BY SABRINA WONG
Over 15 hours worth of sports practice usually doesn’t fall into a high schooler’s weekly schedule. But for sophomore Tyler Flowers, this tremendous time commitment is just a normal part of his routine.
As an all-star gymnast, Flowers began training at only 4 years old. He has stayed at one gym, Park Avenue Gymnastics, throughout his entire journey. Although the decision to start the sport was initially encouraged by his mother, he has developed a true passion for gymnastics as his skills continued to improve over the course of many years.
“I feel like my mom’s decision to put me in gymnastics has helped me to become the person I am,” Flowers said. “It has made me stronger both mentally and physically, and has built me to excel in any other sport that I want to participate in.”
Men’s gymnastics begins with levels four through seven, which consist of learning compulsory routines with little variety, depending on the athlete’s ability to perform “bonus skills.” These skills are often more difficult and trickier but may add more points to the performer’s overall score.
The following level group is composed of levels eight through 10. Instead of practicing a set routine, athletes in this category are given the freedom to create their own piece based on their skills. Currently, Flowers is a second-year level 10 gymnast.
“[Gymnastics] has made me stronger both mentally and physically.”
“It takes much more to learn new skills now since the difficulty and complexity of them are much higher compared to the previous levels,” Flowers said.
Competition season in gymnastics usually takes place from December to May. The remaining months of the year are typically training season, where athletes acquire and practice new skills to compete with later on.
Flowers first began competing against other gymnasts when he was at level four, around 9 years old.
“Before recently, I was never really fond of competitions because they were very stressful,” Flowers said. “However, I have learned to cope with that stress, and having more friends in the gymnastics world now also helps a lot as well.”
For the past three years, Flowers qualified to compete at the men’s national competitions. Each state is associated with a certain region, and gymnasts must compete with those in their own area before heading to nationals. Florida’s region includes six other states and around 30 gymnasts per level in each region make nationals every year.
“Competing in finals was an amazing feeling— one like no other.”
Not only did Flowers qualify for nationals, but he also made it into finals all three years that he went. This means that he placed in about the top 20 level 10 gymnasts around the country.
“Making finals was a relief from the stress and actually competing in finals was an amazing feeling— one like no other,” Flowers said.
One of Flowers’ main goals for this year is to qualify for nationals for the fourth time and advance into finals once again.
But like all things, nothing good ever comes easy.
As of now, Flowers trains about 18 hours a week. This equates to him giving up most of his Saturdays in addition to the rest of the week to practice his routines.
“Training for so many hours has allowed me to learn about time management.”
And yet, it doesn’t stop there. Earlier this school year, Flowers also participated in competitive springboard diving at CCHS on top of gymnastics. This resulted in training over 22 hours each week between the two sports.
“Training for so many hours has allowed me to learn about time management because I have had to complete other priorities during my free time,” Flowers said. “Practicing for so many hours doesn’t feel as long as it actually is because it’s basically a time where I get to hang with friends and do something I enjoy doing at the same time.”
Aside from springboard diving, Flowers also periodically played flag football from ages 6 to 13. Now, his main focus is on gymnastics and working toward making finals.
All athletes, no matter what sport they play, are susceptible to facing obstacles at times. Blocks in the road are common for anyone who puts in hard work to achieve a goal.
“I’ve faced mental farts of skills that I already knew how to do and had to reteach myself,” Flowers said. “Being scared to try new skills is one of the biggest obstacles that I have to overcome. Also, having a nasty fall on a skill and then having to get back up and do it again can be very challenging and mentally defining.”
“Being scared to try new skills is one of the biggest obstacles that I have to overcome.”
For Flowers, the family that he has built at the gym is what motivates him to keep going. Gymnastics has given him the opportunity to create new friendships and grow close to his instructors in unimaginable ways.
“Doing gymnastics with [my closest friends] is a blast, especially practicing in a gym where most of the coaches have known me since I was a toddler,” Flowers said. “It’s basically a family.”
Among his teammates, Flowers is known to be kind, persevering and committed. While he does face difficulties at times, he still pushes forward and helps others along the way.
“Even though Tyler is a couple years younger than me, it was very easy to establish our friendship when we were kids,” five-time national champion William Gomez said. “He’s a bit crazy sometimes, but one of the nicest and most genuine guys I’ve ever met. We’ve pretty much grown up in the gym together, and have always pushed each other to get better even when we weren’t at our best.”
Flowers is also academically involved at CCHS, juggling three Advanced Placement (AP) classes as a sophomore. He is enrolled in AP Calculus AB, AP Chemistry and AP Computer Principles.
“[Flowers is] a bit crazy sometimes, but one of the nicest and most genuine guys I’ve ever met.”
“Doing gymnastics as you go through high school is very challenging, and Tyler never stopped working hard in school and in the gym,” Gomez said. “I am really grateful to have been able to go through my experience as a gymnast with Tyler by my side.”
Although Flowers does not see gymnastics as his top priority in college, that doesn’t stop him from giving it his all for the time being. Those who know him can speak for his dedicated personality.
“Tyler is extremely hardworking and determined with everything he does,” level 10 gymnast Franco Peirano said. “I’m very glad I met him and am able to be on a team with him.”
Flowers is well on his way to succeeding in the gymnastics and academic world. While the process may not be the easiest, it is with certainty that he will be able to handle anything life throws at him in the future.
Photo courtesy of Tyler Flowers