5 tips to help girls shine from Olympic Champion Nastia Liukin

A few weeks ago, my daughters and I were lucky enough to attend the Chicago stop of the “SHINE” Tour, an inspirational and motivational evening with Olympic Gold Medal Champion (and current “Dancing With The Stars” contestant), Nastia Liukin.

While the event was held in a gymnastics facility, the night was not about gymnastics or even being an athlete (Liukin took Gold in the All Around Women’s Gymnastics in Beijing). It was about inspiration. Liukin takes her responsibilities as a role model to young women seriously and hopes to pass on wisdom from her years in gymnastics in a way that is relatable to what young girls are going through today.

The first hour of the evening was dedicated to sharing pre-taped video pieces and a scripted presentation highlighting key ways Liukin feels young girls can “SHINE” the most:

  • Set goals. Liukin stressed the importance of goals – one for the end of the month, the end of the year and then three big long-term goals. Knowing what you are working towards can help your focus on the tough days. Liukin, who distributed goal sheets for each girl, believes in setting small goals every day to build confidence.
  • Create a vision board. At the end of every year, Liukin and her best friend, Liz Ballard, get together and create vision boards for the upcoming year. Decorating your vision board with all of the things you love and want to achieve reinforces your goals. Make sure to include the fun things, such as places you want to visit and motivational quotes meaningful to you.
  • Failures teach you things about yourself. Liukin shared several stories of her gymnastics failures, including a few very public ones. It once took her more than a year to master a particular maneuver. But in failing at something, she says she found her courage and what she was made of. “It’s easy to be a winner,” she told the attendees. “It’s how you handle yourself when you fail that defines who you are.”
  • Find your bus friends . . . and stick with them. One of Liukin’s favorite quotes is from Oprah Winfrey: “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” She encouraged the girls to find out who their “bus friends” are and stick with them for the long haul, work on the communication and friendship and not let silly, petty things get in the way.
  • Never quit on a bad day. Regardless of what you are doing, whether it is gymnastics or another sport, there will be bad days. Miserable days. Days that you will want to quit. Liukin’s parents (her father was her gymnastics coach) never allowed her to talk of quitting on those days. Only when she’d have a better one a few days later, they would ask her again, “OK, so do you want to quit?” Not allowing yourself to quit on a bad day will take emotion out of the situation and not let you make a rash, hasty decision you may regret.

After her presentation, Liukin sat on the floor and talked with small groups of five or six girls and moms, answering questions and finding out what concerned all of the girls. The two-hour event turned into four hours filled with questions, hugs, autographs and photos.

I admire that her message was one of empowerment and goal setting and the responsibility that she feels toward young women. My daughters had an amazing time and really felt connected with what Liukin had to say about learning to SHINE.

And so did I.

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