Simone Biles is by far the biggest powerhouse who ever lived in the sport of gymnastics. From paving the way as the first American gymnast to win a World medal on every event to being the most decorated American gymnast of all time, she’s no stranger to carving out her own successful path in life. Her accolades are numerous and the records she’s broken are impressive, to say the least. Mary Lou Retton even called her the “greatest gymnast ever” – a sentiment many have agreed with.
With her massive success, however, it’s often easy to forget that she’s still human, and that she started out, like everyone else, as a girl following her dreams while trying to improve in a sport she had a passion for. In fact, with the release of her new MasterClass course, Simone Teaches Gymnastics Fundamentals, Simone has made it clear that she struggles with the same issues that all gymnasts, new or seasoned, face. Without a doubt, hearing her talk about her struggles is a breath of fresh air as it helps us break down the facade of believing elite gymnasts rely purely on their natural talent to get to the top of their game.
What struck us most about Simone’s MasterClass course is her relatability. Given her high profile, you’d imagine that she has everything having to do with the sport of gymnastics figured out. We’d like to believe that by now she is someone who effortlessly floats through practice and meets with complete confidence and grace. But the truth is, despite her amazing gymnastics ability, she still struggles with the same issues all gymnasts face. And we think hearing this from Simone herself is a great way to boost any gymnast’s confidence.
After watching her course, a few things stuck out to us about Simone and we wanted to share them with you here. We think every gymnast can gain some value from these 5 things.
1. Even Simone has mental blocks.
Mental blocks are one of the biggest frustrations that gymnasts go through and a struggle that you’d think a talented gymnast like Simone wouldn’t have to face. But she makes it clear in her course that when she finds herself facing a mental block she has to do things like take it back to the basics, ask for a spot, or do her drills over and over to build back her confidence. Hearing this from her is a big breath of relief as it lets every gymnast out there know that mental blocks, while frustrating, are a common aspect of this sport. In her course she walks us through some other strategies she uses to get over mental blocks and fear.
2. She still gets nervous for meets.
You’d think by now that Simone would have the whole meet thing figured out. But she gets nervous just like everyone else! The difference is, she’s learned how to manage it. For Simone, her biggest nerves come before her meet and right before she salutes. She tells us that after she salutes her nerves go away because at that point she believes she is in control of her routines. She uses her own method to get through her routines that helps her stay focused, which she talks about in her course. She also discusses how to turn adrenaline from nerves into power.
3. She’s learned not to rely on superstitions.
Early on Simone used to have this superstition that she needed to watch the movie Stick It before her meet. She would watch this movie before every meet despite her large collection of other dvds. As she became more successful and started competing internationally, she realized that she wouldn’t always have access to the things she relied on when she was abroad (such as special hair ties that she had to wear or that particular movie) to calm her nerves before meets so she had to learn to let those things go. While it was hard to give up those superstitions, she realized they weren’t benefiting her in a positive way. In her course she also talks about the things she does as a pre-meet routine, including what she eats for breakfast and lunch the day of her meet.
4. She’ll never compete an arabian on the high beam again.
You wouldn’t think there would be a skill Simone was afraid of but an Arabian on high beam gave her a big scare. After working up to it again on the low beam, her coach encouraged her to try it on the medium beam without mats. Let’s just say, in her words, “The outcome wasn’t that great. And I’m never doing that skill again. But it was a good try.” So even top level gymnasts are afraid of certain skills. In her course she emphasizes how important it is to trust your coaches, but also that ultimately you yourself have to feel comfortable doing a skill. She also talks about how she handles fear when learning new skills.
5. Bars didn’t come naturally to her.
Growing up, bars was an event that was always hard for Simone. She tells us how she was always very behind on that event compared to other gymnasts and how she never loved bars or felt good at them. In order to improve, she had to go back to the basics and focus on improving those fundamental skills. She worked many hours on her fundamentals and by doing different drills and lots of mental work she was able to get to where she is today, a much more confident gymnast on bars. In her course she walks us through the fundamental drills that helped her improve and become better on bars. You also get a glimpse of her trying a Maloney Half (a skill where she transitions from the low bar to the high bar) until she finally gets it. Seeing footage of her missing that skill over and over again breaks down this image that Simone doesn’t have to work hard to learn new skills. In fact, you’ll learn through this course that Simone has struggles just like everyone else.
About Her Course
Now that we’ve told you five things we learned about Simone from her MasterClass course, here’s a breakdown of the course itself so you can get a feel for what to expect if you ever decide to get it.
When we first learned about her course we imagined a course filled with different drills for each event. After all, it is called Simone Teaches Gymnastics Fundamentals. But we were pleasantly surprised to watch videos of Simone herself talking about her struggles and some of the mental aspects behind gymnastics. While Simone is a professional athlete, she talks to us as a fellow gymnast, one with struggles and fears that we can all relate to. This course really made us realize that Simone is just a “normal” girl with a drive to be the best. Her superhero powers come from natural talent mixed with a strong work ethic and a love for gymnastics.
Simone’s MasterClass course consists of 17 different lessons ranging from roughly 4-13 minutes each for a total of more than 2 hours of instruction.
Here are the lessons (followed by time for each lesson):
Lesson 1: Introduction (4:05) – in this introduction we see video of Simone as a younger gymnast and learn more bout Simone.
Lesson 2: Learning New Skills (4:57) – this lesson dives into different tips to help you become a better gymnast such as showing up early for practice, working through frustration, and how to take corrections into consideration.
