Bad meets happen.

In fact they happen to even the best gymnasts in the world.

How To Respond To Your Gymnast After She's Had A Bad Meet

Some gymnasts handle the disappointment of bad meets better than others which can sometimes make recovering from a disappointment like this easier for them.

And other gymnasts take a long time to overcome their feelings of frustration or anger or express really big emotions after a bad meet.

In either case, it's important that you, as her parent, learn how to respond to your gymnast in a helpful way after she's had a disappointing meet.

 

So what makes a meet "bad?"

While I hate using the word "bad" to describe meets, most of the gymnasts I talk to categorize their meets in this way.

What does "bad" mean to a gymnast?

Depending on your gymnast, a "bad" meet could mean that she doesn't live up to her own expectations or those of her coaches. It could mean a fall on a routine or letting nerves get the best of her while competing. Or it could be not placing where she wants to place.


As a result, it's important that you understand your gymnast and know her triggers.

One way to do this is to reflect back on meets when your gymnast felt disappointed and remember how she responded after her meet. Did she shut down ("I don't want to talk about it")? Did she snarl or have an angry face and disposition? Did she cry in the car on the way home? Recognizing the signs of a "bad" meet for your gymnast is an important first step in knowing how to respond to her. 

Next, it's important that you recognize the way in which your gymnast copes.

Does she like to cry it out and then go for ice cream and feels better? Does she hold her negative feelings in and let them get bigger and bigger until she finally blows up? Does she shut down and remain silent and not talk about it at all?

Every gymnast has her own style of coping. The goal is to recognize what your gymnast's coping method is so you can be empathetic and offer the best possible support to help her after she's had a bad meet. 

If your gymnast's coping style is negative or doesn't allow her to cope with her disappointment effectively, then you might find ways to help her cope better. However, the goal is not to decide what is best for your gymnast but rather to allow your gymnast to feel her feelings and learn how to cope with her feelings in a way that makes sense to her. Some gymnasts need days to get over their disappointment while others can immediately bounce back. Neither is better. They're just different. 

 

As her parent, there are some important things to remember when it comes to responding to your gymnast after she's had a bad meet:

 1. Don't invalidate her feelings

"Oh, it wasn't that bad" or "Cheer up" or "Could have been worse" are all ways of invalidating the disappointment or anger your gymnast is feeling after a bad meet.

While you don't want her to dwell on those negative feelings, it's important that she feels them. If your gymnast didn't do as well as she would have liked at her meet, she definitely needs to feel her feelings about it before moving on.

Give your gymnast the space to feel those feelings by not jumping in to make her feel better. A simple hug at the end of her meet will do without the commentary or advice. Lending a listening ear is also crucial to allowing your gymnast to vent if she chooses. Remember how I said before that it's important to understand your gymnast's coping style. If your gymnast likes to go inward and remain silent after a bad meet, don't force her to talk. The goal is to respect the way she copes and to foster an environment in which she can feel free to cope with a bad meet in a way that works for her.

 

2. Don't explain to her what she could have done differently in order to improve in the future

Your gymnast is upset. She's disappointed in herself. And she wishes she had turned out a better meet. 

But she doesn't need to hear how she could have done better in that very moment. While you might be tempted to give some technical advice so your gymnast can improve in the future, now is NOT the time.

Write notes for yourself and when her emotions have cooled off and the meet is not so raw, then you can potentially have a conversation with her about things you might have noticed at her meet. Take note, however...even this is something I wouldn't suggest you do since your role is to be a parent (and let her coach be coach).

But sometimes gymnasts like to discuss their meets and if you feel it's appropriate, giving some observations might be helpful to your gymnast. This might look like: "I noticed that you had your head down on floor during your routine" or "I noticed you rushed through your bar routine."

Just make sure you don't spew out a list of corrections right after your gymnast's bad meet. Her brain isn't ready to receive it AND you'll end up doing more damage to her already fragile ego. 

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3. Don't compare her to her teammates

Things like: "Well you didn't do as bad as _________(insert teammate's name)" or "At least you weren't last" are not helpful statements after your gymnast has a bad meet.

I think it goes without saying but comments like "Wow, _________(insert teammate's name) got first all around! Isn't that great?!" is also not helpful after your gymnast is coming off an unsuccessful competition of her own.

Your gymnast doesn't have to feel compared to anyone else. Chances are, her disappointment is in letting herself down and not living up to her own expectations. When you start throwing in comparisons to her teammates, you've given her reason to feel more badly about her ability. And some gymnasts are acutely aware of how they compare to their teammates already.

It's important that any comparisons made are between your gymnast and her own past performances. Avoid any type of comparison to other gymnasts.

 

4. Do be a sounding board for your gymnast

If your gymnast is the talkative type when her emotions are high, then be her sounding board. Allow your gymnast to vent without offering advice. While this is difficult for many parents to do, chances are your gymnast just wants you to listen. 

It's common to want to jump in with advice. Whether it's giving a technical correction or telling your gymnast why she shouldn't be so disappointed, I assure you that your gymnast isn't open to receiving this information from you at this time.

The best course of action is to let your gymnast talk about her disappointment if she wants to. And to allow her to be silent about it if she wants to. Let your gymnast lead your actions instead of the other way around. 

One thing that I've found to be helpful for gymnasts is for you (their parent) to share stories of your own disappointment. While I don't suggest doing this right after your gymnast's bad meet, you might mention a story of your own disappointment later on in the week to show her that you understand what it's like. Planting these seeds of empathy can help your gymnast trust you more fully in the future when she's in a similar situation again.

 

5. Do focus on what you're going to do after the meet

Before her meet has started, it's always a good idea to have a plan for what to do after her meet is over. You might plan out dinner or take-out food or going home and watching a movie before the meet even starts so your gymnast already has something to focus on beyond the meet. 

But if you hadn't discussed it before the meet, then right after your gymnast's meet is over, discuss your next plan. This gets your gymnast's mind onto something else and doesn't allow her to wallow in her disappointment.

If you know she likes to eat ice cream after a disappointing meet, then suggest going for ice cream. If you know she likes to go inward and wallow for a bit, then suggest going home and watching a movie or curling up in pajamas. Forcing your gymnast to go out after her meet to try to cheer her up when she prefers to stay silent is unhelpful.

 

After your gymnast has a bad meet, it's natural to want to cheer her up or to point out her strengths. But most gymnasts need to cope in their own way which includes feeling their disappointment in a way that makes sense to them. As a result, it's important as her parent that you understand how your gymnast best copes and to allow her to cope in this way. That means not offering advice or trying to direct how she manages her disappointment. 

It also means allowing her to feel her feelings without invalidating them and listening to her with your full attention if she's venting about her meet. 

Having a plan for what to do after the meet can take some of the sting of disappointment away as well, especially if you have something planned that can help your gymnast feel better.

While coping with disappointment after a bad meet is never easy for any gymnast, having a supportive parent who allows her to feel her feelings and cope in her own way can help your gymnast manage her emotions better and get past this disappointment more quickly.

 

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

 

Gymnastics Mental Block Guidebook for Parents - Stick It Girl

 

Helpful Links:

 

  • 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

 

Gymnastics Mental Coach Anna Kojac, M.Ed.

 

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