Have you ever gotten afraid in gymnastics? Has fear ever shut you down before?
If so, you're not alone!
Fear is a common occurrence in gymnastics.
Nearly all gymnasts have experienced fear in gymnastics before, whether it was in the form of nerves, being afraid to try a new skill, or having a mental block on a skill.
As a result, you can understand why fear is often feared!
One thing many gymnasts may feel they need to do is shut down fear or avoid it.
And when they can't and they feel fear coming on, they wonder what they're doing wrong and then panic!
But panicking only evokes more fear and continues this negative spiraling of fear thoughts.
The truth is...Fear is Good!
Instead of panicking the next time you experience fear in gymnastics, start to think of fear as your best friend.
Fear is an innate (natural) indicator that signals to our brain that something is wrong.
And the truth is, it doesn't have to be a bad thing.
But it will be if you let it be.
Think of Fear As Your Navigational System in Gymnastics
Have you ever gone to a competition at a gym you've never been to?
I'm sure you have. And most likely, in order to get there your parents put the address in their GPS and started following its directions.
"Turn right at the stop sign, left at the light, get on the highway, go 20 miles, exit at the last exit." These are things your navigational system tells you.
That's because your navigational system is taking you to your destination.
But what happens when you veer off course and go a different way than where the GPS tells you to go?
Your navigational system will re-direct you back to its original course in order to get you where you want to go.
Fear is the gps or navigational system that is going to bring you back to a better place.
Fear is exactly like the navigational system in your care.
It is going to get you back on course and give you readjustments when your thoughts are veering off course.
In actuality, fear is a signal to your brain the something is not right here.
That's why it's such an uncomfortable feeling.
Your fear is an indicator that you are thinking things that aren't in alignment with what your true self knows and so it just feels bad.
When you are afraid of trying a new skill, your true self knows that your body is capable of learning that new skill you're afraid of.
And when you are nervous at a meet and are freezing up, your true self knows that if you just take a deep breath, everything will be ok.
Your true self also knows that you can do that skill that you balked on, if you just slow down and listen to your brain.
Fear is Your Friend
So when you feel fear, the first thing you need to do is stop and ask yourself "What negative thoughts are in my brain that are making me fearful?"
Sometimes when you stop for a moment and really reflect on this question you will realize that you are stuck in a fear mindset which is bringing you off course.
Your thoughts are in a negative place.
You started thinking about everything that can go wrong instead of everything that can go right.
You started imagining yourself falling on beam or scoring low on your events.
And those negative thoughts start making you panic and get even more fearful.
The next time fear comes over you, smile.
Say "Hi Fear, it's nice to see you. What do I need to learn from you today?"
Most of the time what you need to learn is that you must change your mindset.
You are thinking most likely thinking about things that are negative or outside of your control.
However, in that moment those thoughts are not serving you and you need to flip them around to be more positive.
You are strong, you are capable of learning hard skills, and you are brave.
And most of all, your thoughts can either be your best friend or your enemy so the sooner you learn to get them under control, the sooner you can trust yourself to do your best.
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