Not qualifying for your State meet in gymnastics (or Regionals or Nationals) can be very disappointing. You've worked hard all season long and you want to be able to see that hard work pay off.
But before that, if you're like most of the gymnasts I'm talking to in my private coaching sessions at the moment, you might still have one or two more meets to try to qualify.
In fact, I'm feeling a sense of this "now or never" feeling that seems to be going around as you make your last ditch effort to get the qualifying scores you need.
While qualifying to States (or Regionals or Nationals) does come with a deadline, it's important NOT to get too caught up in that "last chance" feeling.
In fact, you should never use qualifying for States as a metric for how good of a gymnast you are.
Remember that you spend hours and hours training in the gym to compete for just a few minutes each meet. In fact, if you total up all your competition time for one season it most likely equals less than one hour of actual time competing!
And yet, you've spent countless hours, day in and day out, training and training for these few short minutes!
While competing and showing off what you can do is a great feeling, it shouldn't be the only feeling you live for!
So what happens if you only have one or two meets left to qualify for States?
First of all, the worst thing you can do is put that pressure on yourself. When you're fixated on having to get a certain score in order to qualify, it can send your brain into "danger" mode. And when your brain is in "danger" mode, it's too tense to help you get into a flow and compete your best.
"Danger" mode also causes your nerves to feel worse. Your body is in a heightened state of fight-flight-or-freeze in "danger" mode which means you're more likely to interpret this as signs that you're not ready. For example, when your heart is racing out of your chest and your thoughts are spiraling into more and more negative thoughts, you might question whether you are prepared to compete.
Second, remember that you can't control the outcome. Getting a certain score is an outcome goal and while you might think you have absolute control over this, the truth is you don't. You can show up to a meet prepared and ready to do your best but things can happen that are outside of your control. You might get rushed during warmups. You might hate the feel of the equipment and not be able to find your normal rhythm. You might be competing against gymnasts who are the best in your age group. Or you might have judges who seem to give out low scores.
Instead you need to focus on what you CAN control which are things like how hard you try, what you're focused on, if you're staying in control of your emotions, and other factors that are process-related. When you focus on things you can control, it helps your brain feel better about the situation. And a happy brain lets you perform well.
What if you don't qualify for States or other big gymnastics meets?
It happens. And it might happen to you. And while it isn't the best feeling in the world, it's something you can learn a lot from.
So here are some tips to help you through if this is the case:
1. One meet does not define you.
Whether it's the meet that you didn't qualify for States at or thinking about the actual State meet, this one single meet doesn't define you.
Competition is a chance to put everything you've been learning together in one moment. But it's not the only moment in your gymnastics journey.
Think of the hours and hours that you've spent working towards becoming a better gymnast. While you might believe that all of your hard work was for this one moment, how about reframing it and thinking about all the lessons you've learned along the way in your journey.
It's easy to let one meet decide your worth. But in the end, gymnastics is something you get to experience. And most of those experiences come in the gym when you're not competing. So embrace the journey!
2. Focus on what you can learn from this situation.
Not qualifying can feel disappointing. But what's even more disappointing is if you let another year pass and you made the same mistakes and didn't qualify again. Remember, every meet where you "failed" is an opportunity to learn.
So ask yourself what happened this season that prevented you from qualifying:
- Were you not prepared enough?
- Did you buckle under the pressure?
- Did your nerves cause you to compete poorly?
- Was your form sloppy?
- When you made mistakes at meets, did you have a hard time bouncing back?
- We you unfocused in practices or meets?
- Did you need to be more consistent on your skills?
- Did you get injured?
- Were you unmotivated?
These are all things to think about when assessing your season. Typically, not qualifying for States or another big meet doesn't come down to just that one meet. It's a sum of the choices you've made throughout the season. So it's important to evaluate the things that might have contributed to you not qualifying.
3. Remember that one failure can often lead to greater success.
In 2014, Simone Biles missed qualifying for the Junior National team by one place. Was she upset? Yes! But she didn't let it stop her from moving forward. She went back to the gym and ended up working harder than ever to make sure that she didn't make that same mistake the following year. Obviously she did more than just qualify the following year. She became one of the best female gymnasts the world has ever seen.
While not qualifying for a big meet can feel like a failure, it's important to think about what that disappointment can do for you. For some gymnasts, it's the fuel they need to be more motivated and to work harder. It can make you realize how important your dreams are. It can give you new inspiration.
If you're a gymnast who feels defeated by failure, you might trying working on your growth mindset. A growth mindset is a shift in mentality where you look at failures as opportunities for growth.
Just remember that your path to success might unfold differently than you imagine. So while not qualifying for a big meet can feel defeating, it can also lead to the path of success in a way you never imagined.
4. Measure your success based on other things.
Qualifying to States might be one measure of success but it's not the ONLY one. In fact, it's only one piece of your entire journey.
Instead, think about all the skills you've learned throughout the season. Think of how much better your routines have gotten. Think about how much more endurance you have and how at the beginning of the season you could barely make it through a full routine.
You spend so much time in the gym and regardless of the outcome, that time in the gym is valuable. Remember that YOU and only you get to determine your success and worth.
To those of you who still have a few meets left to qualify for States, remember to focus on things you can control such as putting in a lot of turns at practice, focusing on improving your form, and getting into a good rhythm of saying your cue words during your routines. Take it one day at a time. Focus on the present moment and what you can do. And then take a deep breath and let it all go! Adopt the mentality of "If it's meant to be, it will happen" and then have some fun. Remember, you work so hard all season long and your success doesn't have to be measured by one meet.
If you or your gymnast needs support, in addition to the resources below I also offer one-on-one coaching sessions via Zoom.
- 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