How to handle disappointment when gymnast has to repeat a level - Stick It Girl

For many gymnasts, this time of year can be anxiety provoking.

Your gymnast might either be trying to test out or waiting to hear back from her coaches which level she will be competing this upcoming season.

If she moves up to the level she wants to compete at, then it's all smiles and relief!

But if she is asked to repeat a level or doesn't score out and move up to the next level as planned, it can be a time of pure devastation.

Many parents come to me with the question of "what will happen to my gymnast's confidence if she doesn't move up but all her teammates do?"

Let me start by saying that any time your gymnast doesn't achieve a goal she's set for herself, disappointment is bound to appear. But when your gymnast feels likes she's being left behind or worse yet, like she isn't good enough, it's a tough road to navigate as both a gymnast and parent.

Here are some tips for how to approach a situation when your gymnast has to repeat a level: 

1. Acknowledge her disappointment instead of glossing over it.

When your gymnast has her heart set on something, it can be devastating when things don't go the way she planned. Therefore it's common for her to feel disappointed. 

Be sure to acknowledge the disappointment she's feeling. It's real and it hurts. Instead of glazing over it, let her grieve and feel the negative emotions of it. She has to move through the process of getting through her disappointment organically. And that often means crying and being upset about her situation.

This is normal. Give her a hug. Let her know you're there for her. And be a very good listener. Let her get her feelings out if that's her thing or let her be alone in peace if that's her thing.

The goal is to let her grieve the loss of not going to the next level and to process what this means for her. This may take days or it may take weeks. Remember, she has had her heart set on this so it will take to move past it. 


2. Get excited for the opportunity for her to build up her confidence.

Many people think confidence is something you have or don't and that once you have it, it's yours forever. The truth is, like any mental skill, confidence is something your gymnast needs to continually work on and build up.

With that said, when asked to repeat a level, it can be a devastating blow to your gymnast's confidence.

But confidence-lowering situations like this will come up all the time as a gymnast...being disappointed about a meet score, not getting skills as quickly as teammates, seeing coach show favoritism towards the "better" gymnasts, etc., etc., etc. This is the nature of the beast called gymnastics. There's a reason we call it the toughest sport in the world!

Approaching a disappointing situation like this with the mindset of "Great! This is a perfect opportunity for my gymnast to build up her confidence" is a lot more impactful than "I'm worried about my gymnast and what this will do to her confidence." 

While it's normal to worry about your gymnast when undergoing a tough situation like this, if you can keep an open mind and see an opportunity for her to gain confidence here, your gymnast will feel your energy.

Confidence requires actively seeking out thoughts and situations that build it up. Your gymnast can now work on this important mental skill! Plus, often gymnasts who repeat levels have more success the second or third time around because they're familiar with their routines and can really shine in their skills and their dance.

The worst thing you can do is worry about her and project that energy out there. Be so sure that this is a great opportunity for her to work on her confidence that she believes it too! The power of positive influence is real.


3. Remind your gymnast that disappointment often leads to better opportunities.

This situation is a good chance for her to find the opportunity in this disappointment.

In an unrelated story, my oldest son recently got rejected from the high school of his choice. It was a huge blow, mainly because we thought he was guaranteed a spot but also because it's where my son had his heart set on going. Afterwards, I felt so badly for him. I knew what that disappointment felt like and I hated that he had to go through it. But then I had a mindset shift. I told him that things like this happen and that it's not what happens to him but how he responds to it that matters. We quickly searched for a new school and ultimately ending up finding a better school for him. 

Moral of my random story...sometimes disappointment leads to really big opportunities for growth and an even better experience. It's all how you look at it.

So repeating a level might not be what your gymnast wants, but it's how she responds to it that will define her. And your job as her parent is to help her see the silver lining and the new opportunity that awaits in her journey.

Will she want to hear you say this at first? No. She's disappointed and she didn't get what she wanted. So of course she might shut out your words a little at first. But keep reminding her that there is something special waiting for her in this journey. Eventually she'll hear the message.


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4. There is a reason your gymnast didn't level up.

This one is going to be hard to hear but if your gymnast didn't level up it's likely because she wasn't ready. Whether it's her skills that still need some growth and consistency or her maturity level that needs to level up, she has some growing to do.

While I don't always agree with the test out requirements, they do make certain score requirements in order to test up for a reason. If your gymnast can't meet that score and/or still doesn't have the skills she needs consistently, then she has work to do. And that's ok!

One analogy I absolutely love is that of the gas tank. If you see your gas tank on empty, you don't beat your head against the steering wheel, say mean words to your car, and decide you need a new one. You go to the gas station and fill up your tank. A fuel indicator is just that - an indicator. It tells you where you are, not where you're going.

If your gymnast can look at this experience as an indicator that she has more work to do, then she can approach it more objectively. Her gas tank is on empty and she needs gas. So what is her new plan? What things does she need to work on to get more consistent? Does she need mental training to help her overcome some of her confidence issues or lack of mental strength?

This is a great opportunity for her to make a plan for the upcoming season and take control of her situation. Often having to repeat a level leaves a gymnast feeling helpless and not in control. Help your gymnast find that control again by focusing on what she CAN do and also what she needs to do in order to get more consistent in her skills.


 5. Remind her that her journey is unique and that there is no rush.

Feeling left behind or watching all your teammates train with a higher level group and/or move up without you, is rough. We all have a natural tendency to compare ourselves to our peers so when our peers are excelling and we're not, it can feel awful.

One of the greatest things I've seen in the past few years is the shift from elite gymnasts moving to collegiate gymnastics and then back to elite at older and older ages. The days of having to make an Olympic team at age 16 are behind us. Gymnasts are consistently proving that age is just a number and a mindset.

There is no longer one path to get to elite or college gymnastics. So many roads can lead gymnasts to the same destination.

The same is true of your gymnast's journey. Her road through gymnastics will be different than her teammates. Some gymnasts struggle with injuries, mental blocks, and low confidence. Others struggle with mean coaches, burnout, and pressure. To each her own. And that is the beauty of it all.

Remind your gymnast of Ariana Berlin (Full Out movie) and how her path to UCLA gymnastics was unconventional. Show her videos of Oksana Chusovitina, the 48 year old Uzbekistani gymnast who has been to the last 8 Olympics. Keep impressing upon her that there is no one right way through gymnastics. And that her journey might start off slower than others...and that is A-OK!

Will your gymnast continue to compare herself to her teammates? Yes! But when she realizes that she is allowed to be different and have her own unique path, she won't sweat it as much.


Disappointment is a tough pill to swallow. And it's even tougher when you're watching your gymnast go through it. Always remember that the best thing you can do is first allow your gymnast to express her disappointment and acknowledge how awful it must feel. Then remind yourself that this is a perfect chance for your gymnast to work on her confidence. With that attitude, you can help your gymnast feel excited about what is to come.

Remind your gymnast that disappointment often leads to new opportunities and to seek out the silver lining in it all. Since your gymnast didn't level up, chances are there is a reason for it that means she has some work to do, either physically or mentally. That's just an indicator of where she is and not an indication of where she's go.

Finally, inspire your gymnast with videos of gymnasts who have taken unconventional pathways to success. Ultimately your gymnast is on her own journey and she should be proud of that!



If you or your gymnast needs support, in addition to the resources below I also offer one-on-one coaching sessions via Zoom.


Free Mental Block Guidebook for gymnasts and their parents - Stick It Girl


Helpful Links:



Gymnastics Mental Coach Anna Kojac, M.Ed.



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