Do you wish you could have more confidence in your gymnastics ability?
Do you compare yourself to other gymnasts around you and feel less competent than them?
Do you let other people’s opinions of you determine your confidence in gymnastics?
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As a gymnast it’s incredibly important to have confidence in your abilities in order to perform your best. Gymnastics is a tough sport and learning new skills can be challenging. So one of the biggest skills you can learn to master in gymnastics is confidence. According to the English Language Learner’s Dictionary, the definition of confidence is a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something. It sounds simple enough. Have belief that you can do something well and you’ll have confidence.
But what if you don’t believe in your own ability or lack a feeling of self-assurance when it comes to gymnastics? How do you develop confidence when you’re not feeling confident? As you can imagine, gaining more confidence in gymnastics takes time and deliberate focused action. Luckily, it’s possible to build up your confidence and by applying some of the tips here you can retrain yourself to feel more confident. Read on to learn our 7 tips for increasing your confidence in gymnastics. But first, make sure you download our Confidence Bundle with printable worksheets to help you build up your confidence.
Number 1: Remember That Gymnastics Is One of The Hardest Sports
Did you know that many scientists have named gymnastics THE hardest sport with scientific evidence to back it up? Not only must gymnasts have balance and spatial awareness, they must also have strength equal to at least nine times their body weight, explosive power, short distance speed, the ability to rotate 180 and 360 degrees, proprioceptive and kinesthetic awareness, and incredible flexibility. Those are a lot of skills to master in just one sport! So the first thing you can do to gain confidence in yourself is to recognize that you’re learning a sport that is one of the hardest sports out there.
It’s safe to say, then, that just by being a gymnast you have already accomplished more than most kids your age. When you walk on your hands in your living room or do a backhandspring on your trampoline at home, we bet your friends look at you with amazement! They wish they could learn those skills too but most of them don’t now how to do them even though they’ve probably tried again and again. That’s because not everyone has what it takes to be a gymnast.
So remember, the skills you already know how to do are hard! And the skills you are trying to learn are even harder. Be proud of your accomplishments and have confidence knowing you’ve already learned how to do skills that most kids your age can only dream about doing. And it’s not only that you can do gymnastics skills that your friends can’t. You’re also probably stronger than most kids in your grade and have a physical ability that surpasses your peers. That’s something to feel confident about.
Number 2: Don’t Compare Yourself To Other Gymnasts
There’s a popular saying that goes: “Don’t compare your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 20.” The reason is because it’s easy to compare yourself to a gymnast who’s at the top of her game and think you should be as successful as she is. When you start to play the comparison game you’ll notice your confidence decrease and that’s of no benefit to you.
While it’s easy to compare yourself to another gymnast what’s important to remember is that you most likely didn’t see that gymnast’s journey to get to the point she’s at now. For example, you might not have seen the sacrifices she’s made in her gymnastics career like giving up family vacations or school events in favor of training at the gym. Maybe she even gave up having a typical high school experience in favor of homeschool or couldn’t attend her high school prom because she was traveling to a meet. You might see her at this point in her career and be envious of her success without even realizing how many sacrifices she’s made along the way.
In her book Fierce, Aly Raisman talks about the first time her dad approached her coach to say they were going on a ten-day long family vacation. Aly’s coach, Mihai, responded with:
“Being number one in the world at the top level is very, very hard; however, staying there is even harder. The best athletes don’t take vacations. The best athletes are the smartest: They know when to work hard, they know how to eat healthy, they know how to sleep well each night, they know how to rest when they need rest. The best athletes are professionals. If you want to be there someday, that starts now. It’s all right this time, because you didn’t know. But this will be the last time Aly ever gets to go on vacation, aside from when we close the gym for one week in the summer.”
In fact, over the course of her competitive career Aly even missed her high school graduation because of gymnastics. So while you might see other successful gymnasts and feel envious that you’re not as successful as them, remember you haven’t seen their entire journey to get to where they are. Comparing your journey to theirs, then, is not beneficial to boosting your confidence.
Finally it’s important to recognize that you’re on your own unique journey. There are many paths to get to the same end goal and they’re all equally as right. So embrace your journey and stop comparing yourself to those around you! Keep your blinders on and focus on your goal, whatever that might be for you.
Number 3: Recognize Setbacks As Part of the Journey
Going through a setback can really lower your confidence, especially when it’s something that seems insurmountable. When you’re injured, can’t seem to learn a skill as fast as your teammates, or your nerves fall apart every time you go to a meet it can easily make you spiral into feelings of despair. Unfortunately, those feelings can really weigh down your confidence and make it hard for you to see the bigger picture that these setbacks are just one small part of your journey. And in most cases these setbacks will make you stronger in the end!
