Turning setbacks into comebacks in gymnastics is an important skill to learn!

Setbacks! We all have them. In fact, even Olympic gymnasts have setbacks. (Hello Tokyo Olympics 2020!) Many gymnasts were primed and ready to go for the original Tokyo Olympics and then had to deal with the setback of waiting an ENTIRE year! 

Turning Setbacks Into Comebacks in Gymnastics


Just like failure, setbacks can feel awful. Often setbacks occur at the least opportune time. We might be cruising along and everything is going well until a setback happens. Sometimes setbacks can even catch us completely off guard. We might get injured when we were least expecting it. A competition might get canceled. We might move and switch gyms. Our coaches might retire. There are sooooo many things that can happen to set us off course.

This past weekend at the US Championships we saw Laurie Hernandez fall on her dismount during her beam warmup and re-injure her knee. This took her out of Day 2's competition. Was she planning for that to happen? Of course not. Again, setbacks happen when we least expect them.

The good news is that there is a positive to every setback! If we turn setbacks into comebacks then we might actually end up in a better place than where we started. And that is pretty awesome!

Here is one of the biggest things to remember about setbacks: Just because you can't see change or growth doesn't mean it's not there.

Growth always happens after setbacks. You just have to trust that it will reveal itself to you in time.

I've put together some tips for turning setbacks into comebacks in gymnastics:

1. Allow Yourself To Feel All The Feels After A Setback

I have said this about failure and the same thing is true about setbacks. Setbacks can really sting so its totally expected that you're going to get angry, sad, or feel disappointed. Take time to feel all the feels and to allow yourself to grieve through that moment.

But then here's the key...don't stay in that place. Get all the feels out and then put them all behind you so you can start working on your comeback.

How long should you allow yourself to go through these negative emotions? The answer is different for everyone depending on the situation. The important thing is that you aren't wallowing in your sorrow. You should be getting those feelings out and then moving forward as soon as you're able to.

2. Remember - Frustration Is A Natural Part Of Being A High Level Gymnast

All gymnasts experience frustration. You might be able to do a skill perfectly one day and then the next day you can't do any skills to save your life! One day you might be doing a skill that you competed the week before and now all of a sudden you're blocking on it. 

That's a normal part of gymnastics! All gymnasts, from novice to elite, must work through frustration in order to keep moving forward. In fact, as the saying goes: In order to ride the waves of life, you must learn how to surf. Being adaptable and able to flow with any situation is important to becoming a better gymnast.

And what is most important is that gymnasts feel the frustration but then move towards changing it instead of staying stuck there.


3. Find The Opportunity You Gained From Your Setback

One of the most important parts of turning setbacks into comebacks it to find the opportunity you gained as a result of your setback. Elite gymnasts who were preparing for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020 had to pivot and change their path when the Olympics got postponed. From that experience, many of them got the opportunity to work on their strength and conditioning. They were able to train harder for longer. They got "gifts" they wouldn't have had if the games had not been postponed. 

Was this a golden opportunity for all the elite gymnasts involved? Absolutely not. Some gymnasts were ready to peak in 2020 and an extra year of training meant trying to hold on when they were already ready to go. But even those gymnasts grew from that experience in some way or another which one day in the future will be their comeback story.

So try this exercise. Think of your biggest setback and then complete this statement: Yes! Now I have the opportunity to.....

What is something you now get to do because of your setback. What is something positive that has come out of it? 

Every time you have a setback I want you to approach it with this attitude of "what did I gain from it?"


4. Make The Decision That You Will Not Settle For Continuous Negative Thoughts

Again, it's acceptable to go through all the emotions and feel upset about a setback that has just happened. However, it's not an excuse to ride the negativity train. All good gymnasts know they must manage their negative thoughts, even if it feels like a full time job to do so!

Be mindful of your words. And be aware of the words you speak to yourself. If you find yourself going on a negative rampage, do something to get your mind off the setback. It could be a run, a bath, getting lost in music, dancing, or taking a nap.

The key is not to allow your negative thoughts to consume you. 


5. Write Your Own Comeback Story

There is so much power in writing down your goals and dreams and a comeback story is no different. Think about what you want your comeback story to look like. What happens as a result of your setback? What gains do you make? What does your gymnastics journey look like one month or even one year from now? How are you better?

Take some time to really think about this exercise and to make it as vivid as possible. The more realistic it is, the more you can truly feel your comeback story happening. 


Turning Setbacks Into Comebacks In Gymnastics 

So there are 5 techniques for turning setbacks into comebacks. Again, remember that your gymnastics journey will have ups and downs and that the important thing is that you learn how to ride those waves with grace. Remember to allow yourself to feel disappointed after your setback but then move on as soon as you can so you can write your comeback story.




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 Blocks Guidebook for Parents


Helpful Links:



Gymnastics Mental Coach Anna Kojac, M.Ed.



Back to blog

Leave a comment