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Simone Biles Taught Us What Stopping Before You Break Looks Like

close up of Simone Biles wearing a red white and blue bedazzled gymnastics uniform staring straight ahead at the 2016 Rio Olympics
July 28, 2021
Erin Branham

Simone Biles has more guts at 24 than I have at 40.

Can you imagine the conversation in her head? She trained through a pandemic. She more than rightfully earned her spot on the team. What about the sponsors… the media storm… the fans… people will be so disappointed… people will accuse her of quitting, of taking space that could have gone to someone else.

This thing that is her profession, her expertise, her passion, the thing she eats and breathes and loves, has overwhelmed her. And isn’t the sport; it’s the pressure of everyone else’s expectations. The expectation to perform higher when she already eclipses those around her. The expectation to win gold. The expectation to live up to the GOAT status. She balled up the expectations, threw them in the trash can, pulled out a fresh sheet of paper, and started writing a whole new story. She didn’t quit; she chose her future, which will be quite longer than the years she’s spent training.

There are a whole group of us who grew up in the Kerri Strug era. We push when we’re broken. We don’t stop. We don’t sit down when we should. We look for permission to stop, like Kerri looked to Béla Károlyi, but we don’t find it. We’re rewarded for breaking ourselves. When we’re praised, we eat it up as if it makes operating broken better. A whole new generation is learning that it’s okay to stop and still be in support of those around you. Simone didn’t fade into the background. She stepped aside and cheered others on in her place. It’s a lesson that’s on time and worth learning. It doesn’t change who she is, what she brings to the table, her gifts, her talents, her strength… leaders lead in every way, including being the first to know when to sit one out.

Mad respect to Simone Biles for knowing herself and making her health a priority.

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