Trust is an important skill to develop in gymnastics.
Without it, you won't have the ability to live up to your potential as a gymnast. And yet many gymnasts do not trust themselves. They doubt their abilities, they question whether they're ready for competition, and they don't have faith in their coaches or training.
What is trust?
Trust is a firm belief in your abilities.
It's also a belief that something will turn out the way you want it to.
Trust can also be a belief that someone (such as your coach) will behave in a certain way that you are expecting.
Trust feels easy and free and light. It feels free of expectations and free of pressure.
Your goal, as a gymnast then, is to learn to trust yourself and your skills and to perform free of expectations and the weight that can hold you back from performing your best.
Why Is Trust So Important?
Trust allows you to perform better because you’re not so stuck on all the muck! You aren't thinking about all the things that could go wrong. You aren't worrying about what someone else thinks of your performance.
You're just going out there and performing your best with confidence.
Having trust frees you up to be the best version of yourself.
There are many different types of trust that you can experience.
Trust isn't just a belief in yourself. It's a feeling you have between many different aspects of your training.
You can have trust between:
- You and your brain
- You and your training
- You and your coach
- You and your parents
- You and your teammates
What gets in the way of trust?
Ideally every gymnast would trust herself and be free to compete in a light and easy way.
Unfortunately this is often not the case.
There are many things that can get in the way of trust. One of the biggest things that can undermine trust are the expectations you feel, either from yourself or from others.
Overthinking can also stop you from getting into a flow state. When you're constantly wondering if what you're doing is right or trying to get something perfect, it will prevent you from having trust. Second-guessing yourself is a big underminer of trust.
How do you build up trust?
There are many ways to build up trust. Like any mental skill, trust is something that must be practiced over and over.
1. Building trust with your brain
One of the best ways to build trust with your brain is to listen to it! This requires you to constantly ask yourself what you need in order to feel safe. Do you need a spot, a mat, or maybe to work on a different skill?
You also build trust with your brain by being nice to yourself. When you treat yourself like your own gym bestie when you're in distress, it shows your brain that it can trust you to do what's best for yourself.
Another way to build up trust with your brain is to stop just chucking skills. When you get stuck on a skill and decide to just "throw" your skill, you end up teaching your brain not to trust you. When it doesn't know what you're going to do, it gets anxious and will take over (such as with a mental block).
2. Building trust with yourself
It's easy to doubt yourself, especially when you're not feeling confident. But one way to trust yourself is to trust your training. You've been working hard and putting in the time. That stands for something! Remember that you are ready and prepared and that you can do this.
Also, it's important to remember that your body knows what to do. You've done these skills and routines so many times that your body now has muscle memory and can do the skills in its sleep!
Remember to let go of overthinking, self-doubt, and over-trying.
Just like a confidence jar, you have an imaginary Trust Fund that you are building. Every time you trust yourself, you deposit “money” into your hypothetical trust fund.
3. Building trust with your coaches and parents
One of the best way to trust your coaches and/or parents is to communicate! This is something that many gymnasts find scary but communication is vital to building up trust. When you need a spot, ask for one. When you need a break, ask for one. When something doesn't feel right, tell your coach and parents. Keeping "secrets" is a quick way to destroy the trust you have with others.
Always keep in mind that your coach wants you to do well. If your coach is hard on you, it just means she/he knows what you are capable of and is pushing you.
It's also worth being open-minded when it comes to your coach's way of doing things. Just because it might not be a way you had thought of or would prefer to do, it might still be a valid way of doing things. Allow yourself to be open and trusting of your coach's suggestions.
More Ways To Build Trust
- Stay in the present moment - when you are in the present moment your mind is focused on what it needs to be focused on instead of worrying about all the "what-ifs" in the future or negative experiences from the past.
- Let go of expectations - when you hold the weight of big expectations on your shoulders, you will never be free to trust. Let those expectations go and just go out there and do your best.
- Let go of “stuck” beliefs such as “I always fall” or “I never do well” or “I’m just a nervous person" - it's important to work on your growth mindset so you can move past negative fixed mindset beliefs that are holding you stuck. With these beliefs you will never fully trust yourself.
- Let go of knowing what will happen - it's ok not to know what the outcome will be. Learn to just be in the moment and take the outcome as it comes.
- The best way to trust is to take a risk or just go for it - sometimes the best way to trust is to just go for it! At some point or another you have to have blind faith and just take the leap. Challenge yourself to "just go for it" sometimes and see what happens.
- Practice meditation - being able to quiet your mind will help bring you back to the present. It will give you a broader perspective that can help you realize that everything will be ok.
At the end of the day, remember that trust is an important skill that takes time to develop. When you decide to stay in the present moment and stop overthinking and worrying about the future while listening to your brain you can slowly but surely grow the trust you have. You want to work on developing a trust with your brain and yourself by being kind to yourself and doing the things you really need in each moment such as asking for a spot or a mat. Always remember your coaches want you to succeed so it's important that you trust them. The best way to build up that trust bank is by communicating with them as much as possible.
Most of all, think of how amazing it would be to compete with total trust. Sit with that feeling for a little bit and really feel what it's like. Trust is a beautiful thing!
If you or your gymnast needs support, in addition to the resources below I also offer one-on-one coaching sessions via Zoom.
- Stick It Girl Academy: For competitive gymnasts who want to live into their potential and need that extra push in mental training
- 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