Title: What It Takes to Be a Champion
Word Count: 2021
Disclaimer: I don't own Make it or Break it unfortunately...wish I did though!
Summary: What if it was Payson who contacted Sasha to make him come coach at the Rock? and what if her back was already healed by the time Sasha becomes her new coach? Lauren is not a Rock girl in this story, she remains in Denver.
This is the chapter revised and corrected thanks to my new Beta ‘Virgo Writer’. Hope you’ll like it.
It had been two days since her call to Sasha Belov. And of course she hadn’t received any answer yet. It seemed she hadn’t be able to change his mind after all.
Alex Cruz had decided that, seeing as there was no coach available, he was going to fill the position himself. And it was a complete disaster. The only one he really paid attention to was Kaylie, but even she, couldn’t stand his coaching and having her father always breathing down her neck.
“Kaylie, you need to get more height on that Shushunova, and remember to keep those legs straight!” Here he was at it again. Kaylie had just executed one of her new tumbling passes, her face showing the world what she thought of the situation she was finding herself in.
“I swear if my father doesn’t find a real coach soon, I’m going to join the carnival!” She said getting close to where Payson and Emily were watching.
“Well, then we’re going to need tattoos and find gypsy names!” interjected Emily with dry humor.
Payson shook her head. Their situation really seemed hopeless. Maybe joining the Carnival wasn’t such a terrible idea after all: with the chance they had right now of going to Nationals, maybe they would have more luck there. Still, she had to be the voice of reason and at least try to encourage her teammates.
“No one is going to join the Carnival. There must be a coach interested in us. We’re one of the best gymnastic club in the Country, someone’s going to show up, you’ll see. Maybe even today!”
At this point, even she was starting to doubt the likelihood of some brilliant coach magically appearing, but what could they do? At the very least they had to keep hoping that something would improve.
“So what will happen if we don’t have a coach? Does it mean we won’t go to Nationals?” Emily asked worriedly.
“Without a star coach, you just won’t be seen the same way!” Payson said in response.
“Kaylie, it’s not called practice for nothing!” Alex Cruz’s booming voice rang throughout the gym.
“I swear I’m gonna lose it!” Kaylie whispered before joining her father at the beam.
“Kaylie, don’t forget to smile, I’ve got to see teeth!” Alex kept criticizing Kaylie during her entire beam routine and at the end Kaylie just snapped.
“I can’t focus with you yelling at me and this is not a toothpaste commercial!”
It was in that moment that the doors of the gym opened and a British voice said “I hope I haven’t come at a bad time, but I heard you need a coach!”
All the heads on the floor turned as one. Not everyone knew who he was at first sight, but those who recognized him showed various states of shock.
Payson’s reaction didn’t differ too much from theirs, but for an entirely different reason. She didn’t think he was going to come, that what she had said to him hadn’t been enough to change his mind. But here he was.
“Oh my god…” Kaylie’s voice distracted her from those musings.
“Is that…?” Emily asked this time. Both of them had their mouths wide opened.
“Sasha Belov!” Payson answered with a smile. Like anyone needed that confirmation from her.
“Mr. Belov? What are you doing here and how did you know that we needed a coach?” Alex Cruz asked more than a little surprised.
“I received a call two days ago. Someone…” and with that looked at Payson “Told me that Marty Walsh had decided to go to Denver and that you were left without a coach so…”
“You called him?” Mr. Cruz asked Payson, astonished.
The attention of all the gym was suddenly on her, causing her to blush a little.
“Yeah, I searched the internet and found his number. I just didn’t think he was going to come here. He told me he didn’t want to go back to coaching.” Payson said a little questioningly, addressing the last part to Sasha directly.
“I didn’t want to come at first but… I changed my mind in the end” Sasha looked intently into her eyes, making her blush even more. Wow, he was really handsome up-close.
It looked like he wanted to add something but Mr. Cruz broke the moment.
“So, when can you begin?” He wasn’t one to look a gift horse in the mouth. The best coach in the business had just walked through their gym’s door, he wasn’t going to just waste that opportunity when they were so desperately in need of his services.
“Right now is fine. You’ve wasted enough time as it is without a coach. Better not lose even more.
“Oh, and one more thing before I get started. I don’t want any parents on the floor. Maybe Marty has let you stay in the past, but I work with gymnasts only. Not with them and their parents.”
With some rumblings all the parents retreated to the viewing area. The gym appeared suddenly much less claustrophobic and chaotic.
Payson was impressed, not even five minutes here and he had already solved one of the major problems during practice.
Sasha ordered all the gymnasts to sit on the mats: it was speech time.
When Payson was about to sit next to Kaylie and Emily, he came close to her, whispering in her ear, “You didn’t tell me the situation was so desperate!”
Payson gulped visibly to have him so close to her, before regain control of herself and saying “I tried to, but you wouldn’t listen. I hope you won’t change your mind now that you’ve seen the situation for yourself!”
