West Point, to Thee

Apr 13, 2020

West Point, to TheeBy Liam O'Hara, Gymnastics

Through this letter I hope to give you an honest insight as I look back on my time at the Academy as an Army gymnast. Through all the challenges I have faced, I have been blessed with so many indescribably amazing moments along the way. 

On October 9, 2015 I received my Certificate of Appointment to the United States Military Academy from head gymnastics coach Dr. Doug Van Everen while on my recruiting trip.

To say I was ecstatic is an understatement. I had always wanted to go to the United States Military Academy and compete for the gymnastics team. All I had ever heard about is how prestigious the academy is and how I could be part of something so much greater than myself.

Soon after reporting on R-Day, I realized what being in the Army entailed. Over the next couple months at Beast, I thought I had made a huge mistake. All we did was ruck long distances with heavy weight, run before the sun came up and eat meals from plastic packages. This wasn’t the college gymnast life that I was expecting at all! But I stayed the course.

It took me most of my first year at the academy to understand that it wasn’t all about gymnastics. Gymnastics was simply the tool that helped me get to a place where I could really make something out of my life. Gymnastics was the “getaway” during the busy academic day and military training. Gymnastics always had been and always will be a way of life. As Coach Doug always told us that while he, of course, wants us to succeed in gymnastics and live up to our full potential, the sport is teaching us a whole lot more than just gymnastics skills. It will make us tougher, more resilient and better prepared to deal with whatever comes our way as future Army officers.

Army gymnasts have less time to train than gymnasts on other teams. We go a few months with no training at all over the summer, while gymnasts on other teams across the country typically have two practices a day. We have less time every day during the academic year to focus on gymnastics. We take more credit hours, get less sleep and have less free time than the gymnasts we competed against. While it seemed at the time like we got the short end of the stick, I now realize that everything was set up right where it all needed to be, to prepare us for our future.

While West Point has strict academic policies and most teachers are Army officers, they are without a doubt the best academic staff in the world. Every teacher is very personable with every student, athlete or not. I am an Engineering Management major within the Systems Engineering department, and I enjoy going to every class in my major. The students and teachers make each day special. Without a doubt, my current and past teachers at the Academy will be some of the greatest mentors in life. Read more.


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