Never Giving Up

BY OLIVIA TRAUTMAN

This series is brought to you by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

I couldn’t believe that was it.

When our gymnastics trainer, Jenn, showed up at my house on that fateful day, it took me a second to process what she was saying.

Throughout my career at OU, I battled injury after injury, but I never wavered. I was raised by my parents to always see the light in even the darkest of situations, and that mindset helped me overcome adversity time and time again.

But this time, it felt different.

Just as I was recovering from another injury and preparing for my fifth season of gymnastics, I was told that my career was over.

I had a torn patellar tendon that would require surgery and prevent me from competing.

Jenn was crying when she broke the news to me, and then I started crying hysterically once I was able to process it all.

This was not supposed to be how my gymnastics career ended.

Why did this have to happen to me?

What did I ever do to deserve something like this?

Those questions were ingrained in my head when I went in for surgery in mid-October 2022. As I began to navigate my new life and figure out who I am without gymnastics, I had a feeling in my gut that I just couldn’t shake.

In my heart of hearts, I knew this wasn’t the end of my gymnastics career.

It couldn’t be!

It might end up being a losing battle, but I wasn’t about to step away from gymnastics without fighting to make it back for one last season and leaving the sport on my own terms.

A positive influence

While I take no pride in saying I’m something of an expert in dealing with injuries, my career at OU didn’t start off that way.

It wasn’t until I was a sophomore that the injuries started piling up and taking a toll on my body and mind.

I’d never been really hurt before, so I didn’t quite know what to do.

I’m on an athletic scholarship and here to compete.

OU has invested in me to go out there and perform, and physically, I wasn’t able to do that.

While I was injured, I was doing everything in my power to get back to 100% as quickly as possible. And when I was on the sideline, I realized I could still have a major impact on the team.

I became the girls’ biggest cheerleader every time they went out there to compete. If I started pouting and feeling sorry for myself, that would have a negative impact on the team, and that’s the last thing I wanted.

Especially during my fourth season – when I quite literally was stitched together and found a way to compete in the last ten meets of the season – I learned about the influence I can have on the team when I’m not actively competing.

No expectation, no limitations

When I was told that my gymnastics career was over and I wasn’t able to compete in my fifth season, accepting that answer wasn’t even the most difficult part.

One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was tell my teammates.

We had just won a national title the year before, and we put our hearts and souls into this sport together.

Although they assured me a million times over I wasn’t letting them down, I couldn’t help but feel like I was.

Not long after the surgery, though, something inside of me told me I needed to give this another shot.

I can’t really explain it, but I knew deep down that I wasn’t done.

After I worked up enough courage to ask the doctor about the thought of coming back to compete, he gave me the answer I was searching for.

He told me there were no expectations but no limitations if I attempted to make a comeback.

That’s all I needed to hear. It was the sliver of hope I needed to put my best foot forward with this injury and try to do the unthinkable.

Not only did I make it back, but I returned way ahead of schedule at the end of January after missing just a few meets.

Despite my injury, it turned out to be the best season of my gymnastics career as I won my first individual national title on the vault.

As if that wasn’t enough of a fairy tale story, we won our second national title in a row as a team, too.

Knowing I wasn’t even supposed to compete that season, I have nothing but gratitude for everything I was able to accomplish.

When I took off my Sooner leo one last time, in a quote that’s associated with Dr. Seuss, I didn’t cry because it was over. I smiled because it happened.

In my heart of hearts, I knew this wasn’t the end of my gymnastics career. It couldn’t be! It might end up being a losing battle, but I wasn’t about to step away from gymnastics without fighting to make it back for one last season and leaving the sport on my own terms.

Continuing the legacy

Truthfully, I never really thought about coaching until I was injured.

I mentioned before that I hadn’t realized how much impact I could have on a team if I wasn’t actively competing.

Without my injuries, I’m not sure I ever would’ve pursued opportunities in coaching, but those experiences drastically changed my perspective.

Recently, I was hired as the student assistant coach for OU gymnastics, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to get the season underway.

Coach K.J. and her program mean so much to me, and I never would have had the success I had in my career without her guidance and mentorship.

To continue to learn under her and this dynasty she’s built that’s changed so many lives – including my own – is going to be one of the greatest blessings and opportunities of my life.

I was fortunate enough to be part of multiple national championship teams, but I wouldn’t have been in that position without the girls who came before me. They put in the work and inspired others to follow their lead.

That’s what I want to continue to do for this program. I was able to accomplish all of my dreams through OU gymnastics, and I want to help other girls reach their dreams, too.

I consider myself extremely blessed to be able to help give back to a program that’s given so much to me, and I can’t wait to help build off the love, passion, and support that this program embodies.

Believing in yourself

I can’t count how many times I’ve been told that I can’t do something in my life.

I’m not sure if it’s my positivity, stubbornness, competitiveness, or maybe a combination of all three, but I’ve always prided myself in breaking through boundaries.

If I would’ve given up on my gymnastics career after my numerous injuries and didn’t fight with every inch of my life to continue to compete, I never would’ve won an individual national championship like I’d always dreamed.

I want my career to be a message to little girls who doubt themselves or believe they can’t achieve anything they want to in this life.

I was told no time and time again, but I always kept showing up anyway despite what anyone told me. If you have a strong work ethic and a positive attitude, believe me when I tell you there is nothing that you can’t do.

To anyone who’s ever faced hardship and adversity, I’d encourage them to never let anyone put limitations on what they can accomplish.

While winning championships is an incredible achievement, it’s the impact we leave on others that matters the most.

If my story can inspire others to chase their dreams and never give up on themselves, then every injury and setback I endured was well worth the resilience it instilled in me.

And without OU, the support of countless individuals, and the resources we athletes have access to here at OU, none of this would have been possible.

So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you, Oklahoma.