September 26, 2023
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Anna Wilder Burns advised her story to producer Cat Jaffee for an episode of The Every day Rally podcast. It has been edited for size and readability.

My coronary heart simply dropped and I used to be like, “Oh shit. No, no, no, no.” I might form of inform it was about to occur, however I didn’t wanna imagine it. I believed I used to be doing properly. I used to be all the time the toughest employee within the room, I used to be like, Management what you’ll be able to management. You possibly can management the truth that like nobody can deny the truth that you need it greater than anyone else, and that you just’re extra obsessed with this sport than anyone else. This was my total life and identification.

I’m a filmmaker and photographer, a former-athlete-turned-creative. I like discovering folks on the planet who don’t understand how cool they’re, and I like displaying them by way of movie and picture.

I’m 25. I’m somewhat bit blunt, and I’ve that form of East Coast salt.

I grew up in Maine. I used to be a really outdoorsy child. However I additionally was a really, very, very severe gymnast. I skilled for 5 hours a day, 5 days per week, getting out of faculty at 3:00 PM, fast sandwich within the automobile, observe from 3:30 PM to eight:30 PM. Go dwelling, do homework, go to mattress, do all of it the following day. My dream was to do faculty gymnastics. I began gymnastics somewhat bit late, and moved by way of it actually shortly, and so I caught the eye of some colleges, however I undoubtedly wasn’t on the caliber that I’d should be to step on the ground my freshman 12 months and compete.

However, I wished to attempt anyway. I believed I bought a walk-on spot on the College of New Hampshire, and labored my little booty off. I bought there on day two, I used to be, to start with, a nervous wreck clearly. I had practiced one time, they’d seen me do stuff one time. And originally of observe, all the women had been all warming up, and I get pulled out of the working line they usually’re like, “Anna, can we come meet you with you within the hallway?”

I’ll always remember how ruthless this was. They pulled me into this facet of the gymnasium the place everybody might nonetheless see me and them. They usually advised me, “We’re so sorry, however we simply can’t have you ever on. You’re simply not there.” After which I simply keep in mind my ears ringing, like full panic assault, burst into tears, begging, “Can I simply attempt, can I practice alone? I received’t even practice with the crew. I’ll do something. I don’t wanna lose this. I’m a gymnast. That is all I do know.”

The coach was similar to, “No, sorry. No, no, no.” Gave me a hug on the finish. I used to be like, Not solely did you simply lower me, however you determined to do it in entrance of all people. Why not simply name me to your workplace three hours in the past and make this manner much less traumatic?

So I known as my mother. She drove proper down and picked me up and I went dwelling. That is my second day of freshman 12 months of faculty. I’m actually on my sofa at dwelling questioning, What the hell am I gonna do?

I ended up deciding to say, “Screw you” to these coaches and see if I might practice alone and get to the place I should be to then re-tryout within the Spring. However within the meantime, it was actually arduous socially as a result of clearly if you’re a D-1 athlete, your crew is your loved ones on campus. And so I actually wished to nonetheless be concerned with the crew, particularly if I used to be gonna be on it hopefully the following 12 months. So humorous sufficient, I used to make these GoPro movies of my pals, doing gymnastics, form of like a ski edit. So I made gymnastics edits, and one in every of them ended up going semi-viral on YouTube. My Olympian heroes shared it, and so seniors on my crew noticed that video and had been like, “Wait, are you able to make movies for the crew?”

I used to be like, Nicely, yeah, I understand how to edit a video. And I had simply gotten a digicam that might file video and never simply picture. And so per week after I had gotten lower from the crew, I used to be on the first like exhibition of the gymnastics crew at my college filming.

Different groups began to note, the soccer crew can be like, “Anna, are you able to come to our sport and movie our sport and make a spotlight video?” And I used to be like, “Certain, yeah.” It was a lot enjoyable. I used to be assembly all these folks, making pals, nonetheless coaching. As time went on, I simply began to burn out. I used to be drained. I wasn’t consuming sufficient, wasn’t fueling my physique appropriately, and I form of knew that it was over. I went and had a last assembly with the UNH coaches to be like, “Possibly I impressed you sufficient with my work ethic and the truth that I did this all 12 months, that you just give me an opportunity.” They usually mentioned, “You understand what? No.”

At the moment, the video facet was rising, and I hoped perhaps I might flip this into one thing. I bought an electronic mail from the college diving coach. “Hey, we’ve taught a gymnast tips on how to dive earlier than. We heard you’re form of completed, if you happen to don’t wanna not be an athlete, would you like a spot?” And I used to be like, Oh, I’ve by no means jumped off a diving board in my life.

Studying to dive was a a lot much less intense coaching schedule, however nonetheless D-1. And due to the truth that I used to be nonetheless within the athletic division, assembly all my athlete pals, and had a much less intense coaching schedule, my sophomore, junior, and senior 12 months I bought to do much more video work. I bought an internship with the athletic division. They let me go and movie all these video games, and receives a commission $7 an hour, and make edits. Getting the possibilities to play with cameras in faculty, low-stakes, and simply inform tales of my fellow athletes, led me to the place I’m now.

I keep in mind vividly saying, “I don’t wanna not be a gymnast anymore. What? How can I not be a gymnast anymore?” And I feel it takes plenty of time to search out that, it’s not gonna be a direct factor. It took me a full 12 months to essentially settle for that there have been extra sides of me. I want youngsters knew this extra, that if you happen to’re a severe athlete, there’s a lot extra to you, and there’s a lot extra that the world wants from you than flipping on a four-inch beam.

Anna Wilder Burns is an award-winning cinematographer, director, and photographer. She combines her passions for the outside and athletics to inform inspiring tales spanning journey, conservation and sports activities. She’s the director of the 2023 movie To Be Frank. To study extra about Anna, go to

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