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IMGCA Article - The Mental Game of Gymnastics


Gymnastics Sport Psychology, Goals, and Motivation

John Howard

90% Mental and 10% Physical

It is often said that gymnastics is 90% mental and 10% physical. If that is true, it certainly follows that there should be some percentage of training time devoted to the mental aspects of the sport and psychological training tools. In spite of this reasoning, it appears that even among those coaches who believe in mental training, there is more verbal support than actual training going on.

The USA National Gymnastics Team Uses a Sports Psychologist

The U.S. National Gymnastics Team has been seriously working with sports psychologists since at least 1992, after the Barcelona Olympics, dealing with problems such as overly high expectations, pressure and stress management. In the areas the mental training program has utilized, there seems to be credible evidence that this program has been a success and contributed to the success of the United States in International competition.

Self-Esteem vs. Scream

One of the most important aspects for a mental training program is the creation of a positive gymnastics environment. There is overwhelming scientific evidence that a positive mental environment is a prime basis for training and competitive success, especially for girls in gymnastics and other sports. In spite of this, it seems the typical gymnastics coach is more apt to follow the Bela Karolyi School of Yelling, Screaming and Negative Feedback. Perhaps his "screaming" success in the sport has led other coaches to believe that his success is a result of that screaming, instead of in spite of it.

Emphasize the Positive

Elite gymnasts tend to have particular traits that include intelligence, perfectionism and careful attention to detail. A well-designed mental training program would include methods of accentuating a gymnast's positive traits and minimizing their negative traits. A variety of mental programs could and should be utilized to build confidence levels.

Goal-Setting is a Prime Motivational Tool

It is a well-established principle that that the establishment and daily regular review of written goals can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is as true in gymnastics training as it is in any other area of endeavor.

John Howard is the author of 15 books and e-Books about gymnastics, gym design, gymnastics humor and cheerleading. More books are already on the way. He has 25 years experience and has coached State, Regional and National champion gymnasts and international competitors and cheerleaders at the National level in NCAA Division I.

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