Competitor to coach: Junior finds passion in teaching gymnastics

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By Julia Harris, Staff Reporter By the time junior Rachel Jin was in ninth grade, she was an elite level-eight gymnast who had successfully participated in over twenty different competitions, including multiple state championships. However, beginning in 2019, an ache in her wrist began to make gymnastics difficult.  After enduring a year of this pain,...

By Julia Harris, Staff Reporter

By the time junior Rachel Jin was in ninth grade, she was an elite level-eight gymnast who had successfully participated in over twenty different competitions, including multiple state championships. However, beginning in 2019, an ache in her wrist began to make gymnastics difficult. 

After enduring a year of this pain, Jin and her parents were forced to choose between surgery or quitting the sport. While the decision was a tough one, it ultimately opened up a new and rewarding chapter in her life. No longer able to compete as an athlete, Jin became a gymnastics coach at John Pancott Gymnastics Center working with young kids ranging from preschoolers to 10-year-olds. 

“I realized this could bring back a part of my life that I thought I would have to give up, so it was the right option to go into coaching,” Jin said. “When you commit yourself to something and invest time and effort for years, it becomes a focal point of your identity.”

Initially, after having to give up gymnastics, Jin wanted to start a new sport. She considered dancing, diving or pole vaulting, but settled on trying ice skating. She ended up frustrated by the feeling of not being good enough for her age.

“When you’re this old and you go into a new sport, you can’t really go anywhere big,” Jin said. “I had known that girls my age that were still doing gymnastics had coached at the gym, but I had never shown any interest because I was always so busy.”

Coaching would allow Jin to remain connected to the people she had grown to know and love throughout her years competing in gymnastics  and she would be able to pass on her skills to other kids who were passionate about the sport. 

Due to her extensive gymnastics experience, Jin wasn’t required to undergo any formal training to become a coach. After spending some time shadowing other coaches, she was ready to share her knowledge with the younger kids.

 “One thing that has set (Jin) apart from others is her desire and ability to help others,” Jin’s former teammate, Jada Traynor, said. “Anyone who has been Rachel’s teammate wouldn’t have gotten where they are today without her natural coaching skills and sound advice.” 

Although she does enjoy working with younger kids at Pancott, Jin prefers teaching older students  because she loves to see them develop more advanced skills from her training them rather than solely helping them do tricks for fun.

“Being able to correct the girls and tell them how to go through with movements and see them make progress: that’s the most exciting thing about coaching,” Jin said. 

Teaching new students gives Jin the opportunity to pass on her love for gymnastics to others. Her coach, Mike Pancott, is especially proud of her dedication to the sport and how far she has come. 

 “It shows the impact of competitive sports and how it trickles down to other generations,” Pancott said.

Jin is grateful to stay involved with gymnastics through coaching, even though her competitive days are behind her.

“If I had to give advice to other athletes going through an injury, I would say: it takes patience, and don’t panic,” Jin said. “There’s always something else for you to do, and you can even continue working with the sport you love.”

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