International Mental Game Coaching AssociationIMGCA official website
Member Login

IMGCA Article - The Mental Game of Gymnastics


5 Tips For Motivating Your Gymnast

A Basic Overview

Murray Hughes

For every gymnast, there is a different motivational need. This is the same in anything, really -- we all have different ways in which we are given confidence in ourselves, no matter what we do. Whether we write or draw, sing or dance, we all need encouragement. Indeed, gymnasts need encouragement in their sport more than many, because they are actually attempting to train their bodies and their minds in order to move correctly, to be able to take the strain of the sport. As a parent of a gymnast, there are many ways in which you can motivate your child. Some of them might work. Some of them might not. Find what is most comfortable for you and your gymnast and stick with it. It's easier for you both that way.

Show Interest

First and foremost, in order to motivate a child--most certainly a gymnast--you need to show interest in what they are doing. If he or she feels as though you are uninterested in the sport as a whole, then they may become discouraged all together. How do you show interest, even if gymnastics aren't your absolute favorite sport in the world? Actually, it's pretty easy. First, you can warm up with them before they train. Join in with their stretches or their jogging, if you can. It feels good and it sets an example. If you don't want to run around with them, then you can ask them about their days at practice. What did they do? What did they learn? Many young gymnasts will jump at the chance to teach their parents something. It gives them the sense that you have things to learn from them, and all around, it is a wholesome feeling. Finally, it's a good idea to attend at least one of their practices every once in a while. Make the effort. It will be worthwhile for everyone concerned. Also, good communication with the coaches can be established there, which can certainly be beneficial.


Education about the sport is a great way to motivate your young gymnast! For the enthusiast, this should be an easy matter. Just take care not to overwhelm your child with too much information at once. There is no dearth of exciting information out there about gymnastics, from the types of maneuvers that can be made in the many variations of the sport: rings, vaulting, parallel bars, and so on, to the salaries of professional gymnastics specialists in circuses and theatrical shows, to the accomplishments of gymnasts around the globe. This can certainly foster interest. If indeed it does, then encourage them to pursue it!

Positive Feedback

When your child is involved with gymnastics, it is always good to offer them positive feedback, no matter what they do. Instead of pointing out flaws directly, you should give them praise for what they did correctly in their drills or in their competitions. Don't allow them to get down about doing things incorrectly or incompletely -- instead, keep their spirits up by telling them to repeat what they did correctly before. This is usually used in conjunction with constructive criticism, and it generally works the best out of all of the motivational methods for the most people. For some, it can be somewhat irritating; some actually prefer honest criticism so that they can improve by knowing what they did wrong. For the majority, it is heartening to hear someone say, "Well, this was really impressive…"

Constructive Criticism

Used in conjunction with positive feedback, constructive criticism gives an athlete an idea of what needs improvement in a tactful and non-offensive way. If your child is particularly sensitive to criticism, it may be a good idea to just offer positive feedback, but most generally, the combination of the two works nicely together. There is a note you must be aware of before you give your child any amount of constructive criticism, and that is its timing. It's advisable not to do so right after they have finished their training session. Wait until just before they start the next one, so they have some perspective on what they need to improve upon, without feeling as though you're ready to "shoot them down," so to speak. They'll definitely appreciate it.


Finally, for the more experienced gymnast, there is the concept of competition-and-reward in the sport. This is sometimes used by coaches to encourage their athletes to compete against one another and to improve, all with the promise of some kind of reward. It may be a pizza party, it may be a day off, it really depends upon what level of the sport your child is in. You can use it to your advantage, too, in just about any way you can imagine!

Take note that punishment is not one of the recommended motivational methods. Punishment is always negative and decreases motivation in the long term. In fact, it may even lead to the development of phobias or aversions in the future.

With this in mind, I hope that your gymnast is motivated and successful!

If you want to read more about motivation, I recommend you take a look at another article I wrote giving specific advice on increasing motivation: Gymnastics Motivation

Or check out my favorite book on the subject:

By Murray Hughes
Gymnastics Secrets Revealed
"The book EVERY gymnastics parent should read"

Murray Hughes: If your child is a gymnast and you enjoyed this article, you will definitely enjoy reading the zero cost, 5-day course Gymnastics Tips Course written especially for gymnastics parents by a gymnastics parent.

Article Source:

Return to The Mental Game of Gymnastics Articles directory.

Procoach Systems International Association of Coaches Independent Book Publishers Association IMGCA

The International Mental Game Coaching Association
39116 Fremont Hub #1303
Fremont, CA 94538 United States
Phone: 408-705-8877

Office Hours: Monday-Friday, 10am-6pm PST. Closed weekends and holidays.
Private backrooms in the IMGCA membership and certification areas are open 24-7, 365 days a year.

The IMGCA name, design and related marks are trademarks of The International Mental Game Coaching Association.
© 2006- IMGCA. All rights reserved.
Use of this website signifies your agreement to the terms of use and privacy policy.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Policies Notice