A Very Gymternet Birthday

One year ago on a Friday night (okay, it was Saturday morning at 4 am) I was in my bed watching “Dawson’s Creek” on Netflix. Out of nowhere, I was like “I should start a gymnastics website.”

Bam. That was all it took. An hour later I had a wordpress account, a domain name, and my first post up. I took to Tumblr to let the world know, and then tried getting my friends in our epic gym nerd Facebook chat – Spanny Tampson, Joe Rinaldi, Jackie Klein, Bekah Harbison, and Sarah Chrane – to wake the hell up and join me in this ridiculous endeavor. They were all very excited and immediately offered suggestions or ways to help.

I ended up not going to bed until noon that Saturday, and I woke up just a few hours later, I saw we’d had thousands of visitors already. The next day, we had 10,000. Beginner’s luck? Nope. Day after day the hits kept growing. This site was like a magnet for gym fans from the very second it went online. Do any other last minute whim decisions result in such monstrous responsibility? (Surprise babies aside.)

At this point, The Couch Gymnast – where I wet my feet as a gym writer – had been down for a couple of months and I missed writing about gym. Now I had a way to do it, but when I realized how big it was getting and that I also had to run the show – which was terrifying to me – I almost backed out.

I never wanted that at TCG…I was very content to sit back and let Brigid McCarthy (who first gave me the opportunity to write for her four years earlier at the CoverGirl Classic where I spent 90% of my time screaming internally about being five feet away from Kim Zmeskal and Alicia Sacramone) do all the hard work while I just wrote things about the U.S. gymnasts every once in awhile. It was the good life. Now I’d have to actually plan things and cover all the meets and go after people for interviews and know what’s going on at every moment of the day?! TOO MUCH. I figured I’d last a month before the site became a more casual blog with occasional opinions.

But I don’t know. I really took to the responsibility. Sometimes I work as many as 40 hours a week on this site and it feels like no time has passed and that I’m not doing enough. (Other times I go on vacation and ignore everything to the point of getting emails asking if I’m dead because people are used to seeing me post and tweet and update at every hour of the night.) For the most part, I’m very active with everything I do – meet coverage, answering your questions (even though I’m roughly 200 years behind), interviewing gymnasts, formatting results spreadsheets, working on the database of currently competing gymnasts (250 strong and going!), live blogging, tweeting, making sure all of the behind-the-scenes web nerd stuff is working…it’s a full time job, what we make paid in ads goes right back into the site whether it’s for techy stuff or competition travel or production, leaving me with a profit of roughly nothing, and yet I love every second of it.

I love knowing that people come to me for accurate information, informed opinions, and smart analysis. I love that people trust this site to be respectful of every athlete without sugarcoating or straight up lying about how things look. I love talking passionately about the little meets other sites wouldn’t bother with (ahem, like the Small States Games, anyone?) because even if only one person wants details, I want to be the one they come to. I love sharing this weird vast knowledge of a sport no one cares about outside of one week every four years with people who are so eager to learn more. And I love learning from those who reach out and offer their own opinions and ideas through the comments.

I don’t do it all on my own. Plenty of people out there have been so awesome from day one, especially those five misfits I mentioned above, Spanny, Joe, Jackie, Bekah, and Sarah. Joe does everything I ask him to do (including everything you see on Twitter and even driving me around Minneapolis, thanks chauffeur) and then even more on top of it, like keeping track of every score this year so we can rank based on averages. Spanny is sporadically with us because she does this thing I don’t really understand called “raising a child” but when she does write, it’s hilarious. Sarah and Jackie are always there to lend their judge/coach/former gymnast knowledge when I don’t know what I’m talking about and answer a ton of questions for You Asked, and Bekah is always asking if she can help in different ways (like with getting our Facebook out of the dirt) even when she doesn’t have time with everything she has going on in real life.

Then there’s everyone else who has emailed asking to help or contribute in some way. We get a ton of emails from people who want to donate money to help offset costs which is incredible and why we started a PayPal donation link. But those who can’t help financially are willing to give with SO much talent, whether it be writing, image editing, copy editing, gif making, photography, translating articles from foreign news sources…there’s SO much, and everyone has seriously been the best. Things I don’t even ask for or realize I need magically materialize in front of my face and I don’t know how to say thank you to everyone who has helped us in any way, big or small. Even if all you’ve done is liked one of our Tweets or shared one of our Facebook posts, commented here or sent in a question, or even just read our articles regularly, THANK YOU.

I have to give special recognition to two of our regular contributors, Valeria Violi and Esteban Rodriguez-Vazquez. Valeria does all of our Italian coverage now after coming to me last year and asking to help out. She quickly became a huge part of the site, always offering excellent coverage despite being busy with school. Sometimes I forget meets are happening and then open my inbox and have a smart 2000 word analysis in excellent English despite Italian being her first language. Esteban is new to our gang after offering to do some Southeast Asian Games coverage when I was swamped, and he quickly started taking over basically ALL of our MAG coverage, something I attempted to do earlier this year but failed to keep up with.

