My friend met me for lunch today, and we shared stories about our weekend. She watched her first live gymnastics competition, and was not happy about what she witnessed. She showed me a video of a gymnast’s beam routine and said she was stunned that not one of the teammates watched her compete. She was appalled that the entire team turned their backs on during each beam routine and refused to watch each other compete.
I told her it wasn’t that the kids were rude, it was that their coach made them turn their backs. I went on to explain that beam was a very Mental event and the girls don’t watch so they don’t get psyched out by seeing someone fall or make a mistake. They turn their backs because they are supposed to be thinking about their routines, visualizing, and preparing for their turn.
As I continued to explain to her why coaches used this technique, I began to remember why I don’t like this type of beam training at all.
The idea of not watching is so:
- The gymnast won’t see their teammate fall and start to doubt in their own performance.
- The gymnast can focus and prepare for their own routine.
This idea may seem like a great plan, but it may not be the best way to prepare the gymnasts and teach mental toughness on beam.
Not letting a gymnast watch (because the coach is worried they will see a teammate fall and start to doubt their own performance) doesn’t teach the gymnast how to overcome distractions, refocus after they see a fall, or deal with negative thoughts.
- Avoiding a problem doesn’t teach the gymnast how to overcome the problem.
- They must learn how to be prepared for every situation. The gymnast must learn how to watch someone fall and not lose confidence in their own performance.
- They are smart and will know when their teammate falls, they can hear them fall, and everyone in the crowd moans, but they won’t know why or how, so it may worry them even more.
- By not letting them watch, it also sends the message that the coach doesn’t think they are Mentally strong enough to handle distractions. It also teaches the gymnasts that beam is too difficult to watch and very intimidating. This is not a good message for the coach to send the gymnasts.
Standing in a line does not prepare the gymnast for their routine.
- The best way for a gymnast to prepare for their routines is to move around, run through their routines in their heads, do arms sets with their Mental Choreography, and to stay relaxed.
- Standing in one spot is not good, especially for the last gymnast in line.
Coaching techniques that try to avoid situations miss out on great opportunities to teach the gymnast more important lessons.
- Teach the gymnasts why to focus, what to focus, when to focus, and how to focus.
- Teach them to recognize distractions and how to refocus.
- Teach them how to remain focused before, during, and after performances.
Don’t teach them to avoid situations, avoiding situations never makes the situations go away. Don’t teach them to pretend they aren’t paying attention to the girl on the beam, they know whats going on, they can hear her fall. Don’t make them stand in line having to turn their backs on their teammates and away from the beam with fear.
Teach them to face beam with the tools they will need. Beam is not something to run and hide from, so teach the gymnasts how to look at the beam with confidence and strength. Attack the beam with a fierce knowledge that they can and will make that beam fear them.
Wendy Bruce Martin was a member of the 1992 Olympic team and 5x national team member. She has been involved in gymnastics for 37 years and coaching for 22. She received her degree in psychology and is a certified mental toughness coach. Wendy owns the Mental Toughness Company, GET PSYCHED! is co-owner of Gold Medal Moms, and Author of the book, Breaking Through a Mental Block.