“Oh don’t worry! I like a challenge!” He answered winking at her. It was almost like he was flirting with her. Maybe he realized it too because he abruptly move away from her, before telling her to sit down with the others.
Payson was more than a little bewildered, what was that? It had been so natural talking with him, almost like she knew him from who knows how many years, instead of having just met him like it was in reality. She tried to avoid thinking about it too much, ready to listen to what he had to say.
“You are all very special. You’ve chosen to do something very few people are capable of. Look at each other!” When none of them move, he encouraged “Come on look!”
Payson looked first at Emily and then at Kaylie, one sitting on her left while the other was on her right, but her gaze returned immediately to Sasha.
“No one but your peers can understand what it takes to be the best gymnasts in the World! No one!” He continued to say, pointing towards the viewing room. “Which is why you need each other, but mostly you need me!
“I have a few simple rules: work as hard as I do, care as much as I do, sacrifice as much as I do! You will live, breathe, eat, sleep, bleed gymnastics and nothing else!”
Payson was captivated, no one had ever talked about gymnastics and training with as much passion and intensity, his love for their sport showed in every word out of his mouth. She thought she was the only one who put gymnastics before everything else, but Sasha Belov was like her. The others couldn’t understand her zealous need to train, her will to concentrate in nothing but gymnastics. Even Kaylie, the number two in the Country since she broke her back, was always much more focused on boys and other silly stuff and could never take her training seriously. It was because of this that last year had been so difficult for her. After all the work she had done, all that she had sacrificed, what had she gained? A broken back and the word from every surgeon that she couldn’t do gymnastics ever again. And then, even after the surgery she wasn’t the same gymnast she was before her injury. Still, she hadn’t given up, she had kept working, every day since into the late hours of the night to regain all the moves she had lost and she had done it at the end.
Still, Kaylie was always one step ahead of her and it just wasn’t fair. She knew it wasn’t her fault but she couldn’t help but resent her a little. Kaylie had never really worked hard for anything. Everything had always been handed over to her on a silver platter: she was rich and beautiful, the boys were always giving her attention. All she had was her gymnastics and then, even without truly wanting it, Kaylie had taken that away too.
Maybe now though, with a coach like Sasha Belov, she could go back to being number one again.
“We have only 49 days until Nationals and you will spend every waking moment of it in this gym, together!” Sasha kept talking. “Go home and say goodbye to your lives as you know them. Anyone of you not willing to sacrifice your blood, sweat and tears to achieve excellence shouldn’t bother to come back! We begin Monday morning at 5 a.m.! That’s all!” She couldn’t help but smile at this; finally at coach that was perfect for her.
“Five a.m.?” Of course Kaylie didn’t agree.
“He’s right. Nationals are almost here. “
“Yeah and he expect us to spend every waking moment between now and Nationals in here!” Kaylie kept complaining.
“Where else? He’s the coach that can make us great!”
“Yeah Payson! If he doesn’t kill us first!”
“Don’t be so melodramatic! A little bit of hard work won’t kill you!”
“What do you mean by that?” Kaylie ask her a little harshly.
“I mean, when was the last time you stayed late to train?”
“So? My routines are perfect.”
Payson just shook her head, she didn’t want to argue with her.
“I really need a spruce juice fix. You in?” Kaylie asked her soon after, their brief argument and the things they were talking about already forgotten.
“Sure. I have to talk to Coach Belov first though, okay? It will take only a minute. Can you wait outside for me?”
“I think we should invite Emily too. She’s our teammate now, we need to stick together.” Payson added.
“You’re right, it wasn’t fair on her to be ignored like that…”
“Yeah..” Payson nodded then looked around for her new coach.
He was already inside his new office, Alex Cruz on his way out.
She went up the stairs before knocking on the door. As soon as she heard his voice telling her to come in she entered the office. Sasha was sitting behind the desk, going through some papers.
“Nice speech!” She commented lightly “Very inspired!”
Sasha looked up at that, smiling softly. “Glad you liked it.”
Here it was again, this strange camaraderie. How come it was so easy talking to him?
“Listen, I just wanted to say thank you! For deciding to come in the end! You won’t regret it, I promise!”
“I’m certain of that. And if you want to know, it was your words that made me change my mind about coming here. You were right. I couldn’t keep hiding from the world! Not when someone needed me!”
“Yeah well, I’m glad!” She smiled, sure for the first time since Marty left that everything was going to be ok. Now that he was here. “See you on Monday, Coach Belov!”
“Okay, then… Sasha!” She waved her hand before walking out the office and then to the parking lot where both Kaylie and Emily were waiting for her.
Thanks to all of you that read and reviewed the prologue of my story, I’m glad you liked it!
You surely have recognized some sentences from this chapter, I quoted directly from the episode “Blowing Off Steam” (1x03), in particular Sasha’s speech. Next, the keg party!