For many gymnasts, it is the season of upgrades!
Gymnasts are learning new, harder skills during this off-season and checking off the list of the skills they need in order to move up to the next level.
For some gymnasts, it can be a really fun time of year (minus the extra conditioning) without a ton of pressure that's often there during competition season.
Gymnasts are flipping and twisting new skills into the pit and gradually working on landing these skills on mats. And most days bring lots of fun as your gymnast is eager to keep getting better at these new skills.
But for some gymnasts, upgrade season is one of struggle. They might be watching their teammates learn new skills faster than them. Maybe they get stuck on certain skills that feel harder for them and it makes them shine a light on the comparison that exists between them and their teammates' skill level.
This can lead to your gymnast feeling negative about herself during upgrade season. And that can, unfortunately, lead her to go into her new season as an underdog.
So what do you do if you have a gymnast who is on the struggle bus during upgrade season? How do you help her stay more positive?
Here are 3 ways to help your gymnast stay positive during upgrade season:
1. Don't compare your gymnast to her teammates.
This goes without saying but make sure you aren't making references to your gymnast's teammates. Your gymnast is fully aware of what the other gymnasts in her gym can do and she doesn't need to feel compared to them anymore than she's already comparing herself.
Even if a teammate is struggling too, it doesn't help to point that out or remind her that she's not the only one. Regardless of how many gymnasts might be struggling, there are still gymnasts who are NOT struggling. And those are the gymnasts she notices and compares herself to.
So avoid any comparisons to other teammates. Instead, focus on how your gymnast is on her own journey and how everyone's journey is unique. A good movie to watch is Full Out which highlights the life of Ariana Berlin. Your gymnast can see how setbacks caused Ariana to find a different way back to the sport she loved and ultimately achieving the outcome she had always dreamed of.
2. Work on fostering a growth mindset.
During upgrade season, having a growth mindset is going to help your gymnast bounce back from tough practices. A growth mindset is when your gymnast can look at a situation that is hard and remember that she can continue to improve. This differs from a fixed mindset in which your gymnast might decide she doesn't have the ability to learn a new skill and that her talent is already decided for her.
Some gymnasts are naturally better at a growth mindset than others. But if your gymnast is one who has a fixed mindset, there is hope. One way I love to show gymnasts that they can learn more skills is by reminding them of all the skills they once did not know how to do and now can do. It's easy for gymnasts to forget how far they've come in their journey.
I use a Book of Proof (free printable) to have gymnasts write down every skill they've learned so far in gymnastics. This is a great way for them to stay hopeful and remember that skills they once struggled on are easy for them now.
If you haven't already, download my Growth Mindset Jar printable as well.
3. Help your gymnast set process goals.
During upgrade season, your gymnast often sets goals that are based on the outcome of what happens. In other words, she is working towards a specific skill. This means she is focused on the outcome, which is learning that skill.
However, if your gymnast is only focused on getting her skills, she'll be discouraged for most of the off-season since she'll learn many of her skills after months of training (and not at the beginning of upgrade season).
And being discouraged means she likely won't try as hard and will get stuck on the fact that she doesn't have her skills. This will lower her confidence and in some cases, de-motivate her.
Instead, it's important that your gymnast create process goals along the way. Process goals focus on the process of her learning new skills. Examples of process goals might be doing a certain number of drills each day (that will help her learn the skills she's working on). She can keep track of whether she does these drills and that will help her feel success along the way.
Process goals might also include doing a certain number of attempts at a skill each practice. Again, the focus is on the process of attempting the skill and not on whether she achieved the skill goal or not.
While this might seem like a subtle difference, it makes a BIG difference in how gymnasts feel about their abilities when learning new skills.
Again, upgrade season can feel like an exciting time of year. But it can also be a really hard one for some gymnasts. If your gymnast is one of the ones who is struggling through upgrade season or is comparing herself to her teammates, she might go through an entire off-season where her confidence plummets. Make sure you aren't making comparisons between her and her teammates (even if the comparison is a good one). Help your gymnast find a growth mindset by reminding her of how far she's come and of how her previous struggles led to her learning new skills. And finally, help your gymnast set process goals instead of outcome goals so she can build up some confidence along the way.
If you or your gymnast needs support, in addition to the resources below I also offer one-on-one coaching sessions via Zoom.
- Stick It Girl Academy: For competitive gymnasts who want to live into their potential and need that extra push in mental training
- 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