The Marathon Gymnast | Get Psyched!

Source: The Marathon Gymnast | Get Psyched!

Sometimes we get so caught up in the unforeseeable future that we forget to enjoy our children today. Author Jodi Brichta-Coyne writes an amazing article on the long journey of sports and how we can sometimes get so caught up in the unknown and we are so busy trying to plan out our children’s future, that sometimes miss out on the amazing success they are having today.

The Marathon Gymnast
As a mother of a level 7 competitive gymnast, I sometimes find myself trying to figure out when she will make it to level 10- the highest level before Elite. You see when she first started out she was on level 4 (where a lot of girls start), and improved very quickly. I saw other girls her age skipping levels and thought, “hey, maybe she should skip too, she has the skills”. Then I found myself comparing my daughter with other girls her age to see where they are at. It started to get out of hand when you find yourself talking to other moms and the first thing that comes out of their mouth is “what level is she at? how old is she? is she moving up this year?” I was getting sucked into the race where the race was more about who can get to level 10 the quickest, and not so much about process to get there and the mindset of building endurance, keeping the balance, and finishing strong.

The part that scares me is my daughter lives in that race to get to level 10 because the girls are so focused on levels (and not the process) that they lose the real meaning of what the race is all about. So I stepped back and looked at it from a different perspective. My job as a parent is not to push her to get in front before the others but support her in the present moment. It’s one thing to have goals and strive to achieve them, but another to lose focus on the task at hand to get you there. If I don’t teach her to breathe, stay focused, about grit, and other empowering tools she will need then.. will she burn out and give up long before the race is over?

I recently read a staggering statistic from the National Alliance of Sports that showed 70% of kids will quit sports before they turn 13. I thought “WOW!” The survey concluded that the number one reason why they quit is because it is no longer fun. What they enjoyed about their sport, i.e. gymnastics at levels 3/4 is totally different at levels 9/10 which requires much more time, effort and focus. In the beginning it was all about having fun as everything was new, and it was so exciting to get to the next skill. Most parents didn’t need to push because they didn’t have too. They were excelling on their own and were beaming. Then somewhere along the way the pressure got more intense as the skills got harder and took longer to achieve. Isn’t that the same at the beginning of a marathon? your adrenaline is pumping as the race begins and you are full of energy. The energy of the other runners pump you with excitement as you begin the journey together.

Then about half way through you notice that there are greater distances between you and the person in front of you and behind you. It isn’t crowded anymore and you begin to notice people on the sidelines falling behind. Your mind races with thoughts of.. “what if I can’t make it, what if everyone passes me and I can’t keep up..what if I quit right now!”
As thoughts swirl through your head of the reasons why you should stop your body keeps going. Then another thought floats through your head and you tell it to STOP! you start to focus back on your breath and think about the reasons why you are here and you will not quit. You think, I can and I will finish and you push yourself to go further leaving the negative thoughts behind you and focus in the moment (the only thing you really have control over).

Sure there are many legit reasons to quit, your body starts to hurt, you can’t breathe, you get injured. It happens and it happens to the best. The one thing that young gymnasts don’t realize is that the race is long and it is so much more than skills they are acquiring as they move up in levels or in the case of the marathon runner gaining momentum and pushing to go farther. They gain mental toughness, confidence, grit, courage, trust, faith, focus, determination, patience, perseverance and respect. They learn how to work together as a team to support one another, they learn compassion and kindness toward their fellow athletes (especially when one gets hurt), their coaches, and so many other wonderful lessons.

The race is long, there is no need to rush because in life some lessons just take longer to learn than others and that’s ok. They say that a lesson keeps on repeating itself until it is learned, then you can move on. This is a race that an athlete has with themselves not only in their sport but throughout all life stages and a parent pushing them before they are ready never works. They must fall down, they must fail, be disappointed and they must also learn how to get back up and get back in the race. Sure we can encourage and empower however, they themselves must walk their path. In the end, we are here to guide them and send them off into the world. So instead of wondering when she will make it to level 10 (and she may not ever make it and I am OK with that), I am going to sit back and watch her and enjoy the moment. It is her sport, her journey, and wherever it takes her the lessons learned along the way are much more valuable then striving to get somewhere before it’s time.

by: Jodi Brichta-Coyne

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How to use Affirmations and Positive Self-Talk. | Get Psyched!

I know, I know I talk about affirmations and positive self-talk all the time. I am a true believer in positive affirmations, inspirational quotes, and empowering words that build athletes up. My thoughts are that if we fill our lives with comments that remind us how wonderful, strong, beautiful, and talented we are, then we will tend to eventually believe them.

So what’s the problem?

Well some specialists in the Sports Psychology and Mental Toughness world sometimes mention that affirmations do not work. In an article published in Psychology Today, author Ray Williams states that people with low self esteem actually feel worse after using positive affirmations.


Source: How to use Affirmations and Positive Self-Talk. | Get Psyched!

Taking Ownership

Last weekend I hosted our Xcel State Championships at a local high school. It was a great competition. What I love about this level is the pure joy of gymnastics. The first day saw about 350 competitors. There was laughter. There was cheering (not just for teammates but also for other competitors). What I didn’t see- any crying out of frustration or disappointment. (I will save these thoughts for another blog).

