How to Manage Anxiety in Gymnastics Competitions

Pressure in Gymnastics

Let Go of Unnecessary Expectations

How many times have you thought, “I have to win,” “I have to nail my routine to score well,” or “I have to perform mistake-free routines in practice this week if I am going to perform well in my meet this weekend”?

What feelings emerge when you hear these “have to” thoughts in your mind?

Chances are you feel a buildup of pressure and anxiety.

When you feel pressure and anxiety, you make uncharacteristic mistakes in your routines and those mistakes can add up to significant deductions.

Alleviating pressure and anxiety is a matter of reframing the situation.
Changing “I have to” statements into “I get to” statements makes all the difference in the world. It is a slight perspective switch that lessens pressure, alleviates anxiety and puts you in a peak performance mindset.

Mental Game Examples

Let’s look at two examples to see this picture unfold more clearly…

You wake up on the day of a big gymnastics meet. You have worked all season on a new balance beam routine that incorporates more difficult movements and tricks. You have steadily honed this routine and have improved your score over the last few meets. The meet is close heading into the last event.

Minutes prior to your routine, a number of “have to” thoughts storm into your mind: “I have to be near perfect or I will let everyone down,” “I have to nail my new dismount or I will receive big deductions,” “I have to perform in front of the biggest crowd of the season and all eyes will be on me.”

Just reading these statements, you can feel the buildup of anxiety and pressure. In this scenario, do you think you would perform your best or do you think you would feel so tense and nervous that you would make more mistakes than usual?

Reframe the Situation

Now, try reframing this situation just a bit. Instead of “I have to” statements, reframe these thoughts into “I get to” statements: “I get the opportunity to display my talents,” “I get the chance to help my team,” “I get the opportunity to see all my hard work pay off.”

The perspective where you see opportunity, instead of pressure, enables you to just compete and have fun.

The University of Florida women’s gymnastics team began the 2021 season ranked No. 1 by the Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association (WCGA) preseason poll.

University of Florida Head Coach Jenny Rowland is viewing the season, as well as the ranking, as an opportunity to prove themselves, compete and have fun.

ROWLAND: “We’re excited that the Gators are ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll. However, I think the Gators are most thankful that we have an opportunity to get out and compete again this year…”

With a change in perspective, you can alleviate pressure and anxiety, declutter your mind, relax your body and enable yourself to focus more clearly throughout your routine.

How to Manage Pressure in Competition:

When you feel the buildup of pressure, try reframing the situation. Look for the opportunity to do this by asking yourself, “How can competing in this situation benefit me?”

Pressure is in the eye of the beholder. Let go of the expectations you feel to score well or what you think coach or parents expect of you.

Remember, slight perspective shifts change how you manage pressure during competition.

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