There are also those outside of our site but who still help us be the absolute best we can be. Like USA Gymnastics (especially Scott Bregman and Leslie King who work so hard running the media show) and the FIG, two major governing bodies that are so accommodating and treat me the same way they treat the New York Times even though I am not worthy. Then there are the gymnasts, coaches, and parents who let me into their world through interviews and emails and tweets and phone calls. And there are also all of the other gym journalists and bloggers and insiders whose minds are filled with as much ridiculous knowledge as mine is and who are equally passionate about the sport, who I can chat with for hours on end about everything you could imagine. Finally, there are the pals who aren’t really affiliated but who make meets so fun…whether we’re sharing a hotel room or getting lunch between meets or you’ve made me feel welcome when I visit your town for a meet or we’re accidentally becoming BFFs with the NBC broadcast team at an Irish bar, I’ve made a ton of awesome friends through this whole deal and am super grateful for every last one.

It truly takes the gymternet to run The Gymternet and my mind is blown day after day when I see all of your support.

One year and nearly two million hits after deciding on a whim to start a website, The Gymternet is seriously one of the best parts of my life which sounds really sad when I say it out loud but for real, but seriously, my day job to me is nothing more than a way to get to do what I actually want to do, which is this. I spend every extra dime I have pushing the site further, and use the majority of my vacation days traveling to gym meets. I heard a really good lesson once about how if you want something to happen but no one is giving you the opportunity, you should just say screw it and do it for yourself. That’s what I did and it’s probably the greatest decision I’ve made.

It’s been a ton of work but WAY more fun thanks to the awesome people who are along for the ride in one way or another. In case you couldn’t tell from my rambling, I really appreciate everything and want to give each and every one of you a high five.

Thank you all again, and here’s to another happy year!

Love always,

Lauren Hopkins

33 thoughts on “A Very Gymternet Birthday

  1. Thank you for a great blog!!! As a diehard gym fan, I love the comprehensive coverage of the sport we love. Happy first anniversary. Here’s hoping there will be many, many more.

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  2. I’ve been reading your blog since the very beginning and although I don’t always comment, I always love to come on here and read your inputs on everything gymnastics. Thank you so much for your time and dedication to this blog! Happy birthday, The Gymternet, I hope for many more great years in the future!

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  3. Thank you for an addictive website. And much appreciation to Valeria and Esteban especially for their exclusive analyses, to every contributor for their expertise, and to you, Lauren, for your humour.

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  4. Lauren, this site is amazing and truly the best site of them all. The time you spend on writing so thoughtfully and supportively about the gym community and all the athletes really shows in the quality of your site. This site is clearly a labor of LOVE, and we fans THANK YOU! When I log on to see a new posting nearly every day (sometimes several!) it is better than Christmas and makes my day. Hope the enjoyment stays, and you keep this up for a long long time!

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  5. Thank you so much for this site. (Is it really only a year???) Without it I’d miss out on so many details or even complete meets that I’d be much less of a gymnastics fan. I love to check your site for news and feel excited whenever you post a tweet linked to a new article. Your site is what I was always looking for w/out knowing what I was looking for. Way to go and keep it up! And the biggest THANK YOU ever!

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  6. Thank you so much for all of your work! This site has helped my knowledge so much, and I really appreciate the actual quality of writing and analysis–it really shows the work you put into it.

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  7. Your site is so thorough and your commentary is the perfect balance of appreciative and critical–I would have never guessed it started as a middle-of-the-night whim! Big congrats to you, and your faithful band of helpers! Selfishly, I hope the site has many more “birthdays” to come.

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  8. Congratulations! I totally had not realized that this blog has only been around for a year – seems like longer! I really enjoy your writing style and the variety of coverage you provide, and I’m so glad that you enjoy producing it as much as we enjoy reading it. Thank you!

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  9. Thank you so much for your effort in writing about the amazing sport of gymnastics. I appreciate you so much! I’ve also read every post you’ve written.

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  10. Happy Birthday to THE Gymternet and congrats Lauren and co.!! You all do an amazing job and are my first go-to for anything and everything gymnastics. Keep up the good work 🙂

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  11. You’ve done a great job with this site, I love it!

    By the way, is that Tatiana Nabieva blocking on the vault on that cake? 🙂

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  12. Thank you so much for all of the work you have put into this site! As a huge gymnastics fan working mom who rarely has a few moments of free time it has become one of my top visited websites to keep up with all of the gym news! Thank you!!!!

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  13. Happy Birthday to The Gymternet. Wishing you a successful and enjoyable year to come! This page is part of my daily routine 🙂

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  14. Happy Birthday and thank you! When I do get a free few moments, you are my first go-to for gym coverage. As a former DIII gymnast, I love that you give DIII the coverage it deserves, along with everything else you do.

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