Having Fun in Competitive Gymnastics

Gymnast Psychology

The Importance of Having Fun in Gymnastics

Is competitive gymnastics still fun for you? Or has your enjoyment for the sport been replaced with the feeling of work?

Having fun is critical, not just as a part of your athletic experience, but for success in the sport.

The erosion of fun is a shared experience among gymnasts as they progress up the ranks.

See if this story rings true for you:

Quinn W. is a young gymnast who lost her zest for gymnastics.

When Quinn was young, she looked forward to going to practice. Every part of practice was fun from bouncing on the trampoline to doing round offs on the mat.

As Quinn advanced, she was excited to learn new apparatuses. Quinn loved competition and was excited the day before knowing she had the opportunity to strut her stuff and hang out with her friends on the team.

After a few years, her feelings about competition changed. Pressure, apprehension, anxiety and fear replaced what was once fun and excitement. Rather than giving it her all in competitions, Quinn just wanted her routines to be over as soon as possible.

Quinn’s performances routinely fell short of her expectations and she would be very critical of herself for hours after the competition.

Overall, Quinn’s experience in gymnastics was now miserable and it definitely affected how she competed.

What Causes the Fun to Disappear for Some Gymnasts?

The answer is that when gymnasts become perfectionists and over-focused on results, they experience more pressure which takes some of the fun out of the sport.

When you first started gymnastics, the type of fun you experienced was “play.”

Everyone likes play. Play focuses on what you are doing in the moment without judgment or expectation of a specific result.

You might be thinking, “That is all well and good but, if you want to climb the ranks in gymnastics, you need to produce results.”

Here lies a different form of fun, the fun of overcoming challenges, learning new skills, mastering routines, accomplishing goals.

Even though there is an element of results in this mindset, the fun of meeting challenges is still present-moment oriented.

Of course, you would be sad if you score low on your best event. The challenge lies in how to be better the next time you perform it.

Maryland women’s gymnastics team has rediscovered that youthful fun and excitement despite a 1-4 record this season.

The Terps celebrated their best performance of the season even though the team came up short against to Penn State recently.

Junior Evelyn Nee commented that the team was upbeat even after their Penn State loss because their focus was on the process of improving:

“We were all happy because we didn’t have to count any falls.”

Nee said the team infused fun into their experience by watching movies together, singing and dancing. These activities keep the mood lighthearted during road trips and help the team focus on the process.

After the Penn State meet, Maryland freshman Alecia Farina stated, “We had a ball — it was a lot of fun.”

That fun translated into less pressure and improved performance.

If you can rediscover your “fun,” your enjoyment, enthusiasm and performance will ignite.

Tips for Finding Your Fun

Think of a meet in the past year where you had the most amount of fun…

Examine “why?” What are the reasons you started in gymnastics?

Were you being goofy with your teammates? Were you thinking of some funny things that happened during the week? Were you dancing crazy during warm-ups?

If you know what makes you enjoy your sport, you can replicate those experiences for future meets. Make it a goal to have more fun in gymnastics–instead of the need to be perfect with your skills!

Learn all my mental game strategies for improving your performance via mental training in my Workbook program for competitive gymnasts

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Are you ready to improve your mental toughness and perform with ultimate self-confidence in competition?

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The Confident Gymnast Workbook Program was developed not only by Dr. Cohn, but with the assistance of former gymnast Olympian Wendy Bruce.

The Confident Gymnast is ideal for any competitive gymnast. But not only do gymnasts benefit from the program, coaches and parents do as well!

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