Written by: Coach Kelley
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”
Competition season is upon us and you probably have your child’s floor music circling around your head in a repetitive loop. There are only a few days left to perfect that competition bun and you’ve already run out of bobby pins. Your gymnast has been practicing their routines for months, but is still terrified of forgetting their choreography, wondering if the beams will be facing the wrong way, and panicked that there will be no time for a snack during the competition. As a parent, how are you supposed to survive while navigating these trying times? And how are you supposed to help your gymnast?
As you anxiously watch your gymnast take the competition floor for the first time, think about why you signed them up for the sport in the first place.
Gymnastics is about getting stronger, overcoming obstacles, working through fear and mental blocks, trying new things, trusting yourself, working hard, and loving every minute of it.
It helps children build a wide range of motor and coordination skills, and assists in developing a good sense of body awareness. A beginner gymnast will learn that feeling of accomplishment that comes with landing their first cartwheel, while a seasoned competitor will still feel the wonder and excitement generated at every competition. Gymnastics teaches your child time management skills and a strong work ethic. It provides a great foundation for all sports.
But more importantly, gymnastics is more than just a sport. It can be a way of life, a mindset. It can make or break you and show you your deepest fears. It challenges you and helps you grow. It provides a safe place when you need it, a chance to be with your teammates and friends. It helps you through tough times in and out of the gym. It lifts you up and provides a solid foundation for life. You signed your child up because gymnastics is so much more than a sport.
Don’t focus on scores and medals.
Instead, focus on their work ethic and ability to be coachable and respectful.
Bella, an Xcel Silver explains why she loves gymnastics: “I like learning new skills, getting to compete and show off my new routines. Gymnastics gives me confidence and makes me feel proud of myself when I learn a new skill or push through a mental block. I like bonding with my teammates and making new friends.”
As we countdown the days until the first competition, remain calm and focus on the enjoyment of watching your kids perform. If you put too much pressure on your child to win first place or achieve a certain score, they will eventually crumble under the pressure. Your child might be the strongest, most graceful and powerful athlete in the gym, but if they aren’t confident in themselves and their physical abilities, they’ll have trouble reaching their goals. During competitions, if your child feels external pressure, they will never have any real control. So sit back and let your kids be in control!
Help your gymnast remain calm and cool in the time leading up to the competition.
Try creating a ritual the night before the competition. Creating a routine that they can follow before every competition does wonders for calming nerves. Maybe you order their favorite meal for dinner or watch a movie together as a family.
Help them pack their competition bag and put out their uniform to help build the excitement of the following morning. The less their brain has to stress over, the calmer they'll feel.
The day of the competition, hand them off to their coach
and let them focus on the now.
Don’t clog their brains with what might happen, what scores to get, or what medals to win. Let them focus on themselves and their performance. If their focus drifts to anyone but themselves, they will get nervous. Remember, concentrate on the process, NOT the outcome. When your gymnast allows their focus or concentration to jump ahead to awards, or think back to previous scores, the result is almost always the same - an increase in nervousness. NEVER compare your child to another gymnast. Comparison will always make them too nervous to compete at their best.
The reality is, when your gymnast is standing before the judge waiting to salute, they're feeling nervous. But they aren’t competing because they wanted an activity that stresses them out. They do it for the excitement of learning a new skill. They do it for that feeling of pride that comes with sticking a landing. They do it to make new friends. They do it because it's FUN!