Visualisation. Positive affirmation. Mindful practice. These goal setting ‘buzz-words’ seem to be everywhere at the moment, but what do they actually mean? More importantly, how can they be useful for young gymnasts as they move into 2022?
Put in very simple terms, visualisation involves imagining yourself doing the thing that you want to achieve. This article cites research showing that people who imagine themselves performing a task, improve their performance in that task- even if they don’t physically do anything towards achieving it. It may all sound a little bit vague, but visualisation is a technique often used by athletes to help them shine in their chosen sport.
When it comes to gymnastics, a vision board can be a useful tool to help with visualisation. Encourage your gymnast to spend some time thinking about what their goals are in the gym over the coming year- it could be specific skills they are hoping to gain or improve on; or maybe something more general, like being ready to compete at a particular event. Older children might want to make a list, or for younger ones, you could simply talk through it with them.
Once this is done, you can set about finding images and quotes to go with this vision. Mr F is hoping to compete at regional grades again next year, so his vision board could include images of boys in his age group who have won medals there in previous years, or himself from this year’s competition. He might also choose to use the logo of the region he competes in, as he hopes to one day represent them at finals. His favourite quote- “nothing is impossible, some things just haven’t been done yet” would probably also feature on his vision board.
Creating a vision board brings together visual (pictures/words), auditory (listening and talking it through with you), and kinaesthetic (the practical act of making the board) aspects of learning, and this ensures that whichever is your child’s dominant learning style, a vision board could be of use to them.
I first came across positive affirmations during pregnancy, when I wanted to learn more about hypnobirthing. I then discovered that affirmations are actually used by many people, in all walks of life, and that fans of the technique are quite confident about its positive effects on their lives.
Used regularly, positive affirmations are said to reduce anxiety, and increase self esteem and confidence. Mindtools says that “Affirmations are positive statements that can help you to challenge and overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts. When you repeat them often, and believe in them, you can start to make positive changes.” This can be really useful for future goal setting.
Your child may want to create their own positive affirmations which are specific to their situation and future goals, but here are some which may help them along the way:
“Not achieving a top score or a PB does not signal the end; it just means you’re not there… yet!” Vicki from Iceni Magazine.
“Progress over perfection” Hayley from See Stay Explore.
“Practice makes perfect” Becky from Planes Trains and Buggies.
“I believe in myself”
“I can do hard things”
“you only fail if you quit”
“mistakes are proof that I am trying”
“I am ready to be successful”
“I stay calm”
“I am brave
Help your child to choose perhaps 2-4 affirmations which they feel a positive connection to, and encourage them to repeat these to themselves several times a day- or whenever they feel like they need some extra encouragement.
Mindfulness means being fully present in a moment, being aware of your thoughts and feelings, and giving them your full attention. In a world where many of us – especially parents – are constantly multi-tasking, rushing from one activity to another, modelling taking the time to give our undivided attention to something will almost certainly be useful to our children.
This article says that mindful practice in sport allows children to learn how to stay “in the zone” when competing, and can improve their ability to block out negative thoughts and emotions. It also provides some really useful mindfulness exercises that are simple enough for even quite young children to have a go at.
One great mindfulness exercise to use after a training session, or at the end of a day, is ‘three good things.’ If you’ve ever read Anne of Green Gables, you’ll remember her Glad Game- it’s a bit like that!
If anything has disappointed or upset your child during their gym training, you could begin by acknowledging those feelings, and talking through it if they want to. After this, point out that even though they may be disappointed by something, there are always good things that they can be glad about, too. Encourage them to come up with three things that they were happy about or proud of during their gymnastics session, however small it may seem.
The idea of this activity isn’t to ignore their negative emotions, or try to pretend that they don’t exist. Instead, it acknowledges that even though we can feel sad about one thing, we can also feel happy about something else at the same time; and encourages us to keep those more positive feelings at the forefront of our minds. With regular repetition, ‘three good things’ could become a useful part of your child’s goal setting behaviours- reminding themselves of what they actually are achieving towards their goals, rather than getting distracted by what they aren’t.
Hopefully this guide to goal setting for gymnasts has given you some useful ideas for ways that you can help your gymnast to achieve their goals in 2022. If it has, why not share it to your social media accounts, using the buttons at the top and bottom of the page?