Adopting an Improvement Mindset
“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”
This proverb strongly applies to sports.
While strengthening a strength vastly improves your performance output, improving weaker aspects of your gymnastics repertoire can greatly improve your overall sport confidence and make you an overall better performer.
But in reality, most gymnasts avoid working on those weaker areas of their skill set.
Let’s use a fictitious character, Lisa B. to illustrate this point…
Lisa is teenage gymnast on her local USA competitive gymnastics team. Lisa loves the floor routine and she scores consistently well in competitions.
In practice, Lisa is excited to work on her routine and learn new tricks. Lisa attacks her routine with confidence, and even if she doesn’t hit the landing on one of her tumbling passes, she quickly moves on to the next element.
Conversely, Lisa hates the beam, her worst event by far. When it comes time to practice beam, Lisa puts in a half-hearted effort. Even her practice routines are riddled with mistakes.
Lisa thinks she’s horrible at the beam and her body language shows it. Lisa feels that working on the beam is a lost cause and becomes so anxious when the beam event nears in competition.
The end result is that Lisa proves herself right over and over about her perceived lack of ability in the beam event.
Let’s refer back to the proverb and apply it to gymnastics… You are only as strong as your weakest point.
Imagine what Lisa could do in the sport of gymnastics if her overall confidence improved.
The University of Utah women’s gymnastics team wanted to improve the team’s overall performance on the balance beam, an event not considered to be the team’s best event last year.
In fact, last year at NCAA Championships, mistakes on the beam caused the Utes to slide in the standings and finish ninth.
This year was a different story. Starting in the off-season, the team committed to improve what was once considered a weak event.
Armed with a new mindset, the team nailed their routines on the beam with no falls and just a few minor bobbles when they opened the regular season against Michigan.
Utah co-coach Tom Farden said it was the best performance he has seen from the program in his seven years.
Senior Baely Rowe commented on the team’s commitment to strengthen the team’s overall mindset and performance on the beam.
ROWE: “We have worked hard in the off-season to become a beam team. I honestly trust everyone up there that they are going to hit.”
Working to effectively improve a weakness requires a perspective shift.
Concluding you are bad at a skill and always will be is a false assumption.
Instead, adopt an improvement mindset.
Understand that you are not looking for perfection… Perfection is an illusion that never can be attained anyway. You are not even working to make that weak event your best event.
Your goal for improving a weaker aspect of your performance is to be a little better today than you were yesterday.
Your goal is incremental progress.
Anything that you work on with focus and purpose strengthens and improves. Baby steps over time become huge performance leaps.
Commit to improvement, not perfection.
Tips for strengthening a weakness:
Just like physical strength, the more consistent repetitions increases over time results in added strength gains.
What apparatus do you need to improve the most?
Pick one aspect of this weaker event that you will commit to improving. If it is the balance beam, don’t look to nail the whole routine at once. That will only doom you for failure.
When it is time to work on that element, your goal should be incremental progress. Remember, progress is often two steps forward and one step back.
Get excited about working to improve a weakness and know it will lead to increased overall confidence and performance.
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~Professional Ballerina, Student of Dr. Cohn in 2013
What All Gymnasts Must Know to Overcome Perfectionism
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