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IMGCA Article - The Mental Game of Gymnastics


The Mental Game Of Gymnastics

Building Mental Toughness And Confidence

Bill Cole, MS, MA


For many years I've been the mental game coach to a great number of gymnasts at the youth level, and with high school and collegiate gymnasts. I have the greatest respect for gymnasts, on a number of levels. They need to have very strong mental toughness to cope with the dangers of the sport. The chance of injury is always present. They also often need to train and compete with pain and discomfort, and that takes special self-discipline.

How does this apply to you in your gymnastics? Do you have the level of mental toughness you want? Are you a fast learner? Do you learn the moves you need, in the time frames you want? Do you have solid communication with your coach so you can learn well?

Here are four simple mental strategies you can use to improve all of that.

  1. Recognize That You Are A Special Athlete: As I said, I have huge respect for gymnasts. How about you? Do you think what you do is special? Do you know how many people would like to be you, and be able to do what you do? You have guts and courage to get into the gym every day and throw your body around like you do. Most people would never have the nerve to do any of that. So now you know, you ARE special.

  2. Master Moves In Your Mind Before You Do Them: It has been said that to execute something you must first believe you can do it. Part of that belief comes from your ability to visualize the move. Close your eyes and imagine you are about to perform a move that has been bugging you. Imagine how you would feel if you really stick this move. Now take yourself through that move until you can see yourself succeeding. This is the art of visualization. See it—believe it—do it!

  3. Stop Telling Yourself That You Can't Do A Move: Every time you think or say "I can't" you are pulling down your self-confidence a notch. Stop using the "can't word". Forever. Instead, say, "Let me see what I can do with this. If I keep at it, I bet I can master this." And then keep trying until you DO master it. Be a possibility thinker. Can't is about impossibilities.

  4. Help Your Coach Speak Better, So You Get Better Coaching: In a perfect world every coach would be a first-class communicator. If your coach does not coach you enough, or gives you limited feedback, or gives you feedback you don't want, you need to take charge. You need to diplomatically and calmly ask your coach for what you need. Be specific. Ask things like, "Was that last move too slow, too fast, or just right, Coach?", or "You said you did not like my last move there. What did you not like about it specifically?" Do this and you will be shaping your coach's communication abilities to match what you are seeking.

Now you can say you know more about the mental game of gymnastics, and of how to manage your own mind. Now you also hopefully appreciate yourself more as being a tough athlete in a tough sport. You also know about how to be more positive and to visualize success. Finally, you know how to coach your coach! Good luck!

Copyright © 2014 Bill Cole, MS, MA. All rights reserved.

This article covers only one small part of the mental game. A complete mental training program includes motivation and goal-setting, pre-event mental preparation, post-event review and analysis, mental strengthening, self-regulation training, breath control training, motor skill training, mental rehearsal, concentration training, pressure-proofing, communication training, confidence-building, breaking through mental barriers, slump prevention, mental toughness training, flow training, relaxation training, momentum training, psych-out proofing and media training.

For a comprehensive overview of your mental abilities you need an assessment instrument that identifies your complete mental strengths and weaknesses. For a free, easy-to-take 65-item sport psychology assessment tool you can score right on the spot, visit This assessment gives you a quick snapshot of your strengths and weaknesses in your mental game. You can use this as a guide in creating your own mental training program, or as the basis for a program you undertake with Bill Cole, MS, MA to improve your mental game. This assessment would be an excellent first step to help you get the big picture about your mental game.

Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on peak performance, mental toughness and coaching, is founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching Association, Bill is also founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps organizations and professionals achieve more success in business, life and sports. He is a multiple Hall of Fame honoree, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published book author and articles author, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league pro sports, big-time college athletics and corporate America. For a free, extensive article archive, or for questions and comments visit him at

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