Pre meet season jitters in gymnastics are common.
And yet, those jitters can be debilitating if you don't learn how to manage them.
I'll assume if you're reading this that meet season hasn't started for you yet but it's about to start soon.
In fact, your coach is probably making it very clear how many days you have left until your first meet or which skills you still need to learn before you compete. You're comparing yourself to your teammates and seeing what you can or cannot do as compared to them so you know where you stand for meet season.
The intensity in the gym is off the chart! You could cut it with a knife, it's so thick.
You're feeling extra nervous and really stressed.
What do you do?
I've outlined 3 things you can do to handle pre meet-season jitters in gymnastics.
1. Get rid of countdowns!
It's common to start countdowns when it comes to things we're excited for - the last day of school, your birthday, Christmas/Hanukah.
But when it comes to competition countdowns it's not as positive of an experience. In fact, countdowns can cause your brain to go into freeze mode.
Countdowns represent deadlines and deadlines are scary for your brain, especially when you don't feel ready.
It adds to the pressure you're already feeling.
So my best advice is to avoid counting down the days or keeping track of how many days until competition season starts.
Instead, focus on weekly goals that relate to meet season (i.e. this week I'm going to put my bar routine together or this week I'm going to focus on form) without actually using time as your reference.
I know many coaches will use countdowns in the gym as a way to motivate their gymnasts to work harder since they can see how much time is left. But this doesn't work! So if you're a coach reading this, make sure you aren't doing this to your gymnasts!
If you do have a coach who believes in countdowns, do your best not to get caught up in it. Ignore the countdown chart and just focus on the things you can control like your effort going forward, how often you practice your routines, and your mental training.
2. Turn Your Nerves Into Excitement
Those anxious, nervous jitters you get in preparation for meet season can hurt you in the gym. They can cause you to start overthinking skills, getting mental blocks, or lose confidence.
So here's a trick.
The next time you feel nervous butterflies in your stomach, tell yourself "I'm excited."
Making that slight shift from "I'm nervous about season" to "I'm EXCITED about season" can make ALL the difference in your mindset.
Nerves often feel negative and not helpful.
Excitement feels positive and fun.
When you can feel those nerves and then redirect them into a better feeling, you will help yourself relax about season which will ultimately help you do better.
So the next time you feel nervous, make the shift to "I'm excited" and you'll immediately notice a shift in how you act in the gym.
3. Stay In Your Own Lane!
Now is NOT the time to start comparing yourself to your teammates.
Unfortunately many of you will do that because you see your teammates doing a skill you need to get and start putting more pressure on yourself to get the skill.
Or you see how polished your teammate's routines look and you might feel like you still have a lot of work to go.
'Why can she do it and I can't?' you might think.
While it's natural to compare, it's not helpful especially at this time right before season starts.
Instead, focus on yourself and what you CAN do.
Do you know those cones that dogs often have to wear around their head when they are recovering from an injury?
Imagine you are wearing one of those!
Keep your focus on your goals and stop looking around.
It's so easy to buy in to all the hype leading up to your gymnastics competition season, but you want to make sure it's not making you more nervous. Those pre-season jitters can become negative if they're not managed properly. Remember to get rid of those countdowns, turn your nerves into excitement, and focus on your own journey.
Good luck as you prepare for season!
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