Ever wonder what to say or do before, during, and after your gymnast's meet?

What to Say or Do Before, During, And After Your Gymnast's Meet - Stick It Girl Blog

As parents, you work hard to give your gymnast the support she needs. 

You drive her back and forth to practice, you pay thousands of dollars for gymnastics expenses throughout her season, you sacrifice your weekends for meets, you feed her meals at odd times, you take her to doctors and specialists, you hire gymnastics mental coaches, you buy many (often unnecessary but fun) leotards...and the list goes on and on.

At the heart of it, you want to do whatever you can to help your gymnast be successful and find confidence and joy in herself and her abilities.

So here's the kicker...

Sometimes what you think your gymnast needs is not actually what she wants from you!

You might feel like you're doing what's "best" for her. Obviously that's why you do what you do.

But without realizing it, you might be causing more harm than good.

A great example of this is your actions when it comes to competitions. Meets can be a very stressful situation for a lot of gymnasts. So it's important that you are doing things that can help your gymnast compete her best rather than make it more challenging for her.

Some parents wonder whether they should bribe their gymnasts with a sweet treat to get her to score higher?

Others wonder if they should be trying to motivate their gymnasts in some way to fire them up so they'll compete better?

Parents ask if they should be giving corrections or tips before the meet begins or when discussing the meet afterwards? 

In this blog, I'll give you some tips. But hint...the answer to the above questions is no!

 

Here are some tips for what you can do and say before, during, and after your gymnast's meet:

Before/On The Way To Your Gymnast's Meet

Right before a meet, you might think you need to remind your gymnast of all the corrections and the proper technique she needs to focus on in order to score high at her meet. You might give her reminders like "Remember to focus on form. Squeeze your legs together and point your toes." Or you might say "Just remember to smile and show off your personality!" 

While you think your gymnast needs to hear these things, the right time is definitely not before she's getting ready to compete.

{And I might argue that those tips and corrections are things her coaches should be telling her and not you. It's hard to remember your role is being her parent when you're so invested in seeing her succeed.}

In addition, your gymnast is likely nervous before her meet. She might be in fight-or-flight mode with racing thoughts, butterflies in her tummy, or tense muscles. Giving her corrections or tips right before her meet is enough to send her brain into overdrive, which is not helpful for her.

Instead, before your gymnast's meet is a great time to help your gymnast get  centered and focused. One great way to do this is through deep breathing. You want her to take slow, deep breaths that can help to calm her nerves and deactivate her fight-or-flight response. While telling her to do this might backfire, you can model this for her by taking your own deep (and loud - so she can hear) breaths. Through co-regulation, your gymnast will start to breath the same way herself. Plus, if you're at all anxious for this meet, you'll calm your own nerves down too.

Some gymnasts who feel really tense before competing might need to get out of their heads and into their bodies more. If you're having conversations about her teammates or mentioning things her coach told her, it might be too much for her to process in that moment.

Instead, think about how you can help your gymnast have some fun. One way to do this is by lightening up the mood by having a dance party either in her hotel room or in the car on the way to the meet. Or if your gymnast isn't the dancing type, try listening to her favorite playlist in the car. Most gymnasts have songs they like to listen to that help to get them into the right mindset to compete. Ask your gymnast if she wants to listen to those songs. It's possible your gymnast likes the quiet too. If that's the case, keep the music off.

Again, the goal is to help your gymnast stop overthinking and find ways to calm her nerves. Every gymnast is different but as a general rule, it's best to avoid giving her tips for how to do well and not engage in a lot of conversation. Then focus on modeling deep breathing and possibly lightening the mood by dancing it out or listening to music so your gymnast can get out of her head and into her body more.

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During Your Gymnast's Meet

While your gymnast is competing, there's not much you can do at that point as far as helping her. You can't run down onto the floor and calm your gymnast down if she had a bad routine or is crying. You can't compete her routines for her. It can be a very helpless and nerve racking feeling as a parent. Just imagine how your gymnast might be feeling!

