental struggles are part of the sport of gymnastics.  So often, young athletes have trouble communicating when they are struggling mentally.  Athletes often feel like they are the only ones who go through it or that they won't be able to overcome a mental block.  Knowing that even the best gymnast in the world can get lost in the air and have times that she is unable to do skills that she could do easily a few days ago normalizes the situation.

Simone 3

Thank you for teaching young athletes that their health and well being is more important than any competition!

Simone, your actions helped many athletes to realize that some days are just off days.  You knew that something wasn't right and that you weren't able to trust yourself.  You knew that by continuing on you could have jeopardized your mental well being, but you could also have suffered from a serious injury and ended your Olympics or worse yet your career.  Let's face it, gymnastics is a dangerous sport.  As a coach, I have had to make the difficult decision for an athlete to take a break from an event or skill for a practice or competition.  I know my decision sometimes feels like a punishment to the athlete.  It is purely for their safety.  Your courageous choice can only help athletes in that situation to know that their safety and well being is more important than any competition or day.  

Simone 2Thank you for demonstrating what it means to be a good teammate.

It would have been so easy for you to take a step back and simply focus on yourself and the disappointment and frustration you felt in the situation.  Missing out on an opportunity you had been working years for had to bring up many emotions.  You set everything aside.  You took on a new role on the team.  You rallied the team, you encouraged them, you offered words of advice.  It was amazing!  You then took it a step further and showed amazing sportsmanship as you congratulated other teams and athletes.  This was not only during the team finals.  This continued during all-around finals and event finals.  You never stopped cheering and supporting.  One of my favorite memories from the games was watching you during the beam finals.  Throughout the finals you encouraged every athlete, even athletes that had a shot of bumping you out of medal.  You were a true role model!  

Thank you for showing us that honesty and emotion is admirable.

Your bravery of sharing your honest emotions is something we can all learn from, not just athletes.  This is something you have shown us time and time again.  You shared that you hoped that America still loved you and reminded us that you are human.  You also shared that you had the weight of the world on your shoulders.  Your openness can help my athletes learn the value in open communication.  

Thank you for modeling resilience.

Your comeback for the beam finals defines resilience.  You continued to work hard during training in order to show yourself and the world what you are capable of.  You adapted your routine and came back with the performance of a lifetime.  Your smile said it all.  

Simone 1

Thank you for continuing to improve your skills year after year!

Over the years, you have continued to push the sport of gymnastics.  You could have simply maintained your skills from Rio.  Instead you improved every year and every meet.  You created new skills and combinations that others could only dream of.  You demonstrated with grace what it means to have a growth mindset and aim for your personal best.   

Most importantly, thank you for showing the world that people are more than their sport!

Sincerely,

Hannah Thomas
Pinnacle Gymnastics 

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