It’s easy to see elite gymnasts and to think they had it easy or were “naturals” at gymnastics because you now see them dominating their sport. But in reality most elite gymnasts got to the top of this sport because they stuck it out when things got tough. If you read about any elite gymnast’s journey you’ll learn that she had to overcome many stumbling blocks along the way. It might have been injuries that set her back, having to switch coaches or gyms, or falling on a skill during a very important meet.
Did you know that in 2011 Simone Biles placed 14th and failed missing the Junior National Team by one place? Can you imagine how hard that must have been for her? She easily could have let that setback define her entire career. In her words in her book Courage to Soar Simone says:
“I had come to Nationals with a goal of making the 2011 team, and it didn’t happen. I simply hadn’t been good enough. That’s how my journey as an elite gymnast began – with a defeat that put an ache in my heart and doubts in my mind.”
She goes on to say:
“I thought my failure at the 2011 Nationals was an ending, but it was really a beginning – a turning point on a journey I still can’t believe I’m taking.”
In the end we know that she came out stronger than ever and obviously went on to win gold at the 2016 Olympics. But she just as easily could have let that moment be the end of her gymnastics career. Being able to get through setbacks like these is an important part of building confidence in your gymnastics ability. If you can overcome these setbacks and still make it to the other side then you can have faith in your ability to conquer anything. Instead of looking at these setbacks as stumbling blocks, look at them as part of the journey. The next time you come upon a setback you can see it for what it is as just a minor glitch in your journey and not let it throw you and your confidence off-course.
Number 4: Focus On How Far You’ve Come
If you’ve been a gymnast for a while you’ve most likely learned a lot of new skills. But chances are you’ve forgotten where you started. Maybe you forgot that when you started gymnastics you couldn’t do a forward or backward roll. Maybe you forgot how scary walking on the balance beam was. Maybe you forgot that you could barely pull yourself up on the rope with or without your legs or that you needed a spot from your coach to do a handstand or cartwheel.
Whether you’re still a beginner or you’re a high level gymnast, you’ve come far! And it’s important to recognize that. When you go to the gym all the time it’s easy to take the skills that you’ve learned for granted. One way to realize your accomplishments and to improve your confidence is to write down a list of all the skills you’ve learned in gymnastics on every event. We’re talking about EVERY single skill you’ve learned. As you learn new skills you can add them to the list so that you see your list continue to grow. You might also take a trip down memory lane and look back at some old meet videos or pictures of you when you were just starting out in gymnastics. You’ll see how far you’ve come when you look back at where you started, especially when you compare where you are now to where you were then.
The other thing to remember is that elite athletes were once beginners too. It’s easy to see a talented gymnast and to assume she’s always known how to do gymnastics or always been able to learn skills faster than everyone else. The truth is, ALL elite gymnasts started out not knowing how to do gymnastics at all. Sure, some developed an aptitude for gymnastics quicker than other gymnasts, but it took them hours and hours in the gym to get to the level they’re at now.
While it’s a subtle mindshift, if you focus on how far you’ve come as opposed to how far you still need to go you’ll turn your thoughts around to ones of accomplishment and success instead of lack. After all, even elite gymnasts have room to improve so you’ll never truly be done learning or perfecting your gymnastics skills. And if you only focus on what you still need to master you’ll never appreciate all that you’ve already accomplished. Confidence comes from feeling good about your abilities and if you can list out all your gymnastics accomplishments and really sit in awe of all that you’ve learned, you’ll give yourself a much-needed boost of confidence.
Number 5: Turn Your Negative Self-Talk Into Positive Self-Talk
Another way to gain confidence in gymnastics is to consistently use positive self-talk. While one thing all humans have in common is the presence of self-talk, some of us have self-talk that is more positive than others. Self-talk refers to the words you speak to yourself in your head. It is estimated that in a 24 hour period humans average between 50,000-80,000 thoughts! These thoughts can be words you repeat in your head, comments you make in your mind, words you heard other people around you say, or future conversations you play out in your mind. If you think you don’t have a lot of thoughts in a day, try quieting your mind for a few minutes in meditation and you’ll hear all those thoughts floating in and out.
Self-talk can help you develop more confidence or it can decrease your confidence depending on your words. It’s really important that you first hear all the thoughts that are going through your mind and determine which ones are helping you and which ones are not. For example, when you’re struggling on a new skill do you tell yourself that you’ll never get it or are you rooting yourself on? When you fall on beam during a meet do you encourage yourself or do you immediately go to a negative place, perhaps telling yourself that it’s not worth trying anymore?
Once you’re mindful of the negative thoughts in your mind, you can now work to turn them around to the positive. The next time you find yourself speaking negative self-talk, pause for a minute, take a deep breath, and then talk back to those negative words! For example, if you hear your mind saying something like “I’ll never learn this skill” say to yourself “That’s not true, I’ve learned a lot of skills in gymnastics and this is no different.” When you start doing this consistently you’ll find that your negative self-talk appears a lot less often and that you’ll be focused on hearing your positive thoughts instead. This is a great way to boost your confidence and greater self-love as a gymnast.
