Athletes from south Logan County, along with their coaches and family members, heard messages of using your gifts, and dealing with pressures and social media from Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas last Tuesday at the Best of the River Valley Preps banquet in Fort Smith.

When tired, Douglas said, she stays motivated by family and her talent.

“I never want to waste something I was given, so that definitely kept me motivated to strive and preserve to be the best of my potential and ability,” she said. “But when I do get really frustrated I step back and take a day off, relax, breathe and then step back to it.”

The banquet, organized by the Times Record in Fort Smith, featured a Q & A moderated by Tari Cummings, the women’s basketball coach at the University of Arkansas Fort Smith.

Cummings asked Douglas to give athletes advice to which she responded it is important to trust the process.

“With me, a lot of times I tried to be different and I lost my own fit and I lost my own vision,” said Douglas. “Make sure you have your style but as long as you set goals, even if they’re small, they lead to a bigger challenge. Don’t be overwhelmed.”

Douglas said she really never had pressure from her family to pursue gymnastics she just fell in love with the sport at age 6.

“(On) social media I did, the outside crowd I did, but never in my home, so I was grateful for that,” she said.

Even now, dealing with negativity on social media, Douglas said, is difficult.

“Especially when people are making up lies. You see one side, but you don’t see the whole story, so that’s a little frustrating but I use block (users) or just ignore (content). I believe in not stooping down to that level.”

Asked to reveal a greatest victory, Douglas said it’s “not winning, but falling down because I have to get back up and keep striving.”

Presented the question of how she juggled her sport and social life while growing up, Douglas responded, “I never really had a social life.

“I was always in the gym. I was home-schooled. It was hard. But at the same time my Mom talked about perspective. She would say ‘not everybody gets to go out of the country.’”

Training constantly she sacrificed time with friends and other things a so-called normal teen might take for granted.

As far as being an Olympic Gold Medalist, Douglas said, “It’s a huge honor. I never though I would be setting in this seat, but I just do my best to be an example to the youth.”

Had she not been successful in gymnastics Douglas said she might have migrated to track and field were it not for hating running, so it would likely have been ice skating because of the similarities to gymnastics.

Ever learning, Douglas said it might surprise people to hear she is learning to play the guitar and she speaks Hebrew.

Asked by an athlete what role athletics played in her becoming a business person, Douglas said gymnastics taught her time management, passion and having a passion for doing what she wants.