Now that the Tokyo Olympics are nearing (again), I am thinking a lot about Olympic gymnasts and what got them to the top of their sport, and what YOU can do too that they do.
Often we associate Olympians with having talent and while it's true most Olympic gymnasts ARE talented, it's often NOT what has brought them to where they are in their sport.
Instead, most Olympic gymnasts focus on doing the right (effective) things with laser-focus and intensity.
Here are those 5 things:
#1: Olympic gymnasts work on their WEAKNESSES first!
It's very easy for gymnasts to focus on doing the skills they do well and to do more of that. Naturally we all love doing things that are fun and make us feel confident. So we often get stuck in the same pattern of working on the things we like to do and not the things we NEED to do.
How many times have you wanted to keep doing a tumbling pass that you loved instead of working on a new one that you can't seem to land?
Or how often would you rather work on the dance part of your routines instead of putting the whole routine together with skills and all (or vice versa if you're someone who hates dance)?
How often do you avoid conditioning and flexibility in lieu of doing more "real" gymnastics?
Or what about when you avoid going to a certain event because you dread working on a skill you hate or can't seem to learn?
The truth is that there are parts of gymnastics that aren't the most fun. And the reason they aren't the most fun is most likely because they are necessary to your development as a world class gymnast.
Olympic gymnasts know that they are only as strong as the weakest link in their chain. And while they might not like it, they train their weaknesses first.
When Simone Biles missed making the Junior National team by one place, her and her coach got back to work in the gym focusing on her weakest event, bars. While it would have been easier for her to have become a specialist and decided bars wasn't her event, instead her coach made her focus on upgrading her bar skills and getting better at that event.
Still today, Simone Biles has made it clear that bars is not her favorite event, but because of her hard work on that event she can come to a meet with a bar routine that is world class.
#2: Olympic gymnasts are constantly evaluating and learning from their mistakes
All gymnasts make mistakes, even Olympic gymnasts.
The difference is that Olympic gymnasts learn from their mistakes instead of being set back by them.
In fact, they know that there is much to learn every time they make a mistake and they take that opportunity to analyze their mistakes so they can improve upon them in the future.
I've talked about embracing failure in gymnastics in the past. It might be a good time to re-read that article.
Olympic gymnasts evaluate what went wrong so they can change it in the future.
They ask questions like: "Was I prepared?" "Where was my focus?" "How was my warmup?" And then take the answers to those questions and make the next competition better.
Unfortunately what a lot of non-Olympic gymnasts do is that they make a mistake and then get frustrated by it. They might even dwell on it and that in turn can affect their next competition or the next pass they take at that skill.
Olympians, on the other hand, always ask "why" questions and get curious about their mistakes.
#3: They always use goals to help them stay on track
All Olympic gymnasts set goals. But not just Vision Board type goals; many different goals!
They set daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, and longer term goals.
Every day they are working on different goals and then here's the key...
They modify those goals as needed.
It's one thing to have a goal of making it to the Olympics in 4 years from now.
It's another thing to not know what you're doing in practice tomorrow to help you get to that long-term Olympic goal.
Everything is meticulously planned and calculated and then EVALUATED!
How close are you to your goals? Is what you are doing working for you? Is there anything that needs to be changed? These are the sorts of questions an Olympic gymnast will ask herself so she knows what needs to be changed or tweaked as she's going along.
Things like injuries, the pandemic, and sponsorships can also change your goals. So the key is not only to set goals, but to constantly evaluate them and modify them if necessary.
#4 They do the mundane things over and over and over
The key to being an Olympian or high level gymnast is not necessarily to be the most talented gymnast in the world. It's being able to do the boring and mundane tasks over and over each day.
Are conditioning and flexibility fun? No.
But are they necessary? Yes!
Is mindset the most exciting skill to work on? No!
Will it make you a better gymnast? Yes!!!
It's those little things that Olympic gymnasts do consistently over time that make them great.
The seemingly small acts add up over time to have a compound effect.
#5 They never give up or quit
Olympic gymnasts got to where they are today because they kept going. When things got tough, they stuck it out. When they got injured or sidelined from gymnastics, they stayed the course.
That's not to say they never thought about quitting. Many have.
But they always showed up regardless.
And sure, they may have rested along their journey.
But in the end, they picked up right where they left off.
It's so easy for other gymnasts to hit a roadblock in the road and quit. And along the way, most Olympic gymnasts have seen many of their teammates give up the sport while they continued on.
So while you see Olympic gymnasts compete and think "Wow, they're superhuman," it's important to realize that Olympic gymnasts are just like you. However, they developed grit and focused on doing the things that would benefit them in sport in the long-term. Those things might seem boring and repetitive, but those are the actions that got them to where they are today. Plus, they just never quit!
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