I sat at the table facing the crowd playing floor music and making announcements. Nearly every team of parents could be identified in their group by their T-shirts, banners and cheering (I feel Another blog on crowd/parent behavior). At the end of each session as the parents filed out and headed to awards some teams of parents just got up and left leaving pop corn boxes, news papers, various bottles and coffee cups. The area staked out by other teams were so clean it was as if they were never there. I watched a few parents on their way down the bleachers picking up stuff left by other groups.

At the end of the weekend when we finished loading everything back on the DGS truck I had parents in the bleachers cleaning everything left behind then sweeping the bleachers. I had parents dry mopping the vinyl cover over floor before another group helped the custodians fold it up. The custodians were very thankful for our help with things that was “their job”. I remarked, “My goal was to run a successful competition for the kids and to be good guests. You are obviously proud of your facility and you were gracious enough to let us use it so I am proud of the facility as well.”

Polish the floor and you polish your soul
-Zen saying

I try to impress upon my staff and all the gymnasts at Atlantic Gymnastics (Rec and Team) to treat the gym as your second home. Take pride in your surroundings. Pick up the garbage instead of stepping over it. I rarely am offended and usually very thankful when a parent takes the time to point out where we have failed to meet their expectations. Some people get upset with these “complaints” but I look at them as a chance for us to improve our product. Whether a parent has concerns over heat/ ac (my second floor observation room is very warm in the winter and penguins would be comfortable up there when the AC is on), trash in the parking lot or when one of our teachers doesn’t deliver at the level we expect. In general for every parent that takes the time to say something there are 10 who feel the same and do not say anything.

There are NO small jobs. Each job is important and in order for this ship to sail smoothly everyone must work together and be willing to pick up the slack when necessary.

I was doing some research to expand on this article when I came across the blog GYMNAST CROSSING. They cover the same topic (even using the same zen saying). Please visit their blog. Instead of trying to rewrite what they have done such a good job on, I will repost their article.

From Gymnast Crossing:

Polish the floor and you polish your soul
-Zen saying

While out for my morning run to the park this cloudy morning, I was doing sit-ups at a station and watched a woman randomly picking up trash as she was walking.  As she passed by me, I told her she was awesome and thanked her for the act and the inspiration.  I was done running, and walked to the next station for push-ups, picking up some litter along the way.  Not much of a trouble, either, considering there are trash cans conveniently placed throughout the park.

During summer and winter camp in previous years, other coaches and myself would on occasion, give a speech to the girls after noticing how not everyone was pulling her own weight in cleaning up after lunch.  Some girls would be pretending to clean; or making a concerted effort to not put in much effort.  Other gymnasts would occupy cleanup time with mostly socializing.

And then there were the few teammates who were actually engaged in quality work on cleaning.

Is this fair to the teammates who are shouldering most of the workload?  Does the job get done more efficiently when more people help or when less people help?

Is it ever fair when a person has to clean up after herself, and the mess left behind by others?  Who benefits?  The person working hard, disciplining herself to do the right thing?  The person being lazy and inconsiderate of others, not pulling her own weight?

When I phrase it in those terms, the answer is quite obvious.

The girls have been talked to as well, regarding the state of the gym, in general.  At the end of the day, used athletic tape is discarded in a twisted mangle; paper wrappings to chalk blocks litter the floor by bars; defrosted peas in plastic ziplocs mine the gym like IEDs, ready to be stepped on and exploded….

The gym is like a second home.  How do you treat your home?

If you see trash lying around, do you pick it up?  Or wait in hopes that the responsible party will return to do it, himself?  Or trust that someone else will do it?  Just not you?

When it’s time to move mats, either to set up drill stations or clear some space; or to move mats to make it easier for the evening clean-up crew to do their job of cleaning up after us, I notice who is helping and who is not helping.  Your coaches might not always say something.  But they notice.

Have some character and integrity:  Do the right thing.  Clean up after yourself and others.  Don’t wait around for a coach to tell you; don’t expect to be recognized or praised, either.  Do it because it’s the right thing to do- and do it especially when you think no one is looking.


USA Gymnastics | AAP study differentiates between structured trampoline programs and backyard trampolines

The American Academy of Pediatrics today released a policy statement, “Trampoline safety in childhood and adolescence.” Although the piece focused mostly on the dangers of backyard trampolines, the paper separated backyard/recreational trampolines and activities from trampolines used in structured training programs. The statement’s conclusion stated, “Pediatricians should only endorse use of trampolines as part of a structured training program with appropriate coaching, supervision and safety measures in place.”

“In a supervised environment like a gymnastics club, trampoline activity has incredible benefits for kids, whether training for a sport or getting fit,” said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. “USA Gymnastics club programs are designed to follow the highest in both safety and equipment standards in the development and training of an athlete. The differences between a backyard trampoline and trampoline training at a gymnastics club are vast, and we applaud the AAP for recognizing those differences as noted in today’s policy statement.”

Source: USA Gymnastics | AAP study differentiates between structured trampoline programs and backyard trampolines

an unfair deduction – “chest low” – Gymnastics

In NCAA Gymnastics in particular, I keep hearing people refer to “chest low on landing” deduction. Yet in the current FIG Women’s Code of Points I see only this reference: Landing faults ~ Body posture fault = 0.1 or 0.3 deduction An angled chest on landing is not necessarily a “body posture fault”, though it … Continue reading an unfair deduction – “chest low”

Source: an unfair deduction – “chest low” – Gymnastics