But while you can't help her, there are things you might do that can affect your gymnast in a negative way. One of those big things is cheering. Every gymnast is different and needs a different type of support at her meet. Some like to get motivated and hear the crowd cheering them on. Other's prefer to think no one is watching them, especially if they get stage fright or feel uncomfortable in the spotlight.

The best thing you can do?

Ask your gymnast ahead of time what she likes you to do while she competes. She is the best gauge of what she needs during her meet and she can tell you what helps her during her meet and what makes her feel uncomfortable.

Then, even if her answer is different than how you'd like to support her, do what she wants and needs. Remember this is about her and not you! No one will think you're an unsupportive parent if you aren't screaming at the top of your lungs when your gymnast gets up to compete!

In addition, if you get really nervous while your gymnast competes, find ways to calm your own nerves down so your gymnast doesn't sense your nervous energy when she looks at you in the crowd. Remember to call on that deep breathing you did before your gymnast's meet to help calm you and her down. That's also useful for you to do during her meet so she doesn't see a nervous Nelly hanging out in the stands. 

Also, most gymnasts like to have their routines recorded. So one way to distract yourself is to focus on capturing her routines on video as though you are the sports videographer. You can also keep busy by writing down scores and watching her teammates compete. If you know you get super nervous, you might bring a crossword puzzle or a book or find something to do while you're waiting in between routines.

The goal, of course, is to not do anything that is going to distract your gymnast from what she needs to focus on at her meet, while also calming your own nerves down so your gymnast doesn't pick up on your nervous energy.

 

After Your Gymnast's Meet

When your gymnast has finished competing, it's time to put her meet to rest. Sure, there are things you might want to tell her or talk about but it's best to allow your gymnast to take the lead here.

Some gymnasts like to gab right away about all the things that happened during their meets. While others get really silent and retreat (especially true if they've had poor routines at their meet).

While you might think you need to pull out every last emotion and thought from your gymnast after her meet, the truth is that it's better to let her have some time to process what happened. More often than not, gymnasts will want to talk about their meets later that day or the next day after they've had a chance to decompress from the exciting but stressful competition.

While this should have been mentioned before, it's important that you give your gymnast something to look forward to for after her meet. So before she gets to her competition, you can decide on what you might do after the meet. It might be going for ice cream or dinner. It might be going home and watching a family movie. Regardless of what it is, having a plan for after the meet allows your gymnast to not feel so much stress at her meet because she knows that regardless of what happens, there are plans for what to do after her meet. 

Another important tip is not to give her corrections at this point either. You might want to share some observations you had like how her form was sloppy on floor and how she could have earned a few extra tenths if she just straightened her legs. Or you might want to talk about a beautiful routine you saw her teammate do or the perfect 10 that a gymnast from another team earned at that meet.

But trust me, now is not the time for it. Again, as far as corrections are concerned, you can leave that for her coaches. Or at the very least, your gymnast will likely watch back her routines at some point and will notice those mistakes herself. It's better that those "tips" don't come from you.

Finally, remember that some gymnasts process disappointment differently. While some might cry, others get silent. Understanding your own gymnast's emotional response is important so you know how to comfort her. Most of the time the best response is to give her a hug and tell her you love her. Telling her that it "wasn't that bad" or that she "shouldn't be disappointed" only invalidates the feelings she's having. Allow her to have those feelings in a safe space by not deciding how she SHOULD feel and giving her time to feel these emotions of disappointment.

 

Being a parent of a gymnast is a tough job as it is. But parenting through competitions can be its own beast! Remember to stay in your lane as far as parenting is concerned - your job is to be her parent and not her coach. You're there for support and to help your gymnast find her most effective "zone" for competing her best right before her meet, during, and after. When in doubt, ask your gymnast what she needs and then give her what that is. She's the best gauge of what helps her feel confident and prepared for her gymnastics meets.

 

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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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