Welcome to the world of 12-year-old Ormond Beach gymnast Hayden Alexander.
Hayden Alexander, an Ormond Beach native, has been doing competitive gymnastics for about three years. She currently trains at Flight Gymnastics Academy, located at 400 Andalusia Ave. in Ormond Beach.
She’s at the gym every day. Not almost every day. She’s there seven days a week. Every week.
She’s at the gym before 3:30 p.m., and she doesn’t leave until 7:30 p.m.
“She never misses a day unless she’s too sick to walk,” said Director Brittany Jensen, who has known Alexander since the gym’s founding nearly three years ago. “She’s a very motivated and determined person.”
“It can be stressful on the family, but you want to support your kids — what they believe in, what they have goals for.”
LISA ALEXANDER, Hayden's mom
Alexander, now 12 years old, got her first taste of gymnastics when she was in first grade. She participated in the sport for several months before a fall gave her a scare.
She hardly remembers the incident now.
“It wasn’t even a bad fall,” she said. “I was just little. If I fell like that now, I would be fine.”
Alexander also dabbled in soccer and tennis before permanently settling on gymnastics.
“There’s a certain type of person who is cut out to be a gymnast,” her mother, Lisa, said. “It’s not for everybody.”
She started in the Xcel Silver division and quickly moved into Xcel Gold. At that time, she was practicing only about three times per week. She’s now in Level 7 — and is progressing rapidly. Her goal is to be at Level 9 or Level 10 by the time she’s 15.
“It’s very rare to see someone progress as quickly as she has,” Jensen said. “She’s very naturally gifted.”
But with the jump to a higher level comes the extra commitment: more practice, more meets, more time. All this while balancing her family life, social life and academic duties at St. Brendan’s Catholic School.
“To be in the gym as much as she is, you really have to love it,” Lisa Alexander said. “Most adults don’t even have that kind of discipline. I don’t think she’s meant to do anything else.”
Sometimes, it’s difficult — like after a rough meet. But Hayden Alexander has a thing she likes to do to regain confidence. She likes to read quotes.
“Hard days are the best days,” she tells herself, “because that’s when champions are made.”
Her dream is to one day earn a scholarship to UCLA or the University of Florida. She’s already attended several camps at UF.
“Gymnastics is something I want to pursue,” she said. “I have a lot of motivation to do this."