Demetrius and Ciara Cox, as students at Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa, stood in their kitchen and realized they shared the same thought about 8-month-old daughter D’myia: one day, she’s going to be a gymnast.
Now soon-to-start sixth grade, 11-year-old D’myia Cox trains weekly with area Skywalkers Trampoline and Tumbling and participates in gymnastic competitive meets.
“I like that there’s always something new,” D’myia said about gymnastics. “I can’t just know it all. There’s always something more to learn.”
And like it takes a village to raise a child, her parents attest it’s taken their whole family to support D’myia as a gymnast. Last July, all five traveled to Fort Worth, Texas, where D’myia competed at the USA Gymnastics Nationals Championships and placed overall sixth of 33 competitors.
“Ever since she’s been competing, prices have gone up tremendously,” Ciara said about the financial commitment. “And the (time) commitment has gone up tremendously because she went from practicing one hour to two hours a week, but now she’s three days a week at four hours total. And now we’re traveling for practice to Emporia and to Hillsboro.”
In Hillsboro, D’myia practices Tuesdays and Wednesdays under the direction of Don Carter, who has set up a full-fledged gym in the 4-H Building. Then on Sundays, the Coxes—Dad, Mom, older brother Demarius and younger sister D’asia—travel to Emporia where she works out with coach Josh Wright.
“Having her practice in Emporia on Sunday evenings has really been a great gain for us as a family because we all travel there and watch this two-hour practice,” Ciara said, adding that it was harder for Demetrius to see the big picture when he was only able to watch D’myia at competitions and performances.
“So it has really helped because Demetrius is able to go,” she added.
D’myia said sometimes Dad takes on more the role of coach while Mom gives her emotional support.
“I think that having had some experience (in gymnastics), I can teach (D’myia) small things,” Demetrius said about such skills as keeping toes pointed and sticking the landing. “Those mistakes can cost big points.”
D’myia started gymnastics at age 4 when she took classes taught by Cheri Marsh.
“Before she started competing, it was just a once-a-week practice,” Ciara said about those days. “”We would go wherever Miss Cheri was holding practice—from the City Building to the elementary school to her house out in the country. And so we drove out there and it was just for an hour.”
As D’myia’s interest and skills progressed, Ciara said the next step was adding weekly trips for an hour session at Newton Performing Arts Center.
“While we were at the Newton Performing Arts Center, we heard that Don (Carter) with Skywalkers had opened up a program in Marion,” Ciara said. “One of the girls in Myia’s class at Newton said, ‘Hey, this program is happening in Marion and it’s like real gymnastics.’”
After Demetrius made a call about the program, she said, the family went to Marion to “check it out.” Carter invited 8-year-old D’myia to participate with his students, and once he saw her skill level, he urged her to join the Skywalkers team.
Carter has since moved the training sessions and gymnastic equipment to Hillsboro.
D’myia competes in three events—double-mini, trampoline and power tumbling. The competitive season for gymnasts runs from January through July. In 2014, her first season, D’myia competed at levels 3, 4 and five and earned gold, silver and bronze medals at area meets as well as the state championship.
“At those levels, they’re judging more or less did you complete the routine,” Ciara said. “She’s moving up in the levels, so (judges) are looking at things much harder than when she was in a Level 5 or Level 4. As she moves up in the levels, in order to come in at first place, technique is huge.”
In 2015 at the Region 3 Championships in Fort Worth, Texas, D’myia placed first in the double-mini, second in tumbling and third in trampoline, finishing Top 10 in all three events.
“What’s challenging is it’s not about what you want to do, it’s about what the coach wants you to do,” D’myia said about life lessons learned, so far. “That one’s frustrating. If there’s something you want to learn, you have to get this first and then do this. Sometimes you want to just skip over it and do these other things. But you do things for a reason, so you just have to go with it.”
D’myia’s favorite competition, so far, was the Sammy K. Ewertz Memorial Invitational in Goddard in March 2015 as part of the Marion Skywalkers Team.
“I got first in everything and on my overalls, I got first, so I wiped the board,” she said with a grin.
Of course, the highlight was D’myia’s overall sixth place at USA Gymnastics Nationals Championships in Fort Worth, Texas, last July.
This past season, her parents have focused on helping D’myia get a handle on the mental aspect of gymnastics.
“That would be the one thing that she’s struggling with,” Ciara said. “She considers messed up as not coming in at first place.”
D’myia now competes at a Level 7 in double-mini and trampoline and Level 8 in power tumbling, and the skills are more challenging, too.
“If she gets fifth or sixth or what not, that’s hard for her to bounce back from,” Ciara said. “Her second or third event could be two hours from now. But mentally she’s still stuck on the first event. That’s something she needs to work on for sure—she needs to let it go.”
So her parents decided not to enter D’myia in regionals this past season.
“We made a decision as parents that she had not reached the goal that we were working for,” Ciara said. “Again it takes time and money. It’s like a $1,000 almost by the time you pay coaches’ fees, hotel, entry fees and travel.”
Pulling D’myia from regionals was a difficult decision, she said, and one with consequences they didn’t anticipate at the time. Because of a recent USA Gymnastics rule change, all gymnasts must compete at regionals to compete at Nationals.
So D’myia won’t be going to Fort Worth this summer, even though she has qualifying scores.
“It’s served as a lesson to her that Mom and Dad aren’t going to sit back and let you turn it on when you want to turn it on and turn it off when you want to turn it off,” Ciara said. “You’ve got to be in it to win it every time.
“I had to remind her that being on team is a privilege. You can be the best gymnast there is, but you still can get cut. You still have to coachable, you still have to come in with the right mindset.”
For D’myia, gymnastics has also provided her with opportunities to teach younger sister D’asia back flips and hand springs.
“I just like teaching her new stuff,” D’myia said. “Asia at her age—she’s 6—she can already do a lot. She’s at my level when I started, and I was 8 and she’s 6. I kind of got mad about that, but I got over it.”
Demetrius said his daughters have different temperaments.
“The major difference between D’asia and D’myia is that D’asia’s personality is easier to let go, and D’myia’s more serious and it’s harder for her to let go,” he said.
The Cox family continues their weekly trips to Emporia, plus now D’asia also is part of Skywalkers competitive team.
“So for the 2017 season,” Ciara said, “you will have both Cox sisters performing.”