Number 6: Set Small Goals That You Can Achieve
Setting small goals is another way to increase your confidence in gymnastics. As a gymnast it’s common to set big goals such as learning a new (and challenging) skill, getting a certain score at a meet, or even becoming an elite gymnast. What’s less common is setting smaller daily goals that you can accomplish more regularly and feel good about.
Why set smaller goals? Because once you see yourself starting to accomplish the goals you set for yourself, you’ll feel more confident about your abilities and will begin accomplishing bigger and bigger goals. An example of a small goal might be to focus on keeping your toes pointed throughout every skill in practice today. Another small goal might be to work on doing one extra rep of each conditioning exercise. Yet another goal could be to practice every beam routine with your chin lifted and head held high. These small goals might not sound like significant accomplishments but there’s magic in showing up for yourself and consistently hitting goals. This is one of the best ways to increase your confidence.
A great way to try this exercise is to fill out the Weekly Small Goals tracking sheet that we’ve created for you. Write down 3-5 small goals you want to work on this week and then start tracking each of the days that you’ve completed them. At the end of the week you can look back and see everything you’ve accomplished for that week! You can keep this same list going for an entire month or change out your small goals weekly. But it’s important that you aim to complete these goals 5-6 days out of the week. We’ve left off Sunday from the list because we think it’s the perfect day to reflect back on what worked during your week and decide on your new goals for the upcoming week.
Number 7: Ignore Other People’s Negative Opinions of You
In gymnastics, as in life, there will always be others who have opinions of you that might not match the opinion you have of yourself. It’s important to not let other people’s opinions determine the way you feel about yourself. If you start to listen to negative opinions and internalize those opinions then you can really feel a dip in your self-confidence. Instead, recognize that confidence comes from within from your own opinion of your self.
According to Aly Raisman:
“Over the years, I’ve gradually realized that confidence must come from within, not from others’ opinions, and that it’s impossible to feel satisfied with yourself if you’re constantly worrying about what other people think. I also learned the importance of surrounding myself with kind, loving people who help make me feel confident and strong.”
Aly is not the only elite gymnast to have recognized the relationship between confidence and other people’s opinions. In 2007, Nastia Liukin suffered an ankle injury and many people told her that she was too old to compete in world level competitions. As she said in her book, Finding My Shine:
“I felt from the bottom of my heart that I had not yet peaked in my gymnastics career. There would be many good, positive moments ahead of me – if I could learn not to listen to people who didn’t have the same goals as I had for myself. But that was hard. Positive or negative, we all eventually give in to the words that surround us, and I was no exception.”
In order to move forward from those comments that were influencing her confidence, she made a deliberate choice to ignore others’ opinions of her:
“But then I consciously decided to make a habit of looking at the situation from another direction. In that direction, I refused to allow other people to define me. That was not as easy as it sounds, however, and I slipped into negative self-talk many times. I knew I had to dig deeper to get those negative comments to start rolling off my back, and to convince myself that it didn’t matter what negative people said.”
While it’s not easy to ignore other’s opinions, if you want to build self confidence you must trust that your opinion and the positive opinions of the ones who support you are the only ones that matter.
Just like any gymnastics skill, confidence is a skill you must work on consistently.
As a gymnast you’ve learned many different gymnastics skills in addition to other skills like good work ethic, perseverance, and discipline. However, there’s one very important skill that isn’t always the focus of your practices and unless you spend deliberate time practicing this skill you might never improve it. That skill is called confidence.
There are many ways to go about developing more confidence and we’ve listed a few of them here for you. First, there’s a reason for the saying “If gymnastics were easy it would be called football!” It’s because gymnastics is a challenging sport and mastering it takes time, commitment, and perseverance. So recognize how hard this sport is and then pat yourself on the back for even getting this far! Next, it’s important not to compare yourself to the gymnast next to you. We are all on our own unique journey and we need to recognize that we don’t know all the pieces of someone else’s journey, including the sacrifices they’ve made to get to where they are today.
Another important way to build confidence is to focus on how far you’ve come in gymnastics instead of only focusing on how far you still have to go. You can do this by writing down a list of all of the skills you’ve learned on each event and then take some time to really let those accomplishments sink in. Turning your negative self-talk into positive self-talk will also help to increase your confidence. With 50,000-80,000 thoughts per day it’s important to use those thoughts to your benefit by focusing on positive, encouraging words! Also, setting small goals that you can achieve easily will give you a boost of confidence and show you how much you can accomplish if you set your mind to it! Finally, understand that confidence is something you have to develop within while ignoring other people’s negative comments.