As meet season approaches for many optional level gymnasts, it's important to focus on the mental side of gymnastics.
You've been training hard all season, learning new skills and perfecting old ones.
But what often gets overlooked is your mental training.
In order to have a good gymnastics meet season, you need to spend as much time on your mental game as you do in the gym.
Here are 3 areas you need to work on in order to prepare yourself mentally for gymnastics meet season:
#1: Managing Your Nerves
Nerves can make or break your gymnastics competition season. If you are a gymnast who is affected by nerves and you don't have a plan in place to handle them, then you are entering meet season two steps behind.
It's important that you know how to handle your nerves when you feel them coming on, as well as how to set yourself up ahead of time so you keep your nerves at bay. Here are a few articles I've written about this topic:
These articles are worth re-reading now that competition season is upon you!
In addition, having a pre-meet routine will help get both your body and mind ready for competition. Practicing and using breathing techniques will help you calm down the fight-flight-or-freeze response that happens when your brain senses danger, as can happen when you're competing. Feeling confident about your routines will also help you feel less nervous at your meets.
#2: Developing Your Imagery Skills
Imagery is a mental skill that will help you not only learn new gymnastics skills but also perform better at your gymnastics meets. Imagery is when you create a video in your mind of you doing your skill. It should be vivid and include all of your senses in order to feel as real as possible.
The coolest part about imagery is that your mind doesn't know the difference between a skill it is seeing in your mind versus a skill your body is actually doing! That's what makes imagery so effective. If you practice it daily, you will not only improve your routines but build up your confidence.
Another great way to use visualization to your advantage in gymnastics is to create a highlights reel for yourself that you watch over and over. A highlights reel is a video that has a few of your best routines spliced together back-to-back. You can watch this over and over to imprint these successful images into your mind. This is also a great way to build up your confidence for meet season.
#3: Adopting a Growth Mindset
Going into any season, it's likely you have high expectations or goals you want to accomplish. Expectations are great. You SHOULD have them. But if you don't meet those expectations, you need to be able to shift your focus so that you can get back on track.
That's where a growth mindset comes into place. Having a growth mindset in gymnastics means embracing failure and using it as a learning experience. It means being satisfied with trying and failing, even if you don't get the outcome you hope for.
I'm not saying you should get rid of your expectations entirely. Nor should you lower them. But it's necessary to fail in order to get better. And the sooner you can embrace this, the better off you'll be. When gymnasts who are perfectionists play it safe because they're afraid of failing, they prevent themselves from growing into their full potential.
If you go into your season with an attitude that every experience is a learning opportunity and that you can grow from every failure, you'll have a truly satisfying season. Remember, the journey of gymnastics is worth enjoying. If you save your joy for when you've achieved big things you rob yourself of positive experiences along the way.
Again, the mental aspect of gymnastics is just as important as the physical aspect of gymnastics. To be successful this meet season, you should put equal importance on growing your mental skills. First, you want to make sure you're putting a system in place for managing your nerves so that you can compete as well as you practice. Then you'll want to focus on building up your imagery skills so you can use them to help you become a better gymnast. And finally, make sure you embrace failure and the journey by adopting a growth mindset in gymnastics.
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