Laura M Miele Ph.D.

The Whole Athlete

Psyche of a Gymnast

How to overcome mental roadblocks

Posted Jun 08, 2016

Pixabay/Shutterstock
Source: Pixabay/Shutterstock

Typically, gymnasts begin training at an early age. The training they receive is progressive and consistent where in time, their bodies almost automatically respond with fluidity in the movements in each event. 

As gymnasts grow older, the competition naturally becomes more fierce. Some gymnasts can handle the pressure while others hit a wall. Whether it comes from an injury or seemingly out of nowhere, the anxiety can impact an athlete's performance tremendously.

For years, I have been working with gymnasts in a variety of capacities: functional training of proper technique, landings, strength and conditioning, and mental training.  The one component that has been the most important has been mental training. I have dealt with gymnasts struggling with specific routines and programs involving all events, two in particular being the high beam and the bars. 

So, what it is the solution for these athletes? The first solution is mental training and visualization. From early stages of their development, athletes need to train their minds as they do their bodies. Doing so will give them a huge competitive advantage. However, it's never too late to start working at this and practicing. Sometimes, the mind and body connection is interrupted and needs to be remarried, so to speak. In order to do this, athletes should work with a sport psychology professional or experienced coach to set short term goals and work on relaxation techniques and progressive mental programs that will help to reduce their anxiety. 

What I have found to be quite helpful is to begin with simple visualization and work into visualization of performance. It is important not to move too fast as some are not as good at visualizing as others. The mental training should be progressive and taught in increments, thus teaching athletes how to eliminate tension created in their body from their anxiety. Once practiced to proficiency, these techniques should be utilized in unison to create a full mental training program to assist the athlete in conquering their mental roadblocks.

For more information on coaching and leadership, make sure to check out the Ohio University Coaching Education program and Mind Over Body Athletics, LLC.