So exciting to have the World Cup Gymnastics come to Melbourne this week! Even though Simone Biles won’t be competing, I thought it would be a great time to review her autobiography to get in the mood! Released only a few months ago, this book was written after her outstanding performance at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016.
“Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance” by Simone Biles, is an inspiring autobiography of this exceptional gymnast’s journey from young energetic girl to World and Olympic Champion!This book is highly recommended for young readers, in particular, teen gymnasts.
Simone has transformed the traditional stereotype of gymnastics. We are long gone from the perfect 10 days of Nadia Comaneci. But she has definitely moved gymnastics onto the next level of athletism. Under the new judging system, gymnasts like Simone are rewarded for exemplary power and skill for difficulty.
Simone Biles led a tumultuous upbringing during her youngest years. Her father abandoned the family early on. She was taken away from her mother who suffered from drug and alcohol addiction. From the age of 3 she spent time in foster care. It was not until her grandfather and his wife stepped into care for the four children and eventually adopt Simone and one of her sisters, that she was able to start enjoying some stability in normal home life.
Simone began gymnastics at the age of 6 after being on a day trip whilst at daycare. Her playful antics and natural skills were quickly recognised and it was suggested that she enrol in gymnastics. This was where she met Aimee Boorman, her long-time coach. It was not long til she was training in the USAG Junior Olympic program. She moved quickly up the levels to find her way at national competitions, then eventually making the national team.
She did meet major disappointment on the way. This was failing to make the USA women’s junior team at the 2011 Visa National Championships. But her talent, courage, determination and hard work saw her make the national team the following year. From then on, Simone continued from strength to strength. She started training under the US National Camp system and supervision of Martha Karolyi. Over the next few years as a senior gymnast, Simone enjoyed significant successes both at national events and World Championships.
This peaked in her Olympic dream success in Rio. She captivated everyone who watched her compete. Simone executed the most powerful and exhilarating performances to win the Olympic 2016 All-round gold medal. She also claimed gold on vault and floor, bronze on beam, and gold as part of the USA Team.
Review of “Courage to Soar” by Simone Biles
Targeted at the young gymnast
Whilst I did enjoy reading this book, it appears to be written for a much younger audience. It clearly targets the young gymnast, and successfully so. Simone’s co-author, Michelle Burford, also co-wrote Gabby Douglas’ autobiography, “Grace, Gold & Glory” after she won Olympic Gold in London 2012, again for the younger reader.
The book details the difficulties of Simone’s younger years and also challenges she faces during year gymnastics career. However, rather than delving deeply into the emotional impact, it really just sets the scene. This may contrast to a book written for an adult audience. The book is written to highlight issues faced by Simone but then quickly reinforces her happy nature and determined attitude. With these attributes, she is able to overcome these obstacles with positivity. This type of editorial would be encouraging to young gymnasts offering direction when faced with challenges of their own.
Simone also brings a sense of honesty and realism into the book. She shares the experiences of her bratty period, discusses concerns about her height and adolescent body image, talks fondly of her lucky turtle collection, confesses her crush on Zac Efron and is so excitable when she meets Usain Bolt! These are all typical teen topics that her young audience will easily relate to. They are likely to engage closely with her story, conveyed to them in her bubbly, humorous and cheerful voice.
Despite most of us being aware of her huge successes, we may not know about the most significant career disappointment. As I mentioned above, this was failing her first attempt to make the USA women’s junior team. She shares this experience with much sensitivity and provides her young readers with a great piece of motivational advice from the heart –
“a person can only fail if they stop trying, if they refuse to pick themselves up and try harder.” She says that she finally understood that she hadn’t failed, “I just hadn’t succeeded – yet.”
She picked herself up from tears and disappointment to make the team the following year, and well, then on to eventually be the most highly decorated American gymnast!
Personally, I did enjoy the fact that Simone spent more time in her book talking about the “process” rather than the “outcome”. I know some may be disappointed in not hearing every bit of detail about every competition along the way to the main event. But I actually found it refreshing. Some autobiographies that I have read simply go through every single race or competition, usually with similar commentary about each. Even though I especially enjoyed hearing about her Olympic experience and the beautiful teamwork and sportsmanship of the”Final Five”, I also appreciated hearing about teen life in elite sport, and details about training including her time at National Camp.
When you are winning all the time, it’s kind of hard to always say with modesty, “…and yes I won that one, that one, and that one too!” After reading this particular autobiography, I came away with a great sense of humility and modesty about her character. These are great attributes to pass on to young athletes.
A life in balance?
For anyone else who is a “gym mum”, we all know that in reality “A Life in Balance” as per the book title, is not one that would be obvious to describe a gymnast’s life! And that is even at club level let alone elite level! The hours that gymnasts put in at training is significant. It is usually also much more than many other sports when competing at comparable standards. Simone even talks about the sacrifices that she has to make during her career. She is unable to enjoy the social life of a normal teenager and eventually even has to leave school. Gymnastics can really be all consuming where an athlete is committed. I am not really sure this was the most appropriate of headings. Perhaps this part of the title relates to something I missed?
The contribution of a unique coach
Thinking about this a little more, I can only think “A Life in Balance” may relate to the attitude of Simone’s coach, Aimee Boorman. After also learning a bit about her in the book “End of the Perfect 10” by Dvora Meyers, Boorman’s understanding and unique approach as a gymnastics coach to keep things fun and interesting, has obviously been a huge contributor to Simone’s success and longevity as a gymnast.
“Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance” by Simone Biles is an inspirational story and a good, easy read. I highly recommend this book to young gymnasts. In fact, anyone who is interested in gymnastics, sport in general or an incredible sporting inspirational talent with a smile, will enjoy this book!
Inspired by the success of her career to date with a combined total of nineteen medals across World Championships and Olympic events, you will also read about how she overcomes obstacles and challenges in her life to reach the top. Simone shares this in an easy and relatable way to young girls. Although extremely well accomplished, let’s not forget she is only 19 years old herself! Simone offers an encouraging, cheery and positive attitude about hard work and determination that will hopefully impart upon her young readers. What an amazing story of an outstanding athlete!
You can purchase a copy of “Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance” by Simone Biles from the publisher, Zondervan.*
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*Active + Nourished received a copy of “Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance” by Simone Biles, by the publisher, Zondervan through the Booklook Bloggers program. A positive review was not required. All views expressed are my own opinion. Please refer the Active + Nourished Disclaimer for further information.
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