Gymnastics Training Article: Mental
Blocks, Fear, Visualization
By Karen Goeller, CSCS
This article is not for reprint without
written permission from the author.
the Gymnastics Drills and Conditioning Books!
blocks and fears happen for many different reasons including falls, injury,
fatigue, dehydration, poor nutrition, poor skill technique, and too much pressure to perform
from the coach and/or parent. Sometimes when a gymnast is expected to learn too
many new skills within a short time frame they develop mental blocks due to the
pressure they feel. Many gymnasts put pressure on themselves so the added
pressure from a coach or parent can crush them. The best thing to do is allow
your gymnast to relax and not put any pressure on her.
If there is a problem with a specific skill
visualization often works really well. A gymnast must be able to visualize
herself performing the skill over and over again. You can show the gymnast a
video of other gymnasts performing the same skills she fears so that she has a
better understanding of the skill. She must be able to visualize herself
performing the skill on a daily basis, especially in the gym.
One way to help gymnasts with visualization is
to hold a visualization class for the team.
Bring in videos of many gymnasts, allow your gymnast to watch a short video clip of a
skill or series, and then tell them to close their eyes and replay the video in
their minds. (Make sure the video they are watching is being performed by a
gymnast with excellent technique.) Do that several times, run the video and
picture the video. Once the gymnasts can
clearly see the picture in their minds of the video they just watched, ask them
to picture themselves performing a skill that they have been performing for many
years, such as a cartwheel. Once they can do that really well have them
visualize themselves performing more difficult skills. Go through that process of watching a video
clip and visualizing many times throughout your visualization class.
When the gymnasts return to the training area have them
visualize themselves performing a simple skill such as a cartwheel. Next ask
them to perform the skill they just visualized. Allow your gymnasts to practice
visualization with simple skills, more difficult skills, then move on to series
and routines. That may take a few weeks. It may take several months for some
gymnasts to master visualization.
Once the gymnasts learn visualization take it a
step further. While performing their floor routines, as they wait for their
turn, ask your gymnasts to kneel and perform all of the arm movements for their
routine as they visualize themselves performing the routine. After practicing
visualization for several weeks you may see a big transformation with increased confidence
with some gymnasts. They may also begin
to pay close attention to detail and compete more successfully. The
visualization should be performed on every event and during every training day. The arm
routines while kneeling can be performed for beam and bars as well.
Besides the visualization, to reduce fear and
improve technique, your gymnasts must perform many drills for skills, the
proper conditioning (general and sport specific), and they must be spotted
for skills until they feel very comfortable performing them
on their own. Keep in mind
that the worst and most dangerous thing to do is to push your gymnast too hard
or add more pressure because that is when injuries can occur. Adding too much
pressure is not the same as encouraging your gymnast with a positive
attitude. Remember, a gymnast MUST be relaxed in order to focus properly and
A note regarding nutrition...
Nutrition and hydration play a very
large role in performance and many people do not realize this. To be sure your
gymnasts are getting enough of the nutrients ask their parents to
visit the following websites and be sure to visit them yourself
These websites have safe and accurate nutrition information, nutrition
tools, and sports science articles. It is a great idea to print articles
from these websites and
hand them out to your gymnasts on a regular basis. An article is often a
good reminder for parents and athletes to check whether they are
eating enough high quality food. Make sure nutrition is presented in a
positive manner, make good food choices for energy and health.
Another thing many people do not think about
when it comes to training is quality of sleep. Please discuss this with
your gymnast's parents to be sure they are getting high quality sleep.
Quality of sleep greatly effects an athlete's mind, body, and performance.
If a gymnast's performance is negatively effected due to lack of sleep their
safety may be at risk.
So get in the gym and practice visualization,
discuss good food choices, and encourage a healthy lifestyle with your gymnasts.
Their performance and their confidence may greatly improve!
Feel free to contact me directly if you think I
can help your gymnasts. My contact information is on the top of every page of
By Karen M. Goeller
Karen Goeller has
been training athletes since 1978. She has an
education that includes training in emergency medicine, physical therapy, and
nutrition. She has held certifications that include NSCA-CSCS, Fitness Trainer,
EMT-D, Nutritional Analysis, and many Gymnastics Certifications among others.
Besides being author of the Gymnastics
Drills and Conditioning books, Karen is the author of the
Swing Set Fitness books. She has also published
journals, training programs, and
articles. Her books are used by fitness
experts, coaches, teachers, and athletes worldwide. Karen has worked for world
famous gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi, owned a gymnastics club for ten years, and
has been featured in several newspapers and on television many times. She offers
sports performance training and private
gymnastics training in NJ. For
more on Karen visit
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