Do you want to help your gymnast get her kip?
If you haven't heard the "K" word yet, you certainly will soon.
"K" stands for kip, a crucial skill on bars that all gymnasts need to move up to level 4 in competitive gymnastics.
It's one of the most fundamental skills on uneven bars and yet it is one of the hardest gymnastics skills to "get."
On a physical level, a kip requires strength and timing to execute.
But on a mental level, a kip requires focus and perseverance and an unwavering dedication to keep trying.
So what do you do if you gymnast has been struggling to get her kip and is feeling defeated?
How do you help her keep her mind focused and prevent it from straying to the negative place of "I can't"?
Here are 3 Tips for helping your gymnast get her kip
Number 1: Make A Game Out Of Trying
Learning a hard and potentially frustrating gymnastics skill doesn't always go hand in hand with the word "game."
But frustration can have negative effects on learning new skills.
Once a gymnast enters into the land of frustration she can go into a dark place and her frustration over not being able to do a kip can transfer into other skills/areas of gymnastics.
Frustration can turn into low self-esteem.
And inevitably, it will lead her to play the comparison game with other gymnasts which will stop her from being at her best.
I like a game called "Go For Nope."
You pick a large number, say 500, and ask your gymnast if she thinks she can try 500 times to do her kip.
You keep a piece of paper and write down a hash mark every time she tries her kip. If she's at the gym she will keep mental track of how many kips she tried and write down her hashmarks after practice.
While it might seem like the focus is on how many kips she cannot do, in actuality you are switching her focus to the process of learning and away from the "I have to get this kip" mentality.
Just easing up on the pressure of having to get her kip will help her tremendously! Plus she'll get excited for every time she gets to write down another hashmark.
If she gets to the number you agreed upon and still hasn't gotten her kip then reward her! Yes, reward her!
The goal is to get to the number you picked and if she gets there then she gets a reward for putting forth all that effort.
Again, the goal is to reward the process and to focus less on the outcome.
You can then start over with a new goal and a fresh piece of paper.
In the end when she does get her kip you can use it as a learning tool to show her how hard she tried and how much work it takes to learn new skills.
The next time she's struggling to learn a new skill in gymnastics you can remind her of how many attempts it took her to get her kip but that she eventually got it!
I also have a great printable below called "The More I Try, The More I Learn" worksheet. Your gymnast will write down her kip and then fill in a star for every time she tries her kip. This is the same idea as the "Go For Nope" game. You can download it for free below by clicking on the picture.
Number 2: Teach Her To Visualize Her Kip In Her Mind
Mental imagery or visualization (not exactly the same but we'll use them interchangeably here) is the process of a gymnast seeing herself completing a skill in her mind.
It involves her senses and feelings as well as the ability to form pictures in her head.
This is not an easy skill for young gymnasts to learn but it's a skill worth developing.
The younger a gymnast starts learning how to do this, the easier this skill will be for her over time.
To teach your gymnast to visualize, sit down with her one day and tell her that you want her to try something new:
She might not be able to visualize her kip at first and that's ok.
Maybe she just sees black or her mind is wandering to different things.
That's all a normal part of visualization.
Like all skills, mental imagery takes practice.
On the other hand, maybe she can see herself in her mind but she just sees herself falling every time she tries the kip like she does in practice.
If that's the case then have her do the imagery exercise again but this time she should imagine her coach spotting her and helping her up.
Have her do that until she's able to see and feel that experience of doing a kip (with or without her coach) in her mind.
The great thing about visualization is that it "tricks" the mind into believing that which it is seeing is real.
The more senses your gymnast can involve in her visualization, the better. Ask her things like "What do you see?", "What do you hear?", and "What do you smell?"
When she gets the hang of this, you can encourage her to do this a few times every day.
With some practice, she'll get the kip in her mind which will help her get it in real life.
Again, her mind doesn't know whether the visualization is "real" or not. But by practicing her kip in her mind she will train her body to follow.
Number 3: Do Something Fun To Take Her Mind Off Not Getting Her Kip
Your gymnast has enough pressure at the gym to get her kip from her coach and teammates. She most likely also feels pressure from herself.
So when she comes home from practice and seems bummed out, don't ask her "Did you get your kip?" or "How is your kip going?"
Instead, act like getting her kip is not that big of a deal.
Of course we know it is a big deal and we know how much she wants to get it.
But when she's sobbing in her bedroom because she really wants her kip and can't get it, for example, don't indulge her in her sulking.
It's heartbreaking to see your gymnast like this but this is not the first nor last time that she is going to go through this, in gymnastics nor in life.
Acknowledge her disappointment but then move on quickly.
Whenever you find she is dwelling on not having her kip, find ways to distract her with fun things.
Maybe go grab ice cream with her one day after a particularly bad practice.
Or watch her favorite gymnastics movie when she seems frustrated.
Give her as many opportunities to NOT think about her kip when she is stuck in a pattern of thinking about not getting her kip.
The more laughter, the better. This takes her into a place of less resistance.
Getting a kip is a crucial step to building up your gymnast's skill set and moving up to level 4 in competitive gymnastics.
For some gymnasts, a kip takes a long time to learn.
Remind your gymnast that she is on her own journey and that every gymnast learns things at their own pace.
There is no right or wrong journey in gymnastics.
Remember to make learning a kip about the process and not about the end result.
Teach and encourage her to "practice" her kip in her mind.
And find ways to get your gymnast's mind off her kip when she is dwelling on not having it.
Good luck to all the gymnasts out there learning kips and to the gym parents who are along for the ride!
Leave me a comment below and let me know if these tips help.
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