A note from Kelly King: I always enjoy hearing others describe the leadership lessons they learned from various life experiences. In today’s article, Gayla Parker describes some principles she learned while teaching gymnastics. There’s an additional principle I would add—flexibility!
“Go for broke!” Really? Who wants to go broke? Most of us have been taught to always hold a little something back for a rainy day. Financially, that is very good advice. In the way in which we live life for Christ, going for broke just might come with high yields.
While in high school I was on a statewide gymnastics team. That experience opened a door that allowed me to teach gymnastics at a local dance studio throughout high school and college. It was a great job with great hours. And more importantly, it paid for my college tuition. When the more advanced students were learning to do a difficult move on the balance beam or an aerial move on the floor, I would often say, “Girls, go for broke. If you hold anything back, you will get hurt.” If there is one thing I learned in gymnastics, it was that principle. Especially when it came to aerial moves. If a gymnast runs down the mat or beam with any reservations at all she will most likely land on her head! That’s a lesson I learned the hard way. Ouch!
The same principles I learned in gymnastics are perhaps some of the best leader helps I have ever learned. As far as that goes, they are good skills to put into practice in our spiritual journeys as well. 2019 is here. As leaders we are looking ahead to what is next. Perhaps some of what I learned about leadership through gymnastics can be helpful as you step into 2019 as a leader. “Go for broke!”
1. Stay Focused. On the balance beam a gymnast must focus on the end of the beam at all times. If the gymnast looks back or looks down, a fall is in her near future. Focusing on the end of the beam is the skill that helps her stay balanced on the beam, and it helps her know just how far she can go before falling off the beam. What a great principle for a leader! Staying focused on the end result (the end of the beam, so to speak) will keep her on the path to the goal. Staying focused prevents falling into to the trap of busyness for the sake of keeping everyone occupied. It will also help her know how far she has come and how far she still has to go to accomplish the task or goal at hand without falling off the path.
2. Practice, practice, and more practice. Any gymnast, no matter how skilled, will tell you that their success is only as good as the time committed to practice. Practice tones your body, teaches you what you are doing wrong and what you are doing right, and builds endurance. Leadership requires practice (continual learning) as well. It requires asking oneself questions like: What is going well? What needs improvement? What resources can I utilize? What books, podcasts, or seminars can help me? Learning tones our brains and our skills, which in turn builds our endurance for the long haul; it helps the leader to finish well.
3. Discipline. Without it, a gymnast will fail. It requires discipline in scheduling time, discipline in setting priorities, and, yes, discipline in diet. Leadership requires the same. A good leader will discipline her time, stick to the priority list, and take care of her health by eating healthy, making time for rest, and exercise. A balanced and healthy leader can accomplish almost anything.
4. “Go for broke!” When a gymnast hesitates, it is a guarantee she will fail. The best leaders are the ones who are willing to “go for broke,” giving their all for the cause of Christ. That kind of commitment is contagious. That kind of leadership will take a team far. As the African proverb goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, take others.” That kind of leadership is well worth the cost. After all, our goal is not the blue ribbon or the gold medal. Our goal is making disciples. That’s definitely a goal worthy of “Going for broke!”
Gayla Parker has served for over 30 years in ministry in various roles. She is an adjunct teacher at Ouachita Baptist University teaching Women’s Ministry. She loves being in God’s Word, sharing Jesus, running, and spending time with family and friends.