Gymnasts and Peak Performance
Gymnastics and other sports are about much more than physical skills and talent. They require focus, concentration, endurance, patience, and the ability to bounce back from setbacks. Those are all mental toughness skills and if you want to become a champion you'll need to consistenly work on this mental side of your abilities.
Is Your Head Holding You Back in the Gym?

Welcome to the mental side of gymnastics!

Fear is probably one of the biggest mental challenges facing the gymnastics coach, gymnast and their parents. Becoming a mentally tough gymnast means that you need to learn how to move towards and master this fear. Fear is not always as bad as everyone makes it out to be. First of all, a gymnast with absolutely no fear is an accident waiting to happen. Fear keeps you safe in the gym and is frequently a signal to your brain that your body may not yet be ready to safely attempt a skill. (Perhaps you lack the flexibility, spatial awareness or timing to accomplish it). Believe it or not, fear is also a positive indication that you're moving up to the next level in this sport. Every time you attempt a new skill or otherwise step outside of your comfort zone, fear will be there to greet you. 

So what do you do about this or any kind of fear in the gym? Most coaches, parents and even gymnasts believe that the athlete must push themselves towards their fear in order to overcome it. Let me let you in on a slightly obvious secret here! THIS IS FAR EASIER SAID, THAN DONE! 

What causes the gymnast to lose skills?

All too often, gymnasts who mysteriously lose their skills, can't simply get themselves to "just go for it!" They tell me, "No matter what I try, I can't get myself to go!" or "Something in the back of my mind is stopping me!"

Often many performance fears and blocks in the gym are fed by past physically and/or emotionally upsetting events.

You get lost in the middle of a skill, get the wind knocked out of you and scare yourself badly. Or you have a hard fall and get bruised or injured. Or you see someone else get hurt or have your coach get angry with and yell at you. Athletes tend to automatically memorize these upsetting events and will hold them in their minds and bodies for months or more, long after the upsetting event has been forgotten. You may not see a block right away, but at some point, there's a "trigger event." The gymnast has another scary fall or is in some way reminded of the past upset. And it's these old past upsets that ultimately end up fueling the gymnast's current performance problem.

But the good news here is that a gymnast can systematically learn to recognize and work with that feeling of inner danger, calm their nervous system down and get their skills back!

This is the process that I teach gymnasts, along with how to develop the other mental toughness skills which will help them take their performance to the next level.

Remember, your physical skills and talents as a gymnast are always limited by your mental skills and ability to deal with the fear that is such a normal part of this sport. Don't leave this all-important part of your training to chance. Learn how you can develop mental toughness and take your gymnastics to the next level!   

If you want to understand where those skill-stealing fears come from and learn how to systematically and effectively work through them, see my complete listing of mental toughness resources for gymnasts and their coaches. 

As a sports performance consultant, Dr. G has worked with gymnasts from around the world, at all levels. He specializes in helping gymnasts overcome performance fears and blocks and perform to their potential. Dr. G presents at clubs around the US, training parents, gymnasts and their coaches. He is the co-author of "This Is Your Brain On Sports: Beating Blocks, Slumps and Performance Anxiety For Good!" His latest audio mental training program, "Gymnastics With The Competitive Edge." is specifically designed to help gymnasts overcome performance fears & blocks.  

Read my latest articles in Technique magazine:

Working with the Stuck Gymnast: Coaching Strategies (March/April 2017)

Gymnasts: Finally a Way to Manage Your Fears & Balking in the Gym (Jan/Feb 2017)

Why Can't I Get Myself to Go? Understanding and Working Through Fear, Lost Skills and Balking (Nov/Dec 2016)