For many gymnasts across the United States, State meets are coming up.
I talk to a lot of gymnasts who tell me that getting to States and then qualifying to Regionals from States is an important goal of theirs. In fact, many gauge their success this season based on whether they make it to State or not (p.s. some gymnasts say State...some say States, so I'll use them interchangeably in this article).
While making it to a big meet like States is an accomplishment, it's important that gymnasts don't make this meet such a big deal that it causes them to get really nervous or bomb their routines.
Bottom line, it really is just another meet!
If you're a gymnast preparing for State, I wanted to give you some tips for how to have your best gymnastics State meet.
Here they are:
1. Look for clues from your past successful meets.
Think about a past successful meet of yours. It could be from this season or any recent past season. Which meet was your best one? Close your eyes and put yourself back there. Try to remember what you did to prepare for this meet. Did you feel confident going into this meet? Were you excited for it?
Also remember things like whether you did a pre-meet routine before this meet or if you listened to certain music (either calming or pump up music). Did you find a way to block out the distractions at the meet and/or were you able to stay focused during your meet?
What were some thoughts you had? Were you able to shake off mistakes?
The BEST way to do well at a future meet is to remember back to what has worked for you in the past. If you can re-create certain things that were helpful, it can enable you to put your best foot forward at your State meet.
2. Put your body into a confident position even if you aren't feeling so confident.
I talk about body language a lot because it's a trick that can really make a difference. A State meet is a meet that can often feel intimidating. You're walking into a gym or arena that might feel bigger or different than what you're used to. There are a lot of gymnasts there and some of them might be REALLY good. It's hard not to feel nervous or like you're underprepared.
If you notice your confidence waning, focus on your body language. Chances are you're in a not so confident position. Instead, try rolling your shoulders back, lifting up your chin slightly, sticking your chest out a bit and then see how you feel.
Your mind and body are connected so when you put your body into a confident position, it creates a confident feeling in your mind. So even if you are not confident, show off your confident body language. It will help your mind feel better about your competition and allow you to step into the confidence you need to rock your State meet.
3. Watch the "little" deductions.
As a former judge, I used to take points off consistently for the "little" things. I saw flexed feet and slightly bent legs or arms over and over.
Remember, judges take points off of each element when there are form errors. So if your legs are bent in each part of your tumbling pass, then you get deducted every time. If you have a beautiful split or split leap but flex your feet, that's a deduction.
Those "little" breaks in form add up.
Another big place where gymnasts get deductions are on their vaults (particularly front handspring vault). The reason is because vault has different phases where judges can take off points. So if you have bent legs throughout your whole vault, you are getting deducted for these errors throughout each of the phases (entry, support, landing phase).
4. Remember that your worth as a gymnast is not decided by this one meet.
It's really easy to put a lot of pressure on yourself to do well at this one meet (or at Regionals/Nationals). But at the end of the day this is just one single meet.
While it might be a meet at the end of the season, it doesn't have to define how you feel about your entire season. This ONE meet isn't the end all or be all of your gymnastics journey. It's just one single moment in time.
Whether you do great at your State meet or not so great, take some time to reflect back on your season and remember how far you've come. While you might want to see yourself getting higher and higher scores as the season goes on, there are so many factors that go into play that can affect whether this happens or not.
Instead, think about the things that you've improved on throughout the season. Has your form gotten better? Are you more able to bounce back from mistakes? Are you less nervous at meets? Do you feel stronger? Do you have more power when you vault?
These are the things you should measure as opposed to your scores at one meet over the course of the season.
5. Have fun!
The point of doing gymnastics is to have fun! And judges can tell if you're actually enjoying yourself or not. So even if you're nervous, force a big smile on your face and use that as a cue to remember how much you love doing gymnastics.
Think about how amazing it is that you can flip through the air! Think of how fun it is to swing on the bars. Remind yourself of how cute your competition leotard is!
Gymnastics is meant to be an enjoyable experience. Gymnasts often get so wrapped up in having to do well that they put unnecessary pressure on themselves. Make sure you're remembering why you do gymnastics and soaking up every moment of it.
If you or your gymnast needs support, in addition to the resources below I also offer one-on-one coaching sessions via Zoom.
- Free Downloads: Get free gymnastics downloads to help your gymnast work on her mental skills in gymnastics.
- Stick It Girl Academy: Enroll your gymnast in my membership community where she can learn different mental training techniques and get on a weekly LIVE call with myself and other competitive gymnasts.
- 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