Confidence is crucial to a gymnast's success in the sport.
Not only does confidence help buffer fear, it also allows gymnasts to attack their skills and their training.
But what exactly is confidence?
Confidence is a feeling of self-assurance rising from one's appreciation of one's own abilities or qualities! That's a mouth full.
In laymen's terms, confidence is a belief in your own abilities.
Unfortunately, many gymnasts believe they are either born with confidence or not, BUT (and it's a big BUT) this has been proven false!
In fact, researchers have shown that confidence is indeed a CHOICE. Gymnasts who exhibit higher levels of confidence have learned to do things that other gymnasts do not do that has contributed to their confidence.
What are some things you notice about gymnasts who have more confidence? They often carry themselves differently, they're in control of their body movements and facial expressions, they keep their chin and chest lifted more often, and they attack their routines and skills.
So the great news is that confidence is a skill that can be practiced and learned!
Here are 10 ways to develop confidence as a gymnast:
#1 - Fake It Til You Make It
You've heard this many times before but how does this relate to confidence? When you "act as if" you are an elite gymnast, you make postural changes in the way you move and act. You focus on standing tall and proud, you go for your skills, you salute the judges with pizazz, and overall you just feel more confident.
Thus, one way to build up your own confidence is to act as if you are your most favorite gymnast. In this case, I'll say Simone Biles since we all feel her confidence when watching her compete.
So ask yourself when you are in a situation of low confidence - What would Simone do?
And then make those changes to your body, facial expressions, and attitude.
#2 - List Out ALL The Skills You Can Do In Your Sport
I suggest you grab a blank notebook or journal and title it 'My Confidence Journal.' Then write down each of the events on the top of a separate page (so one page for Beam, one for Bars, etc). And on this page which will become your Book Of Proof, you list out ALL the skills you know how to do on each of those events.
Too often we focus on all the things we can't do but forget everything we've already learned. And like I've said before, you've learned a lot even if you don't feel like it. At one time in gymnastics you couldn't even walk across the high beam without wobbling and shaking! Now look at you!
So list out all your skills and then take time EVERY SINGLE DAY to read through this list. As you learn new skills you add them to your Book of Proof. When you are having a less than confident day you take out your Confidence Journal and remind yourself of all the things you CAN do.
#3 - List Out 3 Strengths You Have In Gymnastics
These can be physical skills or mental skills or social skills. Anything that you think is one of your strengths. Maybe you're really flexible or you're a good dancer. Or maybe you're a kind teammate or in tune with other's feelings in the gym.
Whatever those strengths are, write them out in your Confidence Journal one by one and then reflect on them. Let yourself feel good for having these strengths.
Remember that every gymnast is unique and has her own strengths. Make sure you are focusing on yours.
#4 - Think Back To A Compliment You've Received In The Gym
What are some nice things others have said about you in gymnastics. Maybe someone complimented you for having a beautiful routine or for learning a new skills. Your coach might have told you what a hard worker you are.
Think back to these compliments and then write them down in your Confidence Journal. Again, the more "proof" you have about all your strengths and good qualities, the more confidence you will feel.
#5 - Think Back To A Past Successful Performance
One of the best ways to build up confidence is to have successful performances. And you've ALL had them.
Think back to a routine you did that was great, a meet you had where you were on fire, or a skill you learned after many attempts. A successful performance can be anything you've done in gymnastics that felt like a win!
Write one or more of these successful performances down and AGAIN, be sure to read these back to yourself. Remember, if you've had a successful performance before then you can have one again!
#6 - When Were You Your Own Superhero?
A superhero is someone who comes to the rescue? When did you come to the rescue for yourself?
Think back to a time when you struggled on a skill but then kept going and eventually learned it. You were your own superhero!
Or what about a competition where you were really nervous and didn't want to compete but did anyway. You were your own superhero then!
What about a time when you had to face a mean coach over and over and you did! You were your own superhero.
There are so many times when you come to your own rescue and you should be recognized for that. These are all things that can help you build up confidence because you know that if you were able to get through a tough time by helping yourself then you can do it again if necessary.
#7 - Think Back To A Time When You Learned A Hard Skill
Think about the hardest skill you've learned in gymnastics. Write it down in your Confidence Journal. Now take a few minutes to really feel what it was like to have learned such a hard skill.
Now this hard skill might not be the hardest skill out there in gymnastics; it might have been one that others consider easy. But it was hard for you. And you learned it!
If you learned a hard skill in the past then you can do it again in the future! You are strong and gritty and can do hard things. Always remember that by focusing on the hard skill you've already learned!
#8 - Get Rid Of A Negative Thought That's Been Weighing You Down
We often carry negative thoughts around with us that weigh down our confidence. Maybe you're thinking about a fall you had at a meet the week before or a skill you've been trying to get for months and still can't get. Those thoughts not only weigh you down, they make less room in our mind for all those confident thoughts.
So think of a negative thought that's been weighing heavily on your mind and write it down on paper. Then rip that paper up and throw it in the garbage. Your negative thought is now off your chest and you are free to allow the confident thoughts to flow in.
This is a great exercise to do any time you're feeling low on confidence!
#9 - Be Your Own Best Friend
If your best friend was having a bad day at the gym or struggling with her confidence, what would you do? You would say encouraging words to help build up her confidence again.
That's exactly what you should do for yourself. Unfortunately, we often are our own worst enemy by continuing the negative dialogue over and over. This contributes to our low confidence. Instead, imagine that you are your own best friend and that you are trying to encourage confidence.
A great exercise is to be your own best friend for one day. Make a deliberate effort to talk back to those negative comments as if you were your best friend talking to you.
#10 - Compliment A Teammate
Finally, one of the best ways to build up confidence is to turn our positive attention to others and help to build up their self-esteem. When you compliment a teammate or your coach or someone else in the gym, that person not only feels great but so do you! It's a win-win.
By focusing on your teammate's strengths it sends this signal to your brain that releases endorphins (the feel-good hormones in your body). And when you feel good, you tend to feel more confident!
There you have it. Those are 10 ways you can develop confidence as a gymnast. The important thing to remember is that confidence is a choice and that it can be practiced and learned over time. Keep doing these strategies to help you build up your confidence and start a Confidence Journal. Your Confidence Journal will be most beneficial if you keep adding to it and if you read through it every day or at the very least, a few times per week.
If you or your gymnast needs support, in addition to the resources below I also offer one-on-one coaching sessions via Zoom.
- Resources: Get gymnastics downloads to help your gymnast work on her mental skills in gymnastics
- Mental Health Training for Gymnasts: Help your gymnast learn about her brain and the fight-flight-or-freeze response.
- Free Facebook Group for Moms of Gymnasts: Join this group to chat with other gymnastics moms and get tips for how to help your gymnast navigate through the mental ups and downs of gymnastics