Expressing Herself

Twelve-year-old Madalyn Hinson is already a three-time gold medal winner. As a gymnast, she reigns at the top of her field in the state tournament in floor, beam and all-around categories.

Ever since she set foot in Arlington Aerials Gymnastics, where her mother, Michelle Wilson, works as a coach, Madalyn was hooked on the sport. “I started out putting her in little baby classes while I was working, and they just saw something in her,” Michelle said. “They pulled her out and stuck her on the team. They were teaching her back
handsprings, and she was getting them done by the age of 5. I’ve been teaching her for quite some time, too.”

Growing up in Joshua, Texas, Michelle’s high school did not have a gymnastics team so she joined a private gym to practice and perfect the sport. She loved the sport as much as her daughter does now. It is important to Michelle, however, that Madalyn practice the sport on her own volition; that she does not feel pushed into it.

“When I first put her in [the class], honestly, I just wanted her to have fun, and not have to sit around while I was at work,” Michelle explained. “I didn’t want to [put] her in a daycare. I just remembered what I had gotten from [gymnastics]; I received something amazing from it. I knew Madalyn would have fun and have a good time. I had a lot of family that were telling us, ‘Don’t make her live out your dream because you did it.’ But it matters to me very much that if she’s doing this, she is going to do it for her. She has many other options to choose from and to explore all her options, but I can’t seem to pull her away.”

Michelle is one of three gymnastics coaches at the gym, which makes it nice for Madalyn, a level nine gymnast, to get instruction from other coaches. The mother/daughter pair makes an effort to keep gymnastics in the gym and their
home life separate. So far, it has all been good. “I still have so much passion for teaching gymnastics. Madalyn and I haven’t had a lot of problems,” Michelle said. “I’m never a hard-core coach. People have always thought that moms can’t teach daughters, that it doesn’t work that way, but we’ve done great.” Madalyn agreed, saying, “When you’re in the gym she’s not Mom; she’s Coach Mom.”

In gymnastics competitions, gymnasts are ranked and then matched with others who are on the same level. Madalyn,
who is currently a seventh-grade student at Walnut Grove Middle School in Midlothian, is considered a high-level gymnast, and competes with some of the best athletes in the state. When she enters high school, she will still train at a private gym because Midlothian does not have a gymnastics team. Madalyn hopes to continue practicing the sport at the collegiate level, as well — she already has her sights set on potential schools. “I want to go to UCLA or LSU,” she said. “They have great gymnastics teams and great academic studies.”

“I’m still trying to talk her into [the University of Oklahoma],” Michelle said, laughing. “OU has got one of the top
teams. They have amazing teams there. But just going to college is fine with me, as long as she’s going to college.” Madalyn is precocious, shy and soft-spoken. She is aware of her talent, and it humbles her. She is very close to her mother, and seems to place great weight on Michelle’s words and advice. Through gymnastics, the mother/daughter duo has found a way to spend quality time together, while doing something they love. “It’s been wonderful because we’ve gotten to spend so much time with her growing up,” Michelle said. “[But] I have to make sure I’m not giving her any more or any less attention than anyone else at the gym.”

“I wouldn’t say she looks at me as her daughter [at the gym],” Madalyn said. “I’d say she looks at me as Madalyn the [gymnastics student].” Gymnastics has helped Madalyn personally, she said. By practicing the sport, she is able to obtain a sense of self, to gain invaluable insight into what makes her special. “No one’s like you, everybody has their own bit that they take out of gymnastics,” Madalyn said. “Mine would be, basically, just getting to have that special bond between you and what you love to do. It makes me feel a sense of relief, because I can get out all my emotions through it. Like if I was having a bad day or if I was upset, I’d tumble really hard.”

There is also an allure to gymnastics, Madalyn said, in the risk and trust that is involved in practice and competition. It is a thrill unlike any other that the mastery — or attempt thereof — of acrobatic feats of athleticism brings to her.

Gymnastics also allows Madalyn to express herself in an entirely unique way. “It’s a really free sport,” she said. “You can express yourself in so many different ways, whether it’s tumbling, or dance or emotion.”

Written by Adam Kohut