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Humans of Oxford: Sierra Whittemore: To coach and be coached

"I just love being upside-down," Sierra Whittemore said.

As a kid, Sierra tried to play sports but always found herself doing flips more than kicking the ball.

"When I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do, I started to realize that I did cartwheels literally everywhere," Sierra said. "I did cartwheels in the field playing soccer. I did cartwheels in the outfield playing baseball. I was always doing cartwheels."

So Sierra found her sport: gymnastics. She started competing in fifth grade and has been a part of a number of teams since then, including Miami's club team.

But even more than a gymnast, Sierra is a coach. She started coaching girls at the end of her sophomore year of high school and hasn't stopped.

She now coaches younger girls at Miami's gym.

"I love it when you get to see some of the girls after a while. They'll run up to you and say 'Miss Sierra!' and give you a nice big hug."

Part of the reason for her love of coaching is her potential to impact girls the same way her own coaches impacted her.

"They really taught me what it's like to be positive to the girls and that the girls matter a lot more than anything that you're dealing with," Sierra said. "No matter what's going on in your life, those girls matter more than it."

Some of her coaches weren't such a positive influence, though, and became the cause of her anxiety.

That's something Sierra has to overcome and put aside in order to be a good coach, especially so that she can reach her dream of running her own team one day.

Sierra is still anxious sometimes, but it's easier for her to control now that she has the freedom to decide for herself what skills to work on and coach.

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"Having the freedom to do what I enjoy helps me control my anxiety," Sierra said. "Working really really hard makes me exhausted to the point where my anxiety doesn't matter and I can just be me."