Parents

'They never give up': How Team USA gymnasts are inspiring girls as young as 2

While the five ladies who make up the Team USA women's gymnastics team have yet to choose a nickname for their squad, Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian are being called a lot of things by the young girls who look up to them.

Courtesy of Joelle Smith
Emerson Smith, 10, with Gabby Douglas. "They show me how I can have an amazing friendship with my teammates, but at the same time can still be a fierce competitor," said Emerson of the Team USA gymnasts.

Positive, hard-working and inspiring are just a few of the adjectives used by the young gymnasts who are cheering for Team USA. And, whether they are teenagers or toddlers, the girls and their parents agree that when it comes to role models, Team USA always sticks the landing.

Jessica Coleman, a mom from Maryland, attends a weekly gymnastics class with her toddler, Lily, 2. While Lily is only beginning to explore the world of gymnastics, Coleman decided on an Olympic-inspired party for her daughter's second birthday, complete with events like the balance beam and gold medals for guests.

Courtesy of Jessica Coleman
Lily Coleman, 2, recently celebrated her birthday with a Summer Olympics themed party. "Lily is in a parent and toddler gymnastics class and she loves it," said mom Jessica Coleman. "Even though she's only two, I can see her self-confidence shine more and more each week when she learns a new concept."

"Even though she's only two, I can see her self-confidence shine more and more each week when she learns a new concept," said Coleman. "When I realized the Summer Games would begin the week of Lily's birthday, I just knew I had to do an Olympic-inspired party."

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"Lily has no idea who these girls are right now or just how amazing and talented they are," Coleman continued. "But I hope that one day she will be able to know that she can do anything she works hard to accomplish, much like this squad of girls."

Courtesy of Abby Weinberg
Carly Weinberg, 8, has been doing gymnastics since she was three, and trains at the same facility as Gabby Douglas. "I love their positive attitudes and big smiles," said Carly of the Team USA gymnasts. "All of the Olympic gymnasts are good role models because they work hard, have fun and are really good at gymnastics."

Lili Ford, a gymnast from Washington, recently had the opportunity to attend the Olympic trials in San Jose, California. The 13 year old says the experience allowed her a peek into the uplifting and supportive dynamic of the Olympic team.

Courtesy Laura Ford
Lili Ford, 13, has been practicing gymnastics for nine years, and recently had the opportunity to attend the Olympic trials in San Jose, California. "I was lucky enough to see and meet some of the gymnasts," said Lili. "What I loved most about them is that they were always positive with each other and picked each other up after each event."

"I was lucky enough to see and meet some of the gymnasts at the trials," Lili told TODAY Parents. "What I loved most about them is that they were always positive with each other and picked each other up after each event. This is so important in a sport where the judges and crowd are focused on identifying things you do wrong."

Courtesy of Kittia Carpenter
Shilese Jones, 14, trains at the same gym as Gabby Douglas. "They are good role models because one day, I would like to be just like them," said Shilese of the Team USA gymnasts.

Shilese Jones, 14, has been practicing gymnastics for more than 10 years. Shilese trains at Buckeye Gymnastics, the Ohio facility where Team USA star Gabby Douglas perfects her talents.

"My favorite gymnast is Gabby Douglas because she is very inspiring to me — funny, outgoing and encouraging," said Shilese. "I love them all because we are all like one, big family and they help me through ups and downs and always have a big hug and words of encouragement to give me, no matterwhat the situation is."

Shania Adams, who also trains with Douglas at Buckeye Gymnastics, agrees. Shania says both Douglas and her teammates inspire her to work hard and stay focused on her own goals.

Courtesy of Erica Adams
Shania Adams, 14, is a member of the U.S. Junior Gymnastics National Team, and trains at the same facility as Gabby Douglas. Shania says she's been motivated by seeing the Team USA gymnasts' drive and determination. "I love how they never give up and they always find a way to push themselves a little more," said Shania.

"Gabby brings a positive energy to the gym when training together and a bit of a tough love," said Shania. "She has a strong work ethic that definitely influences the other gymnasts. I remember a time when I kept falling on the bars and Gabby said to me, 'The minute you feel like quitting — that's when it's time to push yourself even harder.'"

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"Gabby is like a big sister," Shania continued. "She looks after all of us girls training with her."

Shania's mom, Erica Adams, says the perseverance and positivity of the women on the team is exactly the kind of influence she wants in her daughter's life.

Courtesy of Janell Frontone
Audrey Frontone, 11, is a competitive gymnast from Illinois. "I have two favorite gymnasts," Audrey told TODAY. "Simone Biles and Aly Raisman. "I love them because they never give up and they are amazing gymnasts."

Janae Carr, 10, is a Maryland gymnast who looks up to Simone Biles and has aspirations of making it to the Olympics herself someday.

Courtesy of Shanika Carr
Janae Carr, 10, says she admires Simone Biles most, as they share a similar body type and height. "I love gymnasts because they have to believe in themselves at all times and trust that they will score big," said Janae.

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"Olympic gymnasts are inspiring because of their personal strength and confidence," Janae said. "I love gymnasts because they have to believe in themselves at all times and trust that they will score big."

Kaiya Connor, a 10-year-old gymnast from North Carolina, says she, too, has been inspired by the strength and confidence of the team.

Angela Cobb Connor
Kaiya Connor performing at the state meet in Concord, North Carolina in May 2016, where she got first place in vault.

"They're inspirational because they've gotten this far," said Kaiya. "I know they've had injuries, and I know it hurts really bad. But they just fought through the pain and came back even stronger."

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