Wondering how to perform better at your next gymnastics meet?
If you're one of the lucky ones who gets to compete, then I bet you're looking for ways to do better at your meet (especially if you have State and Regional meets coming up).
I know you've been working hard in practice and there is no better feeling than putting it all together for your meet.
Unfortunately many gymnasts find they don't compete as well as they train in practice.
So today I'm going to give you tips for how to perform better in your next gymnastics meet.
There are a few reasons for why a gymnast might not compete as well as she performs in practice.
The first one is pretty obvious:
Number 1 - Many gymnasts get nervous and have a hard time controlling their nerves when they compete
This one is a common reason for why gymnasts don't do as well in meets as in practice.
You might be a nervous gymnast and perhaps you know full well what it's like to go to a meet and not do as well as you know you can do.
Maybe your hands and legs shake, the palms and balls of your feet get sweaty so you slip, or you just can't seem to focus at all. Maybe you buckle under pressure and give up easily.
Or maybe you have so much energy that you can't control your tumbling passes or vaults so you take extra steps on your landings or go out of bounds on your tumbling passes.
These are all common reactions to competition stress.
I've already talked about the best way to calm nerves before meets so I'm not going to dive into that topic again.
But obviously competition can create an environment that feels different or more high-pressured than everyday practice. When you sense that stress you can go into a fight or flight response which causes extra adrenaline to circulate throughout your body. This extra adrenaline produces an increase in energy and can lead to mistakes if you don't know how to manage it.
While this might be frustrating to you, the good news is that you can work on controlling your nerves through breathing exercises and other techniques.
Once you learn how to calm your nerves you can be free to allow yourself to perform at the same level you do in practice.
Number 2 - Most gymnasts train with the mentality that the harder they work in practice, the better they will do in meets
Another reason you might not be competing as well as you do in practice is because you might think that the hard work you put into practice will automatically translate into better performances at meets.
Unfortunately this is not often the case and this is where many gymnasts go wrong.
Practice and competition are two different beasts and they have to be treated differently.
There are specific mental skills all gymnasts must learn and improve upon if they are going to perform well at meets.
Aside from controlling your nerves, as I mentioned before, it's vital that you learn what your ideal state is as far as energy level, self-talk, and focus for your meets.
In order to determine these ideal states, you can work through the self-awareness questions in the section below.
So How Can You Perform Better At Your Gymnastics Meets?
There are specific things you can do as a gymnast to prime yourself to have the best meet possible.
These include asking yourself a set of awareness questions that can help you understand what type of environment you need to create for yourself in order to thrive in competition.
To do this, answer the questions below:
Think About Your Best Meet/Routine Ever
1. Before you did your best routine, what was your energy level?
Were you revved up with lots of energy or did you have very low energy and low emotion?
Were you somewhere in the middle.
Did you listen to pump up music or relaxing music?
What was your sweet spot as far as energy level?
2. How were your nerves during your best meet ever?
Were you very worried or were you not worried at all?
Were you thinking about how good you were going to do on your routine or were you thinking about things like not falling and just getting through your routine?
3. What did you say to yourself before you did your best routine?
Did you say positive words like "I Can Do This" or "Let's Go"?
Did you say words such as "Focus" or "Breathe"?
Or did you not say anything at all?
4. During your best routine, where was your focus?
Were you laser-focused on your routine and did you block out the rest of the world?
Or were you aware of everyone in your surroundings and less focused on your routine?
Were you focused on certain aspects of your routine?
Where was your focus?
This is an important one to figure out.
Now Think About Your Worst Routine/Meet Ever
1. Before you did your worst routine, what was your energy level?
Were you revved up with lots of energy or did you have very low energy and low emotion?
Or maybe you were somewhere in the middle.
Think about what kind of energy level you had before your worst meet.
Did your energy level feel unmanageable to you?
2. How were your nerves before your worst meet?
Were you very worried? Were you sweating profusely?
Were your hands trembling?
Or were you not worried at all?
Maybe you really didn't care?
3. What did you say to yourself before you did your worst routine?
Did you say things like "I'm going to fall" or "Let me just get this over with" or "I'm never going to do my back handspring"? Or did you say or think nothing at all?
4. Where was your focus during your worst routine?
Did you have trouble focusing on your routine?
Were you focused at first and then after you made a mistake your focus drifted to only thinking about your mistake?
Once you have written down the answers to these two sets of questions about your best and worst routines at meets you now have valuable information you can use to help yourself improve in your future meets.
Make sure you take a few minutes to reflect on your answers because the more time you spend reflecting on these scenarios, the more information you can gather that will help you in the future.
You can reflect on your answers by asking further questions such as:
What did I notice about my best meets?
Did I do things differently during my best meet than I did during my worst meet?
Was there one particular area (nerves, energy, self-talk, focus) that differed greatly between my best and worst meets?
Using This Information You Can Create Your Ideal Competition Environment
Using the information you just gathered from your self-awareness questions you can then begin to understand your ideal competition environment. Then you can work to re-create this environment at future meets.
For example, if you realized that you did better when you were listening to calming music then you can include calming music in your pre-routine ritual.
If you realized that a quick internal pep-talk helped you get motivated for your routine then you can practice using your positive self-talk before your routines.
If you found that you were laser-focused during your best routines then you can work on re-creating that type of focus again by using focus words to remind yourself to focus during your routine.
Some gymnasts even count steps or put specific words to skills so that might work for you.
The point here is that every gymnast needs different things as their ideal competition environment.
So if your teammates like to listen to rap songs before their meets and you prefer more relaxing music, then you should do YOUR thing and not pay attention to what your teammates do.
This information about ideal competition environment can and should also be used in your practices during the week.
You can practice using positive self-talk before you start a routine run-through.
Or you can pump yourself up or down before practice by listening to music on the way to the gym.
You can even play a game of focus where you see if you can tune out your teammates during your routines.
The more you can do in practice to prepare your mind for your ideal mental state, the easier it will be when competition day comes.
Those are some of the reasons why many gymnasts do not perform as well in their meets as they do in competition.
Using these self-awareness tips you can practice setting up the ideal environment for yourself so that when you go to your next meet you will set yourself up for a more successful outcome.
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