In two days I will embark upon a life experience in which I have never participated.
Speaking at a conference.
I am actually speaking twice in one day, presenting two one-hour sessions back-to-back. I got a pretty good time slot too. The conference is Friday through Sunday, and I’m presenting on Saturday afternoon.
This conference is a gymnastics conference. It’s called “Region I Congress.” In the gymnastics world, Region I includes NorCal, SoCal, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. Much like other professional conferences, Region I Congress is an event at which coaches can learn new coaching and spotting techniques, gain advanced training in a particular area of the sport, and network with other gymnastics professionals. It takes place every August in Santa Clara, CA. My first session is about the basics of child development, and how coaches can use those basics to help them implement developmentally appropriate coaching strategies as they strive to become more effective coaches. My second session is about coaching kids with special needs. It will be based both on my personal experience as well as information that I have studied during my first year of OT school. And, of course, I will talk about my vision for bringing OT and gymnastics into closer partnership with one another so that our two professions can help children in their development even more dynamically and effectively than they already do.
I attended Region I Congress during my first year as a gymnastics coach, back in 2006. It was at that conference that I learned about occupational therapy. I remember that I attended a session presented by some woman about how gymnastics is good for kids’ brain development, especially those with learning disabilities like dyslexia. Although I had no interest in working with kids with special needs, I decided to attend this session because one of my coaching friends said that this lady was really good in her session she presented earlier that day. I listened to the presenter talk about gymnastics, neuro, education, reading, and finally – occupational therapy. While she herself was not an OT, she mentioned that kids with learning disabilities will sometimes work with an occupational therapist, and I think she mentioned a little bit about sensory integration in some other part of her talk. At that point in my life I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career, but I knew that I loved teaching kids, loved gymnastics, and loved learning.
I also had never heard of occupational therapy.
As a result of that 2006 conference, I ventured into learning about the world of occupational therapy…and my life was forever changed.
Over the course of my preparation for these two sessions in the last several months, I have been praying that I can have a similar impact on some gymnastics coach who wanders in and learns about this profession and way of helping kids that he or she had never heard of or considered. I pray that someone’s life can be positively influenced because of my words.
While this is a big step for me both personally and professionally, I feel ready for it. And even though the butterflies refuse to fly away and I wake up in the middle of the night wondering if I’m crazy for doing this, I hope this isn’t my last conference as a presenter.
So wish me luck as I jump in with both feet and attempt to stick the landing!