Does your gymnast need to develop more confidence as a gymnast?
It is no question that gymnastics is one of the toughest sports out there.
Not only must gymnasts tumble, flip, turn, and twist in ways that seem humanly impossible, they must also have amazing strength and flexibility to match.
In order to achieve this high level of ability, gymnasts MUST have confidence.
Gymnasts must be able to trust their abilities. They must have belief in their competence. Gymnasts must feel a sense of "I Can Do It."
If not, the consequences can be detrimental since gymnastics is a serious sport that can compromise a gymnast's safety if skills are not performed correctly. For this reason, it is absolutely vital that gymnasts work on increasing and maintaining their confidence.
Like anything, confidence is a skill that can be learned.
Some gymnasts may have more confidence from an early age but a child's level of confidence is NOT set in stone.
Gymnasts with low confidence can increase their confidence through a series of deliberate exercises meant to build it up, if they are consistent and practice these exercises over time.
And likewise, gymnasts with high levels of confidence can also lose confidence as they get older. It's common for gymnasts to hit adolescent years and fall into the teenage trap of questioning their self-worth.
That's why it is vital that gymnasts continue to work on confidence-building skills regardless of where they are on the confidence scale.
But what does confidence really mean in gymnastics?
In my opinion, confidence in gymnastics means a gymnast has faith in her ability to execute a skill safely and feels sure she can perform a skill correctly when required to do so (i.e. in a competition).
There is an inverse relationship between fear and confidence. As fear goes up, confidence goes down. As confidence goes up, fear goes down.
That's not to say that gymnasts won't ever feel fear in gymnastics. In fact, I started by saying that gymnastics is a tough sport that requires gymnasts to perform challenging and often dangerous skills. So fear is naturally par for the course in gymnastics.
But the more confidence a gymnast has, the less fear she will feel.
The more confidence a gymnast has, the more sure she will feel that she can execute a skill safely.
The greater the likelihood that she will attempt a skill instead of balk.
The more confidence a gymnast has, the greater her ability to perform skills correctly when required to do so such as in a meet.
Think of confidence and fear as being two ends of a balancing scale. The more confidence a gymnast has, the lower that side of the scale will be as confidence will outweigh fear. The more fear a gymnast has, the more fear will weigh down the scale while confidence will be less and dangling in the air. They are inversely proportional.
So how do you help your gymnasts gain more confidence?
Parents, here are 5 ways you can help your gymnast build up her confidence:
1. Provide your gymnast with small opportunities to build up her confidence.
What does this mean?
This means you focus on small wins.
You help your gymnast set small goals that can easily be attained and then you applaud her when she reaches them.
In a gymnastics setting, a coach might break down a skill the gymnast is struggling on into bite size steps and start from the very beginning, rewarding her along the way as she completes those mini steps.
As a parent, you can help your gymnast set small goals for mindset work that she can do at home. Maybe it's something as small as having your gymnast write down one of her strengths each day of the week and then rewarding her at the end of the week with her favorite gymnastics movie or with quality family time.
The next week it might be having your gymnast read one affirmation card in the morning each day of the week when she wakes up and then again rewarding her at the end of the week.
These are little things that she can easily do but also require diligence to do them consistently. Notice these little goals do NOT have to be physical gymnastics goals. The most effective confidence-building work can occur outside of the gym in the mental space.
2. Remind your gymnast of her past successes.
When your gymnast is struggling with confidence, remind her of her past wins.
By wins I don't necessarily mean wins at meets or 1st place finishes.
I'm referring to those times when she overcame a struggle and was successful. Or times when she did something she thought she couldn't do.
These moments make more of an impact on your gymnast than all the medals and trophies in the world.
Every time she proves to herself that she can do something she thought she couldn't do, it fills up her confidence jar a little more.
These experiences also give her reminders that she CAN indeed be successful because she's been successful before. This is the ultimate way to build up more confidence.
3. Tell your gymnast a story about your own confidence-building experiences when you were a child (or even an adult).
Children love stories at any age! The most effective stories are ones that children can relate to. And because your children are an extension of you, they take more interest in stories that you tell them about your childhood and your life.
If you were a gymnast yourself when you were younger, then share stories of your own resilience and confidence-building experiences in gymnastics or whichever sport you participated in.
If you were not an athlete, share stories about how you overcame a fearful experience in life - maybe it was riding the bus to school for the first time or making it through an important music performance. Maybe it was trying out for your school play when you were so nervous to try out.
When children hear your own experiences of fear that led to successful outcomes, they use those images when they are faced with similar experiences because they can relate to their parents.
4. Have your gymnast write down every skill she can already do on each event.
Have your gymnast designate one particular notebook or journal to only gymnastics. You can even use my Book of Proof free printable to do this.
On her Book of Proof worksheets, have her write down one of the events in gymnastics and beneath it write down every single skill she can currently do on this event.
Every skill counts, down to the tiniest ones. Then have her repeat this for the other three events. Make sure she leaves an extra page in between each event so she can fill that page up as time goes on.
When she is feeling down on her abilities, remind her of all the skills she can do and have her re-read those skills. When trying to learn new skills or advance in levels, it can be easy to forget about how far a gymnast has come.
Keeping a list is a great way to look back on everything she has accomplished and is a great confidence boost.
5. Teach your gymnast this simple trick.
While confidence is a mental skill, it is affected by a gymnast's physical gestures. When your gymnast is feeling low on her abilities, teach her this simple trick:
Have her lift her chin up, roll her shoulders back, and stick her chest out. Then have her walk back and forth keeping this physical posture.
Her physical gesture of boasting confidence will immediately make her feel more confident, even if nothing else changes. This is a great way to boost confidence when she's in a pinch but is also something she can practice daily to make that confidence posture feel more natural.
You can watch the video of these tips below, if you'd prefer here:
While different children have varying levels of confidence, the good news is that confidence can be increased. Gymnasts NEED confidence in order to perform gymnastics safely. Higher levels of confidence also contributes to greater satisfaction in gymnastics and gymnasts tend to have more fun when they are more confident.
Confidence helps gymnasts learn skills more easily and execute skills properly, especially when required to such as in meets.
As I said, the good news is that confidence is fluid and can be taught. Using some of the techniques I taught you today, you can help your gymnast become more confident, with consistent effort over time.
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