The price of gold: Level 10 gymnastics
What price would you pay for your son or daughter to bring home gold? It costs not just money, but time, dedication, and sometimes even sleep.
According to USA Gymnastics the state of Florida normally has 100 or less female level 10 gymnasts. Out of the 70,000 or so girls who compete in USA Gymnastics nationwide, typically there are only 1,500 level 10's.
Level 10 is the skill level competed in collegiate gymnastics. So what does it take to make it this far?
U.S. Gold owner and head coach Kathy Dwyer has had numerous gymnasts reach level 10. She knows what it takes.
"First off you have to be very hardworking, very dedicated," said Coach Dwyer. "You have [to have] the right mindset that not everyday is going to be perfect and be able to get over disappointments faster than normal people can."
Dwyer coaches 16-year-old, level 10 gymnast Virginia Bailey. Bailey reached level 10 at age 14. Dwyer says she has exactly what it takes.
"She is so self motivated that you really don't have to ask her, 'Did you do ten [sets]?' Well of course she did ten she probably did 20."
Just to give some perspective of the difficulty of the sport of gymnastics, the beam that gymnasts tumble and flip upon up is only four inches wide.
Aside from the difficulty, gymnastics is also physically demanding.
"The hardest part is probably the injuries to overcome and sometimes they're almost impossible to overcome," said Virginia. "I sprained my ankle a week before state."
Bailey went on to take the state title that year.
But Dwyer says making a successful level 10 gymnast goes past the athlete themselves.
"We call it a triangle at the gym and we're all three equal; the coach, the child, and the parent," said Dwyer. "And we all have a role to play in her success."
Dwyer has been the gymnast, the coach, and the mother in this triangle.
"As part of all three now I definitely think the parent is the hardest role in this whole ordeal," said Dwyer. "Because you're dealing with all the emotions, they're bringing the emotions home to you. You have to deal with the meal preparation, with the sleep patterns, with the homework problems."
Dwyer estimates that over the years it'll cost a parent 60, 70 even $80,000 to get their daughter to level 10. A price tag Virginia's single mother Laura Bailey is all too familiar with.
"It just gets exponentially more expensive the older they get." said Laura. "Next year we'll be going to New York City, we'll be going to Atlanta, Orlando, Dallas."
But she say's she wouldn't change a thing.
"When you find somebody, I think that's so passionate about what they love to do, then you want to help that in any way you can," said Laura. "I think that she sometimes feels guilty about it and she shouldn't because we all want her to make it to nationals."
Virginia's younger siblings, Francis and George also support her 100 percent, cheering her on in the most intense moments and at the most important meets.
"We cheer her on but not loudly because she gets distracted," said 14-year-old Frances.
"It's really scary, because your like 'Oh no what if Virginia breaks her arm?'" said 11-year-old George.
With her family behind her, Virginia is looking toward the future. She says her goal is to one day get a college scholarship for gymnastics, and hopefully to an Ivy League school.