Case Study: How to Cope with Performance Anxiety in Gymnastics
Dealing with nerves when competing is a common challenge that we support gymnasts with.
Ellie was 8 years old and a very promising gymnast. She was on the elite pathway, training 20 to 24 hours per week. She was a very determined character and hugely committed to gymnastics. She lived in South West England about 45 min from her gym, so her life really was dominated by either being in the gym or travelling to or from it. During her free time she’d practicing gymnastics at home too. At the gym she trained with older kids in the GB development or junior squads with the ability to follow them.
Ellie would get very anxious in the last few days before a competition. This resulted in either tears or, more commonly, vomiting. It often then went on to impact her performance levels causing more anxiety and frustration.
- To help her develop a different relationship with competitions.
- To eliminate the vomiting.
- To help her feel more relaxed before competitions.
- To improve her feelings of trust and confidence in her skills.
- To stop worrying what her coach and peers thought of her.
- To deal better with self-criticism.
Over a twelve-week period we met every 1 to 2 weeks for 30 minutes using zoom video conferencing. The sessions included:
- A needs analysis session conducted by myself, the Sports Psychologist with Ellie and her parents (Sometimes in these sessions one or both parents join for 5 minutes, sometimes they are not involved at all and other times they’re present for all of the session). Understanding her motives for taking part in gymnastics, education and family background.
- Her goals, strengths and areas for improvement were compiled into a performance development plan and profile.
- Checking and showing her how her expectations helped and hindered her (looking at specific skills).
- Emotional Intelligence, looking in depth at what she thinks, feels and acts in specific situations.
- Identifying her sources of confidence, to enable proactive confidence.
- Controlling the controllables, with a focus on internal control and the key behaviours that help her.
- Building a Confidence CV to boost her sense of accomplishment.
- Educating her to embrace self compassion.
- Imagery, grounding exercises and relaxation exercises were incorporated into her pre-performance routines.
- Parental support sessions to ensure we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet.
- The gymnast enjoyed the practical nature of the sessions and the interactive and fun activities that we included.
- With her mum’s assistance she was able to articulate answers easily to the questions asked of her.
- The sickness before competitions very quickly stopped.
- Her mindset changed and she began to look forward to competing and showing off her skills.
- She began embracing nerves before competitions.
- Her body language was far more relaxed and positive, before and during competitions.
I sincerely hope that this case study has given you a flavour of how we support young gymnasts. We find many parents and coaches read our articles, often self-diagnosing different challenges to their children. They also read and view other resources yet struggle to help their kids overcome the issues. By waiting too long these challenges become harder to overcome, my advice would be to contact a specialist (it doesn’t have to be us) if the issue goes on for any longer than one month.
With expert sports psychology support and guidance, challenges like this can be overcome and quite quickly.
If you’d like to learn more about how we could help your children or gymnasts why not get in touch. We are passionate about helping children get maximum enjoyment from their gymnastics and offer FREE resilience and confident gymnast programs as well bespoke programs to meet your needs.
You can also join our online community – THE SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY HUB – for regular Sports Psychology tips, podcasts, motivation and support.
Online Sports Psychologist who supports Gymnasts around the world from San Diego to London, Dubai to to Auckland, using ONLINE Video Conferencing.
Managing Director – Inspiring Sporting Excellence, Host of Demystifying Mental Toughness Podcast and Founder of The Sports Psychology Hub. With over a decades’ experience supporting athletes, coaches, parents and teams to achieve their goals, faster.
T: +44 7734 697769