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Gymnastics article: mental blocks, visualization, performance

Gymnastics Article: Mental Blocks, Visualization, Performance

Gymnastics Article: Mental Blocks, Visualization, Performance 

Mental blocks and fears happen for many different reasons including falls, injury, fatigue, dehydration, poor skill technique, and too much pressure to perform from the coach and/or parent. Sometimes when a gymnast is expected to learn too many new skills within a short time frame they develop mental blocks due to the pressure they feel. Many gymnasts put pressure on themselves so the added pressure crushes them. The best thing to do is allow your gymnast to relax and not put any pressure on her. Usually if there is a problem with a specific skill, visualization works really well. A gymnast must be able to visualize herself performing the skill over and over again. You can even show her video of other gymnasts performing the same skills she fears so that she has a better understanding of the skill. She must visualize herself performing the skills on a daily basis, especially in the gym.

Hold a visualization class for the team. Bring in videos of many gymnasts, allow them to watch a short video clip of a skill or series, and then tell them to close their eyes and replay the video in their minds. (Make sure the video they are watching is being performed by a gymnast with excellent technique.) Do that several times. Once the gymnasts can clearly see the picture in their minds of the video they just watched, ask them to picture themselves performing a skill that they have been performing for many years, such as a cartwheel. Once they can do that really well have them visualize more difficult skills. Go through that process of watching a video clip and visualizing many times throughout your visualization class.

When they return to the training area have them visualize themselves performing a simple skill such as a cartwheel. Next ask them to perform the skill they just visualized. Allow your gymnasts to practice visualization with simple skills, more difficult skills, then move on to series and routines. That may take a few weeks. It may take several months for some gymnasts to master visualization.

Once the gymnasts learn visualization take it a step further. While performing their floor routines, as they wait for their turn, ask your gymnasts to kneel and perform all of the arm movements for their routine as they visualize themselves performing the routine. With some gymnasts you may see a big transformation with increased confidence. They may also begin to pay close attention to detail and compete more successfully. The visualization should be performed on every event and every training day. The arm routines while kneeling can be performed for beam and bars as well. Please let me know how it works after a few weeks.

Besides the visualization, to reduce fear and improve technique your gymnasts must perform many drills for skills, the proper conditioning (general and sport specific), and they must be spotted for any skills until they feel very comfortable with the skill. Keep in mind that the worst and most dangerous thing to do is to push your gymnast too hard or add more pressure because that is when injuries can occur. Adding too much pressure is not the same as encouraging your gymnast with a positive attitude. Remember, a gymnast MUST be relaxed in order to focus properly and perform safely.

Nutrition and hydration also play a very large role in performance and many people do not realize this. To be sure your gymnasts are getting enough of the nutrients they need ask their parents to visit the following websites and be sure to visit them yourself MyPyramid.govEatHealthy.org, and GSSIWeb.com. These websites have safe and accurate nutrition information, nutrition tools, and sports science articles.  

Another thing many people do not think about when it comes to training is quality of sleep. Please discuss this with your gymnast’s parents to be sure they are getting high quality sleep because that greatly effects an athlete’s mind, body, and performance. 

By Karen M. Goeller
Karen Goeller has been training athletes since 1978. Karen Goeller is the author of the Swing Set Fitness books, the Gymnastics Drills and Conditioning books, and many additional training products. Karen Goeller offers sports performance training in NJ and through the web. Visit www.GymnasticsBooks.com and  www.KarenGoeller.com for more information on her products and services.

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