Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Mentally preparing for gymnastics competitions

While many students attend a school for gymnastics or take classes just for fun, there are just as many whose dream is to participate in gymnastics competitions. For those with that goal in mind, here are a few tips for preparing to shine at upcoming meets.

Mentally rehearse whenever you can. Performing well in gymnastics competitions isn’t just about physical rehearsal; you’ve got to get your mind right as well. Visualize yourself doing a perfect routine, with calmness and impeccable showmanship, and feel what you want to feel when you are actually at the competition. Also rehearse the choreography in your head with as much detail as possible. Studies show that athletes experience as much improvement through mental rehearsal as they do with physical practice. The best part of this is that you can mentally rehearse wherever you are!

Increase mental focus. Find ways to improve your mental focus and to avoid distraction. Many athletes meditate so that they can learn to be present and pull their mind back whenever it gets off track. This is helpful preparation for gymnastics competitions, as it will help you to stay in control of your emotions when there is a moment that you may be upset or feel stressed. Controlling your mind is an essential skill that helps in every aspect of life. If you don’t want to learn to meditate just yet, try simple deep breathing and practice bringing yourself back to your original focus.

Work on getting in the zone and staying there. Right before the competition, it’s critical to get into the zone—and you know what that is—as much as possible. Whether you’re in class at your school for gymnastics or at home, you have to get in a state where the fear and pressure doesn’t shake up your confidence and affect your performance. Do more visualization of yourself performing well, and also of the people competing before you and after you. Don’t forget to picture yourself receiving an excellent score!


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

When should children get serious about gymnastics school?

This is a very common question that parents ask about their children when they enroll them in a gymnastics school or even gymnastics classes for toddlers. While a child should always be having fun when participating in gymnastics or any other sport, we understand that both parents and children want to know if they should be doing more serious training, especially when they’re considering taking part in competitions.

What most coaches will say in regards to “serious” training is that a good age for children to start at a more technique-oriented gymnastics school or class is around age six. However, few have told us that a child has to start more serious training by then, as they’re not certain it will really give the student a competitive edge. In addition, when a child start any type of “serious” training that early, they run a risk of burnout or overtraining syndrome before they have a chance to see if they really want to compete in their given sport.

Burnout occurs among children in a wide range of activities, from dance and musical training to competitive sports and gymnastics. Keep in mind that many elite gymnasts and champion athletes didn’t start taking gymnastics or their respective sports until their pre- to early teen years. So if your youngster has a proclivity for the balance beam or shows a flair for performance, they can still excel without having to commit to a serious training program at an early age.

Until a child reaches at least age six, we recommend that the focus be on developing body awareness and an inclination for the sport and overall fitness, especially when it comes to gymnastics classes for toddlers. Before that, the focus of classes should really be about play, having the opportunity to socialize and enjoying physical activity. Parents can rest assured that their children will experience a broad spectrum of physical and emotional benefits by taking classes, from increasing flexibility, improving balance and boosting physical strength to bolstering listening and communication skills, learning to take turns and developing sportsmanship.