High Beams and Big Dreams: Part-time Laurel Springs Senior and Gymnast Annalise Newman Achee Launches Herself Into a Bright Future
The life of a young gymnast is full of what could be perceived as failures. Sometimes a slight misstep on the floor or a wobble on the beam causes a brief hiccup in a routine. Other times, it can spell disaster. Both can take a heavy toll on the body, the mind, and the spirit.
Laurel Springs School part-time student and gymnast Annalise Newman Achee, who is currently prepping for an appearance at the World Gymnastics Championships at the end of October, says it's what you do in those moments that feel like defeat that matters.
Finding the passion
Annalise is a New York City girl who found Laurel Springs as her career in the gym was becoming more serious. She was in public school at the time but was missing classes and struggling to keep up as she reprioritized the limited hours in the day for training. Now, she goes to public school part-time and fills in the gaps with Laurel Springs.
“I chose a hybrid learning opportunity—attending my high school part-time while taking several classes at Laurel Springs—because that meant I was still able to maintain my friendships in school and be in a school building,” Annalise explains. “I still get that traditional school experience, but I also get all of my hours in the gym. I think it’s a really great opportunity.”
Annalise has been on the balance beam since she was two. She was the kind of toddler that had boundless energy, and her mom did what any parent of a child who never stops moving would do—found her an outlet.
“I just kind of stuck with it,” Annalise says.
By the time she was in kindergarten, Annalise had outgrown her first gym and moved on to another one. She upgraded once more and now trains at Arena Gymnastics.
“Gymnastics came pretty easy to me, so my mom kept me in it because I was enjoying myself. But then it turned into this really big passion of mine.”
Annalise chases the dream
How big is really big when we're talking about training for gymnastics? If you guessed big enough to compete on the global gymnastics stage, you’d be right.
After placing 19th in the Trinidadian National Gymnastics Team at the 2022 Pan American Championships in Rio de Janeiro back in July, Annalise qualified for the World Gymnastics Championships to be held in Liverpool late next month.
Competing in Brazil, both in 2021 and in 2022, was Annalise’s first major international competition, so now it’s “grind time” to prepare for Liverpool, she says. Her sport has taken quite a bit of mental conditioning to pursue in the long term—more so than any physical training.
“There’s a lot of things that you have to commit to for a skill,” Annalise says. “But the thought of [doing those things] can be so scary that it prevents you from doing it, even though you’re capable of doing it. That’s the mental issue that the sport gives you. So you have to make sure you’re taking care of yourself and taking care of your mental health as well.”
That’s where persistence in the face of failure comes in—where mental strength and physical strength collide. Annalise has experienced her share of hard loss moments, walking out of the gym with her head held high but fighting back tears, coming home at night after a grueling day, crying in her safe space, with her mom as her ever-present support.
After all the emotions, Annalise is able to toe herself back from the breaking point with the support of her parents, her coach, and her own dedication to the sport. She finds peace in baking, traveling, and spending time with her friends, but that’s not entirely how she copes with defeats or imperfections.
Instead, she brings herself right back to where she fell in the first place. On the mat or on the bars. In a quiet late-night gym session where the only audience is the nasal hum of fluorescent lights, she reflects on what went wrong and carefully re-executes the routine, hunting out the issue until she knows it, overcomes it, and no longer fears it. She’d never give up on something she loves this much, would never waste this much passion.
“After a loss or not doing my best,” she says, “it makes me want to be better. Because I know that I’m capable of more.”
Turning the page
Right now, Annalise is focused on the gym, battling nerves as the World Championship looms. Graduation is also quickly approaching, and she plans to attend the University of California at Berkeley on a full-ride gymnastics scholarship. She intends to study pre-med, with eventual goals of attending medical school and becoming a surgeon.
Her advice to young gymnasts, and student-athletes of all types, is to stick with your goals, and never let water into the boat even when you’re sailing a rocky ocean.
“There will be people around you telling you that you can’t do it,” Annalise explains. “Even peers of your own. But you should never listen to them because you should always just focus on the goal ahead and believe in yourself because you know you can do it. You just have to set your mind to it.”
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