The Inspiration and Motivation of Gymnasts

Hi,

My daughter started in the sport as a level 4 and now she in a Level 8. I would like to inspire her by getting her to understand how much she has really advanced. Do you have any suggestions?

Thanks so much!

It is so easy for gymnasts in the gym everyday to concentrate on what they can’t do, be focused on all the skills they cannot yet do and pay attention only to the gymnasts that are better than them. This is an extremely distorted picture of their athletic and gymnastics reality. They are focused on what they can’t do and who is better than them, but forget the literally millions of kids their age, that are not even close to their level of athleticism and gymnastics and athletic accomplishment.

Any team gymnast is already in the top 2% – 4% of gymnasts in the country. That also means they are in the top 1% of all of the kids their age in gymnastics. They are, simply by virtue of being chosen for a gymnastics team, in a very, very exclusive club of high level athletes.

We like to tell our gymnasts that percentiles are like grades in school (so they can understand the concept better) and that the top one percentile is like an A+ and the 90th percentile (being in the top 10% is an A). She should already be very proud of her position in the gymnastics world and the world of athletes in general. As an ptional gymnasts she should consider herself as getting an A+++++++++ grade.

We definitely subscribe to what you are trying to do. Gymnasts, especially girls, too often compare themselves negatively, since they compare themselves only to gymnasts on team, or at meets and, often, only to gymnasts who are better than them. The reality is that they are better athletes and certainly better gymnasts than almost every other kids of their own age and every person in the world in gymnastics. It is good for them to have a better concept of reality of their position in the whole world. When their perspective is just team gymnasts in their gym and at meets, they can not always truly remember and appreciate how good they are compared to most normal kids and normal people. comparing themselves to everyone, not just other gymnasts gives them a much better and much more positive view of the reality of their gymnastics talents and abilities in general.

There are other things that you can do as well (other than just explaining to them their position in the world as an athlete) to inspire them, motivate them and help them understand their true progress. A short, concise video history of their gymnastics career is something that most gymnasts should view a couple of times per year and, certainly, whenever they are down on themselves and their progress. Without regularly taking a look at where they have come from in a relatively short amount of time, it is hard to keep the proper perspective of their progress.

Gymnasts are completely capable of forgetting that they have, say, in only four years gone from doing round-off back handsprings to doing fulls and double fulls. They forget this because they are focused on trying to get 2 and 1/2 twists and triple fulls and they only think of what they can’t do. This distortion of the reality of their talent and progress can cause them to be less self-confident, which can interfere actually with their learning new skills more quickly.

Refreshing their memory with a quick video review of their progress, from time to time, can help keep them aware of the relatively fast progress they have made. This can give them the confidence to continue to learn quickly. I know of few gyms that compile such videos, so parents are likely left with that task, but I assure you that it is very worthwhile and worth the time and effort.

I firmly believe it would also be a good idea if gymnast’s coaches would watch that same video (or a specially compiled team progress video), so they don’t forget how well their gymnasts are progressing. It is just as easy (and common) for them to lose perspective, too. And that lack of perspective can affect their expectations, their attitude toward their gymnasts and their own inner confidence as a coach.

There are other ways of giving gymnasts a better perspective of their own high level of talent in gymnastics. Doing exhibitions in the community allows them to receive applause, instead of deductions, when they perform. The applause is actually a better reflection of their athletic achievements than gymnastics judging. I believe that no less than a 1-1 ratio of exhibitions to meets would be the best mix for gymnast’s confidence. I developed an entire program strategy of “Gymnasts as Heroes” with my teams. I considered it as an essential part of my training program and gymnast psychological strategies.

We have developed whole strategies of learning progress in a step by step manner that are available in all of our products for parents and gymnasts. Having a plan and program and tracking daily steps of progress is highly motivating for gymnasts. We have had gymnasts make as many as 37 steps of progress in a single practice. When they know they are making this kind of progress, they are motivated and inspired to do whatever is necessary to continue to make similar progress.

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