Her moment was both unbelievable and overwhelming. Gabby Douglas became the first African-American to win the Olympic all-round gold medal in gymnastics. It is the most coveted title in her sport…and she did it at sixteen years old. Gabby Douglas belongs to Generation iY.
In a world where her peers are generally caught up in activities like Facebook, texting, video games, Twitter, and YouTube—Gabby took a different route. She found something she loved and believed in…and went for it.
So, what lessons does Generation iY learn from Gabby Douglas?
1. Gabby Douglas was a pioneer.
I love the fact that Gabby didn’t simply do what everyone else was doing. In a sport dominated by other races, Gabby literally jumped in with both feet. She came out of nowhere and qualified, eventually beating out reigning world champion Jordyn Wieber. Douglas put on a show, leading from start to finish in the all-round event. She said with a giggle, “When someone told me I was the first African-American to win, I said, ‘Oh, yeah, I forgot about that. I am so honored.”
2. Gabby Douglas made huge personal sacrifices.
In order to compete at this level, Gabby moved from her family in Virginia Beach, at 14 years old, to Des Moines, Iowa to train under Liang Chow. Leaving home so young and building social and physical disciplines like that were challenging. She made remarkable progress in five months, allowing her to compete, qualify and win. During her flight to Iowa, Gabby looked down at the Iowa cornfields and mused, “Where’s the water? Where’s everything?”
3. Gabby Douglas found a way to handle stress.
It seemed Gabby was always smiling, with that million dollar smile. She’s beautiful. She was poised. In a world where kids often get stressed out over a bad grade, or breaking up with a boyfriend or playing poorly at a video game, Gabby was not only coping with more pressure than most, but thriving in the midst of it. “I just wanted to go on the floor and treat it like the trials,” Gabby said. “Just show it off and perform. You have to learn to enjoy the moment. If it works, great. If not, no regrets.”
4. Gabby Douglas saw the big picture.
When Gabby headed to the arena for the big event, a light rain fell. She texted her mom, smiling: “It’s raining outside, Mom. Do you know what that means?” For some rain means retreating inside or covering up. For Gabby, it’s always meant a reason to run outside, and splash in puddles. Rain means going to be a great day. It’s a sign God is smiling on you. Gabby’s faith played a huge role in her work. She meditated on scripture before each competition, helping her keep perspective.
Maybe we need to find this kind of experience for every student in America.
How can we help other Generation iY students be more like Gabby Douglas?