Isabel Dempsey – Georgia Nomination & Photography by Stephanie Durham Photography Issue 57 of Inspiring Teens Magazine
Nomination: Isabel is a quiet leader. As a competitive gymnast and cheerleader, she has had her share of injuries and setbacks but has overcome them with tenacity and grace. These experiences have given her the ability to guide younger athletes as they face their own challenges. She is a calming influence and fiercely loyal to her friends and teammates. It is no wonder that she has earned their respect. As a player/coach, she has discovered she has a heart for helping children. This heart and love of science have led her to peruse a career in pediatric medicine.
What would you most like to be interviewed about? I would like to be interviewed about my time in gymnastics as an athlete and as a volunteer coach. I spent a lot of time and effort creating a safe space for young girls to speak up about their physical issues as well as their mental ones. Gymnastics is an extremely rigorous sport; and without older mentors who care about you, it’s easy to lose the love you have for the sport.
Tell us about your gymnastics career. When did you get started, how long have you been in it, etc. I began doing gymnastics when I was 4 years old. I have grown up in the gym and starting in the 5th grade I practiced 25 hours a week. I have won state 3 times as an all-around champion and four times as an individual event champion. I have qualified for regionals 3 times and traveled across the country to compete in championships.
What is your daily routine with gymnastics like? How much time do you spend training? My daily routine for senior year was much easier than it has been in years past. I spent about 20 hours in the gym practicing. I would go to school from 8 to 3 and then practice from 4:30 to 8:30 every weekday. I would also have Saturday morning practices from 9 to 1, then typically spend a few hours after helping around the gym with coaching.
What is your best performance (floor, beam, etc.) and what is your favorite? Why? My best performance has always been floor. It has come naturally to me. I have won State 3 times and have been listed in America's top 100 for the event. However, my favorite event has to be the beam. I feel 100% in control and focused when I compete. It is the perfect combination of thrilling and graceful which makes it fun to watch as well.
What is a favorite accomplishment in gymnastics? One of my favorite accomplishments was when I was told that I would not qualify for state. I then challenged myself to train for extra hours in the gym that entire year. I finished the year by winning all four events at State and the all-around title in my age group.
What is volunteer coaching like? I love spending time with younger gymnasts. They appreciate the time I spend working with them one on one and they know that I care about them as a person, not only their success as an athlete. Helping younger gymnasts is a passion of mine because I never felt like I had someone to talk to if I needed something at the gym when I was their age.
What have you learned about yourself while coaching? In my experience as coaching, I was able to learn that listening to the gymnast is just as important as correcting them. I am able to help them work through their fears and struggles, instead of them trying to figure it out themselves. I have realized through this experience I connect very well with children, and that has inspired me to go into the medical field to pursue a job in Pediatrics.
How did you find and why did you choose Stephanie Q Durham Photography as your photographer? I found Mrs. Stephanie from one of my best friends who had her senior photo shoot earlier in the year. I loved every single one of her pictures and decided to book my own shoot.
What was your photoshoot experience like? What did you love most about it? I will recommend Mrs. Stephanie to every single person that I know. She truly cares about you as a person and takes the time to get to know you before the camera is in front of you. We had a meeting before the photo shoot to discuss outfits, my interests, my passions, and what I like and dislike in pictures of myself. All of these things made the session much more enjoyable and smoother. I felt completely comfortable in front of the camera which is something that I've never felt before. She is the kindest and most humble person that I've met. I'm so glad that I got to work with her, and I wish her all the best in the future.
Tell us about your cheer life. Cheerleading was a full 180 from gymnastics. This sport helped me grow as a person because I had to learn how to achieve success as a team and not rely on my own individual success. I’m very thankful for cheerleading because of how much it increased my confidence level in myself. Gymnastics was a very hard sport mentally for me, and being on my cheer team I was able to believe in myself and my skills again.
What is a favorite memory with your cheer team? My favorite memory with my cheer team has to be at the final championship in 2019. Our friendships grew much closer because it was the last performance we would ever have as a team. It was an incredibly emotional experience and I will cherish the memories I made forever.
What inspiring things about you does your nomination not cover? I have always had a love for helping children, and I devote a lot of my spare time to helping elementary school students. For the past four years, I have worked with a second and third grade teacher to create a hands-on learning environment with interactive learning experiences. I also worked with bilingual students to better improve their English reading skills.
How did you get involved in this? My freshman year a second grade teacher reached out to me looking to receive help with tutoring her students. I immediately accepted and was very excited to work with her. I got to work in the classroom, as well as outside of the classroom helping them with their reading comprehension and math skills.
What do you think your strongest leadership skill is? I have learned that one of the most important skills is listening. I've been able to hear what a person is telling me to know how to accurately help them in the situation.
If you were to present a topic to a group of your peers, what would it be? Spending almost 15 years doing gymnastics, I saw and heard about many heartbreaking experiences. As a junior and senior, I made it a goal of mine to help younger gymnasts work through the mental struggles they faced. I have always passionately spoken about the importance of mental health and how it directly correlates to an athlete's physical health. Taking care of your mind is just as important as taking care of your body.
What are you most looking forward to this summer? I am looking forward to spending time with my family and friends before I go to college. I know I'm going to miss them very much and this summer is going to be really memorable for me.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be where you are today? Don't be afraid to put yourself in an uncomfortable situation because that is what makes you grow as a person.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years/what are your plans? In five years I will have completed my undergraduate degree and be in medical school. During my summer breaks, I plan to do interning work at nonprofits that help give access to medical resources in third world countries.
What is your favorite activity or pastime that was not in your nomination? One of my favorite activities is playing the guitar and piano. My grandmother has taught me almost everything I know and it is something that I love to bond with her over
Do you have a hidden talent? What is it? My hidden talent would be being able to play almost any instrument by ear.
3 Things on your bucket list Going to an elephant sanctuary in Thailand, backpacking through Europe, and living in 3 different countries.
Who do you find inspiring? MyKayla Skinner is an Olympic gymnast who was put in as an alternate in 2016, but trained incredibly hard for the next four years to be able to compete in the 2021 Olympics.
What about you inspires others/why do you think you are inspiring? One inspiring aspect about me is that I never give up on people. Holding grudges only hurts yourself, and it’s important to realize that no two people have the exact same experiences.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us? Putting a smile on someone's face isn't one of the simplest things you can do. Three kind words can change someone's entire day. Look for Isabel in issue 57 of Inspiring Teens Magazine!