You are What You Think: 10 Tips to Mental Toughness at Meets


Forget about the judges or even the other competitors.

The real battle in competition isn’t them.

It’s yourself.

More specifically, it’s what is in your head.  There is a reason it’s called mental toughness: what you think influences how you act.

  1. Think of small, concrete and controllable goals going into each competition.  Focus on impressing yourself.
  2. Think about what you want to have happen.  Or, stated another way, refrain from thinking about what you do not want to have happen.  Coach your mind to coach you positively.
  3. Be mindful.  Stay in the moment.  What happened in the past is not a predictor for what will happen today.  What you do today is the predictor for how you will do today.  When you mind goes to a place of worry, reel it back in by reminding yourself what you can control.  Your breath is an excellent place to start.  Think about your breathing.  Inhale in for the count of four; exhale for the count of six.  Do this several times.  It works.  Trust me.
  4. Stay as emotionally even as possible.  There will be ups and there will be downs.  Don’t take any of them too seriously.  By staying emotionally even you are able to stay in the present which is exactly where you need to be while competing.  If something goes wrong, remind yourself that this is normal.  Do not panic.  Get up and move on.  If you are wildly successful, it’s okay to have a quick jolt of pride but you have your next event to concentrate on so don’t spend too much time in celebration mode just yet.
  5. Don’t complain.  Instead find a solution.  Complaining never makes you feel better unless you attach a solution to the problem.  The meet site is cold?  Put on an extra layer.  Feeling thirsty?  Drink water.  Feeling nervous?  Breathe.
  6. Ignore that which you cannot change or that over which you have no power.  There are things you cannot change.  Which event you begin on.  A judge who scores hard.  Being in a rotation with teams you do not like.  No use in complaining because you cannot change it so just let it go.
  7. Act as if.  You might be tired, feel nervous or be scared.  Act like you have energy, are calm and feel brave.  You might hate that judge or wish you weren’t in a rotation with that other club.  Act delighted to see them.
  8. Be happy for other competitors.  Negative energy or jealousy over others’ performance takes energy away from you.  Feeling good seeing others’ succeed helps energy grow within yourself.  Yes, of course, you are competing to win but raining on someone else’s parade does not move you up the podium.
  9. Find gratitude.  You are competing in a sport you love.  Your body is healthy enough to do this.  Your coaches and teammates are there to support you.  Your parents are proud of you.  You are doing something only a small percentage of the world population can do: gymnastics.
  10. Leave evaluation for after the competition.  It’s tempting to analyze what worked and what didn’t during the meet.  Resist.  It’s a waste of your energy to do a post-mortem while you are still playing the game.

It’s important to work on the mental side of your training.  As the great baseball player Willie Mays said, “What you are thinking, what shape your mind is in, makes the greatest difference of all.”