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Teri Sinnott saw Simone Biles' exit from the team event as an opportunity to teach life lessons to her daughter.

My oldest daughter, an aspiring gymnast, rushed into the bathroom while I was taking a shower. Of course, this is not an odd occurrence. All moms can relate, I am sure. She informed me it was an emergency. Simone Biles was out of the team competition.

To my 6-year-old, this was an emergency. I thought she had heard something wrong, but she was right. Her little eyes were filled with tears and she was so upset. 

This would be her first Olympics that she was old enough to stay up late to watch. The first one we would look back and remember watching together. We both were looking forward to this night for months and, of course, seeing Simone Biles compete. 

As my husband and I tried to explain to her why Simone was not completing, she just couldn't get it. She didn't understand. After all, she is six. In her mind, Simone quit on her team. She quit when the USA was depending on her. Here was an opportunity to teach her some very valuable lessons. 

I remember the Magnificent Seven, Atlanta Olympics, in 1996. I was twelve. I still remember that iconic vault. I remember the excitement I felt when Kerri Strug landed that vault, with an injury. I remember being so proud of her determination. I have often thought of that exciting moment. She was a true Olympian, a champion. 

But now, I look back on that as a mother, as a Catholic woman, and my heart hurts. The US didn’t even need her vault to get gold. And even if the USA did, was her competing for the gold more important than her physical health? Are sports really more important than the person? Is winning a competition more important than this person, who is an image bearer of God? Have many of us made sports our idol? 

Simone didn’t realize what she would set in motion when she dropped out that day. We see it unfolding in gymnastics and across professional sports. She has also received some criticism that has truly been cruel and exposed the level of obsession we have with being entertained and with sports in general. Where are our Catholic priorities?


Olympics rings in Tokyo


Here are some of the lessons I hope to teach my daughter: 

Lesson 1: Every person matters to God and should to us.

A person’s health and well-being, both mentally and physically, is more important than us being entertained or winning. As Catholics, we should be the ones standing by her, pouring out love and support, setting the example. My entertainment, and I am always entertained when she competes, is not more important than her well-being. Knowing that she could have seriously injured herself makes it clear to me she did the right thing.


Lesson 2: Mental health matters.

We need to normalize talking about mental health. We need to be okay seeking the help that we need, whenever we need it, for whatever reason we need it. We are past the “pray it away era.” God is the center point of all healing. But therapy and when needed, medication, can make a world of difference. There are many wonderful Catholic and Christian therapists who can provide therapy that is faith centered.


Lesson 3: Stepping back can be supporting your team.

Did Simone quit? Yes, but her stepping down actually helped her team. With “the twisties,” her scores would have hurt her team. By stepping down, she allowed them to win the Silver. By stepping down, she allowed her teammates to step up and shine. The attention would have been on her less than “Simone” performance, but instead, the attention was on the amazing talents of the other gymnasts.


Lesson 4: You always support your team.

Simone didn’t walk off and walk away. First, she talked to her team. She left the gymnasium, but then came back. She didn't just come back, she was their greatest cheerleader. She supported her team in a true champion fashion. She didn’t allow her pride to make it all about her, she made it about her teammates. 


Lesson 5: We are more than the sum of our accomplishments.

To so many, Simone is the GOAT. And, well, she really is the Greatest of All Time. She has four skills named after her. She has landed moves that no other woman has. She is truly a phenomenal gymnast; most decorated of all time. But, she is so much more than her list of accomplishments. She isn’t just a gymnast or an Olympian. She is a philanthropist. She is an advocate. She is a strong Catholic woman. One who carries her rosary with her in her bag. Who prays openly. Her faith is important to her. She is a child of God. 


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We all must examine how we have fed into and continue to feed into these sports machines.  #catholicmom

Now, I am prouder of the moment that Simone walked off the platform than I am of Kerri’s iconic vault. That vault ended her career. She had no say. She was controlled by the gymnastic machine of that era. An era of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. The era that is just finally coming to an end in the US but still alive in many other parts of the world. Winning and entertainment were more important. We all must examine how we have fed into and continue to feed into these sports machines. 

In life, there are times to power through. Work hard, not give up. And, then there are times when it is important to walk away, to stop, to know when to say no. Simone did this with grace. I can only hope that my daughter will learn the difference and handle it the way Simone did. I thank Simone for being a good role model for my daughter. My prayer is that those of us who know Jesus will set an example of what is important and provide support rather than fall in with the crowd that allows winning and sports to become their idol.

Copyright 2021 Teri Sinnott
Images: Bryan Turner (2019), Unsplash; Dick Thomas Johnson, CC BY 2.0, "Olympics Rings in Odaiba Marine Park, Tokyo" (2021), via Wikimedia Commons