Book Review: Winning Balance

Let me just start by saying how eye catching the cover of this book is! The instant I opened the package when it arrived I was taken in by the cover. From Shawn’s sweet face to the combination of the bright pink of the stripe and her sweater with light yellow/brown of the tall grass behind her. It is inviting, stunning, flattering, and made me want to curl up to hear what she had to say! (My daughter mirrored my response to the cover when she first saw it as well!)

Winning Balance, which is written by Shawn Johnson with Nancy French, is a compilation of reflections on the lessons that Shawn has learned over the years. While the Shawn says that it is not an autobiography, it covers many aspects of her life and is presented in chronological order. Beginning with her first score, an Apgar test of zero at birth, to winning three Olympic silver medals and one gold, to winning Dancing with the Stars, Shawn tells her story with a great deal of emotion. Much of the book stems from her personal journals, as well as poems she has written throughout her life that she shares with us.

Having a young gymnast in our home definitely spurred my interest in reviewing Shawn’s book. Gymnastics is a sport that is hard on mind and body, it can be heaven or hell, and can all end in the blink of an eye (as Shawn has just proved again with her recent retirement due to her knee injury). I believe Shawn calls it a fickle sport.

“Learn to find pride in your own success, even if your accomplishment isn’t recognized by others. Your worth isn’t determined by the color of the ribbon around your neck or anything else someone might give you.”

A recent article for USA Today stated that Shawn feels Winning Balance speaks most clearly to teenage girls, who tend to view her as a role model. Having an almost 13 year old gymnast in my house, I can wholeheartedly agree with Shawn’s assessment. The more I read of the book, the more I knew my daughter would be reading it right after me (and she is).

As a parent I really appreciate hearing how not only her parents, but her coach as well wanted her to have a life outside of the gym. It is far to easy to get sucked in and lose sight of the fact that there is life outside the four walls of the gym! Shawn talks about her strong sense of family and how much that has played into her life being what is has become. It is encouraging to read her stories of struggle, and finding herself coming out the other side even stronger for having gone through those struggles.

For any parents of budding gymnasts, I would encourage them to read Shawn’s story, to know that you can find Olympic success without selling your house and moving, without letting the sport totally consume your child. Shawn shows us that while her life wasn’t always “normal” her parents and coach strove to keep it as normal as possible, showing her the way to a more balanced life. I would also encourage them to have their tween/teen daughters read Winning Balance to find strength and encouragement. Her “Lesson I’ve Learned” section after each chapter are particularly useful and in my opinion geared towards our teen aged daughters.

“As long as you’ve done your best, making mistakes doesn’t matter. You and I are human; we will mess up. What counts is learning from your mistakes and getting back up when life has knocked you down.”

Winning Balance Trailer by Shawn:

I want to thank Tyndale Momentum for the opportunity to review Winning Balance. While I received this free of charge in exchange for my review, my opinions are my own, and have not been influenced in any way.