Nervous in Competition

Subject: Nervous in Competition

Dear Coach,

I have a Level 3 7 year old who trains really well, but when it comes to competition, she seems to do o.k. at best. We are thinking it is just nerves, but at 7 how do you over come this? We are asking questions about being nervous, but not sure if she really understands the “true meaning.” Any suggestions would be appreciated.

There is only one way to learn to compete and that is to compete. If you want her to compete well, make sure she competes often.

Take every chance for competition. For most gymnasts, competition is the one of the most fun aspects of the sport. Especially at age 7 and at Level 3 (which was never really intended or designed for formal competitions outside of the home gym) a successful meet is one where your gymnasts has fun competing, stays at a hotel with a pool and swims and eats out with her friends and teammates.

Our teams used to compete in USAG artistic gymnastics competitions, USAIGC Optional Only competitions and T and T Tumbling competitions. Some years we also competed in YMCA gymnastics up to and including Y Nationals and even competed in some AAU gymnastics competitions. It has not been uncommon for our gymnasts to participate in up to 20 formal competitions per year.

Literally, our gymnasts compete every day. We have single skill competitions and series and combination competitions every day on most every event. We daily score gymnasts on skills, combinations and routines. We have team warm-up and conditioning competitions. When we don’t have meets, we have practice meets and conditioning competitions every other Saturday.

We have so many competitions that our gymnasts literally eventually get to feel like just “another day, another competition” and they compete very well and are very relaxed and confident.

You might also want to be careful about even mentioning being nervous. If she is not currently nervous, complaining about being nervous, you don’t want to introduce the idea in her head that she should be nervous or that you expect her to be nervous. Parents and coaches need to be very aware of what they say to young gymnasts. Their subconscious mind is recording it all and it all can become a part of their personality, for better or worse.

I wouldn’t be as worried about her Level 3 competition success as I would about getting her up to a level with “real” gymnastics. Most of the Level 3 skills are not skills she will ever use in “real” gymnastics. Some of the required skills are more likely to produce bad habits than good gymnastics like a dive roll vault or whatever that is supposed to be.

Keep in mind, the addition of Level 4 and then Level 3 to formal competition was more a function of increasing USA Gymnastics’ paid membership rolls, than a good system for training kids to be high level optional gymnasts. The only real value, if there is any at all in Level 3 and 4 competition, is the fact and act of competition itself.

Sorry about the editorializing.

Good luck to you and your daughter.

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