For boys in Yorkshire, regional grades took place last month. It was Mr F’s second time at this competition, having missed last year due to COVID. As competitions are gradually beginning to get going again, I thought this would be a good time to put pen to paper (metaphorically!) and think about how we help Mr F to prepare for the highs and lows of taking part in a gymnastics competition.
Whether it’s an informal friendly between two or three local clubs, or a regional – perhaps even national – age group event, competitions can be great fun for the children taking part. The atmosphere of a competition hall is awesome, and the chance to do something different from their everyday training is something little gymnasts can remember for many years to come- my sister and I still reminisce about some of her gymnastics competitions, nearly 20 years ago!
However much fun they can be though, it doesn’t mean that competitions can’t be nerve-wracking, too! Performing on different equipment, in a different room, full of different people, can make even the bravest of children quite nervous. Some children might start to worry about an upcoming competition when they arrive at the venue, but for others, it can be earlier than this, while they’re still preparing in their usual gym club.
Before the Competition
For Mr F, any worries usually start the night before a competition, so we try to help prepare him for a good, restful night’s sleep. We’ll make sure he has one of his favourite meals for tea (I try to ensure it’s a reasonably healthy one!), then he’ll have a warm bath, and spend a bit of time reading a book in bed, before settling down for an early night.
Mr F has always liked to know what’s going to happen in advance, so before he goes to bed we tell him the plan for the morning- does he need to get up and go straight away, or can he have more of a lazy start, and so on. We also make sure Mr F does a final check of all his kit, along with anything else he needs for the morning.
On the Day
On competition day, Mr F chooses his favourite cereal for breakfast, along with a glass of water and his daily multivitamin. We try to keep up the relaxed atmosphere of the night before, so during our car journey we keep it fun, chatting and listening to the radio. Sometimes we talk about who else might be competing, and ask Mr F how he is feeling. He may want to tell us he’s a bit nervous, at other times he says he’s fine, so we don’t push him.
I want him to work through any worries he has about the day (a problem shared is a problem halved, after all!), but I’m also aware that sometimes talking too much about his concerns can actually make Mr F dwell on them more, so I let him take the lead and let me know how much he’d like to talk. Sometimes we talk about completely unrelated things- football and Pokemon are particular favourites!
If it’s quite a long drive, we take some small snacks for the car journey, such as fruit or biscuits. This helps to occupy Mr F and take his mind off his nerves a bit, and it also keeps his energy levels up. We avoid sugary sweets, though, to try and prevent a sugar comedown half-way through the competition.
Arriving at the Competition
As soon as we arrive, I look out for any familiar face, coach or friend from our club. Even though he’s almost 11, Mr F still likes to have a big kiss and cuddle, and a last “good luck,” before I send him off to the warm-up area. At his most recent competition, he was given a ‘lucky pin’ by another coach at his club, which helped him to feel a bit more relaxed.
We are always SO proud of Mr F, regardless of his results, and we make sure to tell him so. We usually find somewhere in the gym to take a few photographs of him with his certificate and any medals- his coach (who is also his Dad!) usually features in the pictures too. We make an effort to have something special for tea afterwards, too- it always seems to round the day off nicely.
Preparing for a gymnastics competition can be full of emotional ups and downs, but as parents, we try hard to make each experience as fun for Mr F as possible. How do you prepare your gymnasts for a competition? Add your tried-and-tested tips below!