Over the summer, my family was glued to the television, watching the incredible strength, flexibility and acrobatics of the U.S. women's gymnastics team in the Summer Olympics.
My kids haven't really spent any time in a gym - they are more into soccer and basketball. But, they sat in their seats, amazed, watching these talented women work so hard and achieve so much.
So, when a friend mentioned they attend N.C. State women's gymnastics team's meets at Reynolds Coliseum every chance they get, I checked the schedule and my calendar and went as soon as we were free.
For families looking for a fun and affordable activity, these meets are a blast.
Meets are scheduled this season through mid-March, including the Sweetheart Meet on Saturday night, which will honor breast cancer survivors. Also coming up is Mario Night on March 10 when there will be Mario-themed promotions and a car race, similar to the one seen in the video game, that fans can participate in.
Every meet has something just for kids.
On the second floor of Reynolds' Grand Hall, you'll find a kids zone with free activities and games, such as a big Connect 4 game and coloring or poster making. (We were there on Disney Night so there were meet and greets with Disney princesses and a Star Wars Storm Trooper and face painting).
After the meet, the team gathers, also on the second floor, for a 45-minute autograph session. You can pick up free team posters at the meet for the athletes to sign.
And, throughout the meets, there are lots of activities on the Jumbotron or during breaks - from lip syncing Disney songs, since we were there during Disney Night, to T-shirt tosses from the cheerleaders.
But the actual competition offers plenty to keep kids entertained. Depending on the meet, N.C. State is competing against between one and three other teams in four events - beam, bars, floor and vault. So, during quad meets, there's a team competing in each of the events at any given time.
We attended a quad meet. The coliseum floor is so busy it's hard to focus on one event at a time. There is always something to watch, which is especially key if you're bringing little ones along. I had three kids with me - ages 6, 7 and 11. They were so engrossed, none of them wanted to leave their seats to get a snack (so I schlepped the cotton candy and lemonades).
But, for me, it wasn't the kids activities or, even, the competition that will make me a repeat customer at these meets. It was the cheers and support the teams gave each other as they flipped on the floor, balanced on the beam and twisted and turned on the vault and bars.
All four teams were completely engaged as their teammates competed. During floor routines, for instance, they'd stand on the sidelines, shimmying along with the music, cheering their teammate on - her successes and missteps. On the beam, they'd rush their teammate to hug her after her final landing. On the vault, they'd sprint from one end to the other to embrace when a teammate had finished.
What's more, my girls got to see strong, athletic girls, in all shapes and sizes, supporting each other, regardless of the outcome. It was a pretty beautiful sight.
Meets run about 90 minutes to two hours. Tickets are $7 and $5 for kids. N.C. State's website has the details. Seating is general admission.