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Calming an athlete's nerves before a competition...

Posted on 2/9/2017
As many of us know, competition season can be stressful for coaches and athletes alike. When an athlete is nervous before a competition, they may not compete to their fullest potential, which is the opposite of what parents and coaches hope for. We, at Tumbl Trak, have reached out to some of our industry members and asked them for tips on how they calm their athletes before a competition.

From Tony Retrosi, Chairman US Elite Coaches Association, Owner Atlantic Gymnastics Training Centers, Thrower of amazing parties.

The ABSOLUTE worst thing you can tell a kid is CALM down. That just tells them that EVERYONE can tell they are a wreck. When dealing with a nervous kid, no matter if it is a level 3 in their first meet, or an elite getting ready to mount beam at P&G Championships a coach needs to concentrate on remaining calm themselves. If you are calm, cool and collected, your gymnast will pick up on that. Take a breath, speak slowly.

Give them a clear goal and thought;

  • "Remember last week when you rocked that routine? That felt pretty good didn’t it? I would like you to try to do your split jump just like that"

Then distract them if necessary;

  • "Wow, that’s a pretty leotard she is wearing. I like yours better but maybe we should think of something sparkly like that next year."

At the end of their routine, give them a High 5, compliment them on the correction they made, "Hey nice split jump! Just like we practiced" Then get on to the next event.

I have seen too many coaches dwelling on mistakes. You are NOT going to fix them at a meet. Move on.

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From Kelle Riley, Twisters Gymnastics and Tumbling, Port Hadlock, WA

Day of the meet jitters are inevitable, especially with younger athletes.  Our first meet of this season, we had an early session.  You should have seen the looks on the faces of my team and their parents when I walked into the gym wearing footie jammies and slippers!!!  I just strolled past them and said, "Let’s have some fun!!"  During a break in warm up, I changed my clothes, but just before beam warm up, I took out some paper crowns and told them they were the "queens of the beam".  If the kids see that I am relaxed and having fun, that helps to put them at ease and lower their level of anxiety.  

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From Al Fong, owner of GAGE

First of all, being "nervous" before a meet is a good thing. It creates a sense of urgency to do your best when it counts. There are many tactics veteran competitors use to contain their nervous emotions so they can perform well under duress.

  • Visualizing
  • Breathing
  • Listening to music

But being PREPARED is the best tactic of all.

Find out what conditions you have to contend with. What time of the day do you compete? What event do you start on? How many people in your warm up squad? What settings are you using on bars and vault and how can it be different with others in your squad? Will you be competing on a hard surface or soft surface? Take these factors and practice at your home gym with these in mind. Simulate the same conditions and urgency of time. You’ll be amazed how confident you’ll feel going into the meet.

Oh, and the most important thing to do…..HAVE FUN!