I just read the article on the International Gymnast site about Ashley Priess’ decision to retire during training at the US National Championships. Always impressed by her gymnastics, and her coach as well, I admit I was quite curious as to what caused her to decide to step away from the Olympic Selection process mere weeks before the Games. Citing a chronic back condition which she feared would not survive the Summer, Priess decided to forgo her dream of the Olympics in order to pursue another dream: competing on a collegiate team. She did not want to jeopardize her collegiate chances by overworking her back in the Olympic Selection process.

Two quotes in particular stand out from the interview. The first is in regard to her family.

“They have always told me throughout this entire process that they would stand behind me and love me no matter what the final finish was for me,” she said. “They have definitely stayed true to their word and I am so thankful for them.”

This is what parents of athletes should strive for. It can be so difficult for a parent to make wise and healthy choices with and for their children, especially when Olympic (or other equally large) dreams are in the mix. For a child to be able to walk away from an Olympic dream like Priess did takes incredible maturity, perspective, and strong family support. Many athletes would have pushed through out of fear of their parents’ reaction. Parents have to sacrifice a lot for a child who is an elite level athlete and the lines are so often blurred. It can be difficult for a parent to keep perspective and continue to help guide their child through the process in a way that is life-giving and affirming for the child as a whole person, not just an athlete.

The second quote that stood out to me was this:

“I have been anticipating a college career for so many years,” she said. “I can’t wait to be a part of a true team. I’m excited to experience things that I never had the chance to during high school. I am looking forward to meeting new people, having teammates and enjoying the sport that I have loved for so long.”

Again, Priess exhibits maturity and perspective beyond her 18 years. The Olympics do not make a person happy or whole. Few athletes can see beyond their Olympic dream. Many believe that the Olympics would be worth it no matter what the cost. Our sport needs more women like Ashley Priess. We need more athletes who can see the big picture and make wise and healthy choices that might not include the Olympics, but allow them to thrive just the same.

Agree? Disagree? What do you think of Priess’ sudden retirement?

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