Lesson 3: Uneven Bars Basics (8:53) – in this lesson Simone gives you different drills to work on that are modeled by a young gymnast on bars. Simone emphasizes the importance of these fundamental bar drills and how these basics are what helped her become better on bars.
Lesson 4: Uneven Bars Advanced (12:57) – this lesson has Simone demonstrate various skills that are difficult. You’ll learn what one of the skills is that she struggled with the most.
Lesson 5: Playback: Studying Simone’s Meets on Bars (8:25) – Simone breaks down different bar routines that she’s competed and shows you the difference between good routines and the ones that were not as good. She explains how pressure sets have helped her improve tremendously on bars.
Lesson 6: Overcoming Fear (6:39) – there are so many great tips in this lesson including ways to increase confidence and how to fake it until you make it.
Lesson 7: Floor Basics (12:02) – in this lesson you’ll learn different drills to do on floor to help you with your floor fundamentals.
Lesson 8: Floor Advanced Skills (9:08) – this lesson is a fun way to watch Simone do big tricks on floor while learning the technique of these bigger skills.
Lesson 9: Competing on Meet Day (4:05) – Simone talks us through what competing at an elite level is like and how she prepares for her meets.
Lesson 10: Balance Beam Basics (13:19) – in this lesson you’ll get drills you can do daily to improve your balance beam fundamentals. Some of these are suitable for home practice on a line.
Lesson 11: Balance Beam Advanced Skills (10:37) – Simone connects harder skills plus shows you drills to do for a complex leap and tumbling skills. Fun to watch her do the skills over and over.
Lesson 12: Working With Coaches (6:00) – in this lesson Simone stresses the importance of communicating with your coaches. She talks about regrets she’s had in the past when working with her coaches and how gymnasts really need to have an open dialogue with their coaches to achieve great success.
Lesson 13: Vault Basics (7:38) – in this lesson you’ll learn different running and blocking drills to help you become better at vault.
Lesson 14: Vault Advanced (6:39) – this lesson teaches you the technique of harder vaults but is also a great chance to watch Simone do hard vaults over and over.
Lesson 15: Playback: Studying Simone’s Meets on Vault (5:48) – Simone uses this as an opportunity to explain the difference between her good vaults and bad vaults at meets.
Lesson 16: Setting Goals (4:30) – this lesson is super valuable for understanding how Simone structures her goals for the year and the tricks she uses to stay focused.
Lesson 17: Maturing As A Gymnast (6:19) – this final lesson talks a lot about how her time off from gymnastics after the last Olympics was a blessing for relighting the fire within her. It’s a great conclusion to this course.
You can see a nice mix between gymnastics instruction and important gymnastics topics are present in this course. And there’s lots of high level gymnastics that is fun to watch because Simone makes it all look so easy!
Gymnastics Instruction Videos
All the basic level videos include drills that beginner to intermediate gymnasts can do in the gym. While some of the drills, like those on beam for example, can be done at home, most of these drills are meant to be done at the gym with proper supervision. For that reason, the instructional videos might be better suited for a coach to watch and implement with her gymnasts.
However, seeing the basic skills performed by young gymnasts with proper form is a great way for beginner gymnasts to get a feel for what these drills should look like as well as to have a visual image of the drills. For this reason we think the basics videos for each event are helpful for lower level gymnasts and those wanting to master their fundamentals.
The advanced skills videos, on the other hand, contain skills that are only appropriate for elite and higher level gymnasts so these videos, while fun to watch, are not as useful from a skills standpoint. Your gymnast might still get a kick out of watching Simone perform the skills herself so we don’t think this part of the course is pointless. It’s just not something that your gymnast will be able to implement on her own. But seeing Simone in the gym is a fun perspective and watching her break down the higher level skills to look effortless is something all gymnasts can aspire to.
The two playback videos in the course include Simone watching select performances from her meets and critiquing them, while also telling us what she was thinking during her routines. While your gymnast won’t learn any specific gymnastics skills from these two videos, she will gain insight as to how Simone uses playbacks of her routines to improve. She even tells you the things she says to herself as she goes through her routines. Again, this is valuable insight that any gymnast can learn from.
The psychological based videos such as Overcoming Fear and Competing on Meet Day offer a chance for gymnasts to gain insight into the mental work that Simone does. This part of the course is super relatable and will most definitely give your gymnast confidence in hearing such a world-class gymnast talk about the topics she’s had to navigate through as a gymnast.
One of the bonuses of this course is that it comes with a 56 page downloadable PDF workbook. In this workbook, you not only get the drills that Simone discusses in her course but some very valuable mental tricks such as concentration tools, breathing techniques, and visualization techniques. This workbook includes information about gymnastics scoring and levels. You’ll get even more gymnastics drills than what is discussed in the course with detailed pictures and instructions. This is such an amazing bonus and a resource that will serve gymnasts well for a long period of time.
Overall this MasterClass course had some major golden nuggets that are worth its price tag. The feeling you get from this course is one of having a chat with a gymnast friend in a casual manner. Simone gives advice, shares her struggles, and provides valuable tools for gymnasts of every level. Plus, there’s a lot of gymnastics to watch, including some of Simone’s signature skills. The beginner gymnastics drills are good to watch, although like we said, better left for coaches to learn and implement in practice. But again, they offer a good opportunity for beginner gymnasts to watch proper form and to have someone to model their skills after. The more advanced skills and drills are more fluff for a beginner gymnast but provide some good tips and tricks for more advanced gymnasts to follow.