Gymnastics Psychology Tips: How to Handle Losing Your Skills in Gymnastics
Is this very common problem an issue for you?
Gymnastics is a constant ebb and flow for gymnasts. One second everything seems perfect and the next it all comes crashing down. It could a bad competition, bad training or sudden block a gymnast faces while doing certain skills.
A block for gymnasts is like an obstacle that prevents gymnasts from performing skills that may have been able to perform easily in the past. This happens suddenly, it could be the difference between two turns in training.
It quickly spirals into a string of overthinking, where gymnasts begin to feel like failures, like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. There is no rationality or logical explanation to this feeling.
Gymnasts are often flipping in the air, twisting and rotating at the same time. It requires tremendous awareness in the air – of one’s own body position, how high one is, where the floor is and how to land. While this becomes muscle memory at times, it still requires complete focus and attention.
Gymnasts often perform such super-human feats, but they are human. And sometimes they struggle. Even the best of the best. For instance, Simone Biles struggled with the ‘twisties.’ When gymnasts get lost in the air while twisting – it is commonly called the ‘twisties’. This then creates a block for the gymnast and very quickly the gymnast finds it inconceivable to be able to twist in the air.
This often leaves gymnasts scared, frustrated and stressed. As a result, one feels angry and frustrated at not being able to do something they could perfectly the previous day. Imagine you are working at an office with a computer and suddenly one day you forget how to type on the keyboard.
It is a scary and confusing time for gymnasts. Feelings of fear of whether they will ever be able to do the skills again and frustration of not being able to do something so easy for them, engulf gymnasts.
This often leads to gymnasts:
- Try too hard and push themselves to work through the issue. This often leads to increased frustration as gymnasts believe they are working hard to eliminate the problem, while unconsciously worsening the issue.
- Ignoring that there is a problem: sometimes gymnasts are unwilling to accept that there is problem and attribute it to a bad day or a bad session. lack of acceptance of the problem could be because of a fear of how it will impact their progress or their ability to relearn those skills.
- External pressures: at this stage, gymnast experiences multiples pressures apart from the one they put on themselves. While they are still trying to make sense of their own inability, there is pressure from coaches and parents – who are pushing them or constantly trying to solve the situation but may unintentionally worsen the issue.
3 Tips to Help You or Your Gymnasts Cope with Losing Skills
1. Set process goals
Working with your coach to set process goals.
Remember: It is okay to take a step back and refocus.
Set process goals and create a ladder of smaller goals (like an easier form of the skill) can keep you motivated and feel like you are achieving small victories through the process.
2. Take a break from the skill
Sometimes overworking a skill or pushing oneself too hard to perform a skill you are struggling with can only make the situation worse and create more trouble for the coach and gymnast.
For instance, work on a different type of skill or go back to a week of basics surrounding the you are struggling with.
3. Create a visualisation process
For gymnasts struggling to get the image of a mistake or unable to think of a skill differently than what they are struggling with can plague their thought process and readiness before performing each turn in training. An imagery exercise or visualisation routine can aid this process and slowly help the gymnast break the existing thought process and refocus their priority. This can be a visual process or a set of words/sentences you say to yourself before each turn to help you refocus.
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Mental Skills Performance Coach and former Professional Gymnast supporting gymnasts worldwide with Online Sports Psychology Services.