Did you know that the slight edge can help you improve your gymnastics?
Have you ever heard of the book called "The Slight Edge" by Jeff Olson? If not, don't worry. I'm going to apply some of the best principles from his book to the sport of gymnastics and show you how the slight edge can help you improve your gymnastics.
First, what is the slight edge?
The slight edge refers to a way of thinking that enables people to make daily choices that will lead them to success and happiness. Sounds great, right? It is! And the good news is that it easily applies to gymnastics (and life). But it requires you to change the way you think about simple, every day things in practice and gymnastics life.
As gymnasts, it's easy to want to level up quickly. You want to learn new skills and keep improving day after day. And you want to get to optionals or college gymnastics or go elite quickly!
Everything feels like a time crunch because of this notion that as a gymnast, you will run out of time if you don't accomplish these things at a relatively early age. Plus, most gymnasts assume they need to be 18 when they go to college since that's when college is "supposed" to start. Also a common phrase I've heard is "Level 10 by age 10."
But in reality, mastery requires time. It has been said that you need 10,000 hours of practice to master something and gymnastics is no different. Not to mention, the gymnasts competing at this year's Summer Games were older and one had even left NCAA Gymnastics to pursue the Olympics for a second time. There is hope and there is time!
Unfortunately when we see gymnasts come on the scene "out of nowhere" we make assumptions that they are an overnight success when in reality they've been training for many, many years behind the scenes. They had been doing the slight edge things that no one saw because no one was watching them until they "made it."
How to Use The Slight Edge In Gymnastics
In truth, if you're a gymnast and you've already learned how to do skills, then you already know how to do everything it takes to be a success. The trick is, you just have to keep doing those things and that's where many gymnasts go off-track.
They hit obstacles such as needing more time to learn a skill than their teammates, injury, mental blocks, not leveling up to optionals. And then they stop doing the things that got them to where they are because at some point along the way they lost faith or grew impatient.
Here are 7 Slight Edge habits to adopt if you want the slight edge to work in your favor in gymnastics:
Habit #1: Show Up
Sounds easy enough. And for most of you, this is easy. But you'd be surprised at how many gymnasts make goals and then don't show up for them. Or at how many gymnasts want to be great at gymnastics but miss practices.
If you're going to use the slight edge in gymnastics then you need to commit to showing up every single day. In fact, if you've ever heard high level athletes who have done extraordinary things in their sport, you'll notice they often say "I just decided to do it."
Showing up is a decision. And once you make that decision you need to follow through on it.
Habit #2: Be Consistent
Not only must you show up but you must show up consistently! It's easy to show up only on the days you feel like it. It's easy to go to practice when it's convenient for you. And it's just as easy to feel sore or tired and to decide to skip practice.
Consistency is key because like I said, the slight edge takes time. The more consistent you are, the quicker you will get to those 10,000 hours that you need to master gymnastics.
Habit #3: Have a Positive Outlook
It is no question that happier gymnasts perform better. When you approach gymnastics with the lens of "what is something positive I can take from this situation" then you will always find positivity. But when you approach things from a negative outlook or a "what's in it for me" outlook, then you are less happy.
Practice seeing opportunities in every failure. Focus on the best in a situation instead of the worst. Notice your coach's better qualities over his or her weaker qualities. Always strive to see the positive. Your philosophy is so important because it leads to your feelings and your actions.
Habit #4: Be Committed To The Long Haul
I talked about how many hours it takes someone to become a master in their field. And yet, so many gymnasts expect great results well before those hours. Success can take a long time. And the only way to see that success is to stay committed and focused for the long journey.
Remember, gymnastics is a long game, not a short one. Every thing you do today affects what happens tomorrow. And what you do this year affects next year. You might not see the results now but you will in time. Just stay committed to the journey.
Habit #5: Have A Burning Desire Combined With A Faith You Will Get It
It's one thing to want to get to your goals. It's another to KNOW deep in your bones that you WILL get there. This faith is what has kept many gymnasts going. It's an absolutely confidence and knowing that if you put in the work you will achieve your goals.
This burning desire is what will get you through the obstacles along the way. Without the desire and faith, you will easily give up when things don't go as planned.
Habit #6: Be Willing To Pay The Price
All great gymnasts get to where they are by making sacrifices. Now don't get me wrong. These don't have to be BIG sacrifices but there do have to be sacrifices along the way.
For example, each day you can choose to write down your gratitude list or not. Doing so might mean you get a few less minutes of sleep. That's a sacrifice. Is it a big one? Probably not. But it's one that needs to be made nonetheless.
Other sacrifices such as staying late at practice to work on a skill or extra conditioning, waking up earlier to get more stretching in or to get your homework done, or not going to certain family or school events because of practice or meets are all examples of little sacrifices that elite gymnasts make.
Habit #7: Commit To Doing These Actions When No One Is Watching
Personally I think this is the most important of these habits but also one that is easy to not do. It's what you do when no one is watching that really makes the difference between a good gymnast and a champion gymnast. In the gym, when your coach isn't looking do you skip out on your conditioning? At home, when no one is there to tell you otherwise, are you still practicing your imagery and vision board exercises?
Again, these are not big things to do but it's easy not to do them when you know no one is watching you. But that is arguably the most important time to do these things! It's all those little habits that really add up in the long term.
So why might gymnasts not do these things even if they really want to be the best?
Because these habits are just as easy to do as to not do. And that is the beauty of the slight edge. If you practice these habits you WILL see results in gymnastics. However, it will take time. And often gymnasts stop doing these things because they don't see the results immediately. So instead, make a pact to follow these habits and to stick it out for the long haul. Good luck!
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