“Come on, Valerie! You can do it!” Her teammates shouted encouragements as Valerie stood at one corner of the mat, ready and poised. She took a single deep breath, than began dashing across the mat before launching into a series of flips, twists, and other parts of her gymnastic routine. Spring into a backbend from a standing pose, Val immediately used her momentum to push onto her hands into a forward bend and then into a standing pose again. Dashing into another run, she quickly sprang into the final series of flips before executing a perfect landing with both feet together, her arms up in the air and her back and head arched backwards.
Cheers came from her friends and teammates even as the coach of the women’s gymnastic team proudly said “A perfect performance!” Holding her pose for a moment, Val closed her eyes to soak in the appreciation. Had this been in front of the judges, she would have surely won the gymnastic meet.
When she opened her eyes again, reality returned. There was no judges, no spectators or other competing gymnasts. It was the same practice room her university gymnastic team practiced in between meets, and the only people who saw it were members of the team.
“That was great Val! I wish I could perform as well.” Jamie, one of her best friends, bubbled as she ran up to Valerie. The blonde had cut her hair short, like most gymnasts, but enough was left to leave a very short pony tail. Her green eyes sparkled as the team’s top performer on the balance beam congratulated Val. “You had the toughest routine of anyone in the conference and you just nailed it without any problems here. You’ll win the next meet for sure!”
“Yeah, that series is really gone to wow everyone at the meet. The judges will have no choice but give you top marks.” Tasha. joined her friends. Her dark skin and eyes were in sharp contrast with the light honey streaks in her dark hair. She also had the biggest chest of the team, which was not really saying much since anything bigger would get in the way of gymnastics. However the gymnastic leotards did mold itself to the bodies of the female gymnasts and announce the fit physique underneath the outfits. The team’s uneven bar expert went on. “’Course, we have to stay that good until the meet.”
“Come on. I’m not a monster and I won’t bite you for saying something. Anything that you can’t say is something that’s going to eat you inside until it comes out in ways you don’t like.” Val thought for a moment before plunging into her coach’s confidence.
“I wish the meet was tomorrow. This waiting for six weeks is too long.”
“I know practicing is what keeps your edge, but doing it too much without being challenged like a meet does dulls you out. Right now, I feel like I’m ready for the meet. I want to keep that feeling but the meets is six weeks away. If I wait until then I might be better, but I might be worse too.” Valerie finally let loose her frustration. “Remember last year when I barely lost the meet? I was ready to go weeks before that meet but that all that practice made me worse. I could have won the meet if it was then. I lost the meet because it was not then. There is always simply too much time after I make it perfect that I can never repeat it at a meet.”
Her coached listen to her with a thoughtful expression. Valerie thought her coach would chew her out for that kind of complaint. That was why Tasha and Jamie would not say it to the coach. Most people hearing that would have told them to get over it and focus their attention on perfecting their performance at the meet.
“So that’s the reason, huh. Yeah, I heard a lot of athletes complain about how they can be perfect in practice but it always does not work out when they are actually competing. Usually it is a case of nerves in front of the judges and audiences, but for you three…”
The coach considered her charges for a bit, almost unnerving them with how long she looked. Then she seem to make up her mind. “Well, I think I do know something that might help you. It is very, very strange and unusual, and will probably shock you at first. Something that you might not be able to understand or accept at first, and I don’t normally recommend it for just anyone. But knowing you three… It might be the solution to your problems, and with your personality, I can see laziness and malingering are not an issue. It is something that you will have spend a lot of time on, though,” The coach warned, “And something that, even if you don’t want to be part of, you can’t talk about it, ever, outside. And I can’t force you to do it too, because it is a bit extreme and out of the usual for the university.” Felicia did not add that the university would not approve at all, if they knew what the technique was or involved. It was safe and very effective, but the university board of conduct, let alone the health or legal department, would strongly disagree.
On the other hand, Felicia would not be pitching the idea to the three gymnasts under her charge if she didn’t know them so well. All were overachiever, hard-workers who would push as hard as possible for perfection. They would not be looking for an easy way out like many people, but something that would make them even a little bit better. All three had, in Felicia’s experience, been willing to try something new and all three were highly unlikely to talk about a secret if they knew.
As she expected, all three were intrigued.
In the corner for the room filled with electronics gadgets and gizmos, was a statue or a mannequin. Val assumed it was, because it did not move the slightest except for the dark blonde hair waving slightly in the vent of air from the A/C. It was a very realistic one of a woman, about the gymnast’s age, and fairly tall at 5’ 8” or so. Dark hair and gray eyes on a face with an aggressive expression, fitted the stance, one leg in front and in back with the foot on the ball of the sneakers. The figure wore the abbreviated uniform Val recognized as worn by the university’s volleyball team, with the difference that the shirt had been cropped and the toned mid-riff of the figure could be seen. The arms were up in the air, one in front with the hand palm up and fingers curled, as it to hold a volleyball. The other arm was behind the hand, with the palm facing forward, as if to hit the served ball.
The figure itself looked vaguely familiar, and the sense was confirmed when Jerry said, “Ladies, meet Naomi.”
“Well, you will still be surprised when you see it all.” Jerry said as he dialed the combination on the door and opened it. Wisps of cold air came out, like a refrigerator, and the man bowed as he let his visitors inside the room.
The room might have been a walk-in refrigerator, because it was as cold as one. It was large and filled with unmoving figures. All were female, quite a few appeared older than the gymnasts themselves, while most appeared the same age. Some were posed like a still-life moment of everyday, while others were appeared caught in their athletic performance. Their attire ranged from completely in the buff at the far end, where there was more moisture, to the dark green swimsuit of the university, to the team uniforms as if game time was a moment away.
"Girls," their coach said mysteriously, "Here's how you're going to stay ready for that upcoming meet. Want to hear the rest of the plan?"