Gymnasts, even young gymnasts need to be given a mental perspective on the place gymnastics has in their community and country. As important as gymnastics is to all of the coaches and athletes in the sport, it is not the most important thing in the world, or in life. Gymnasts need to have a true perspective on how gymnastics fits into their life and world. Coaches need to have that perspective for themselves, so they can communicate it to their gymnasts. To help give gymnasts a perspective, other than just talking to them about it, I find it useful to have them meet others in their community and state, that exemplify a higher of importance than just gymnastics.
Young Non-Profit Fundraisers
On a regular basis, there are Internet, newspaper and TV reports about very young children, who have started their own non-profit organizations and raise funds for some worthy cause. Many of these young philanthropists are the same ages as the gymnasts in your gym. In many cases, they reflect an attitude of giving in spite of facing personal or medical problems of their own. Their selflessness provides an excellent role-model for your team members.
Unfortunately, there are many wounded military warriors coming home with severe injuries. While athletes including Olympic gymnasts are considered heroes, and rightly so, it is important for gymnasts to recognize and understand the preeminent place military heroes have in our country. Military heroes, who literally risk their lives to defend our country, should hold a special place in our hearts and minds. It can be motivating, give perspective and offer an opportunity to thank our military heroes by planning meetings with our gymnasts. First responders, in the occupations of police and firefighters, can also fulfill this function and are also deserving of our respect.
Para-Athletes and Paralympians
Nothing gives gymnasts a better perspective on how they should be handling training difficulties, temporary injures and personal training sacrifices than coming face to face with a para-athlete or a Paralympian. Such a meeting allows gymnasts to understand that while they may face difficulties, they are fortunate to have the opportunity to train hard and compete in gymnastics. The positive attitude of many para-athletes and Paralympians can be a highly motivating experience for gymnasts.
In addition just meeting inspirational figures, gymnasts should be encouraged, if not required as a part of official team policy, to participate in a variety of acts of community service. This will build the moral character of your gymnasts and the reputation of your gym and team in the community. There are a variety of activities that could be done, many of which can be gymnastics related, like giving gymnastics exhibitions and demonstrations at local senior citizens facilities or at non-profit fundraisers.
Create Opportunities for Your Gymnasts to Meet Heroes and Gain Perspective
The above are just a few examples of types of individuals that can help gymnasts get perspective and increase motivation. We should expect our gymnasts to make sacrifices to train to reach the highest levels of the sport of gymnastics, but they should also understand there are others who are and have made greater sacrifices.