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Ok readers, now its your turn to give me advice. My youngest had her first swim meet of the season today and was totally overcome with anxiety after warm ups and got herself so worked up, she got physically ill. As a result, she ended up scratching all three of today’s races. By the time her first race would have started, she was feeling better, and by the time her second race rolled around she actually felt like she could have raced.

What strategies have you used to calm those pre-race nerves?

UPDATE: Day 2 of the competition went better. She still threw up before we even entered the building, but her coaches allowed her to warm up when she was ready in the second pool. Just that little gesture was enough to really calm her down. When it came time for her to race, she was a little stressed but once she was on the blocks everything was fine. She had a great first swim of the season and now has a time to use as a benchmark. I don’t think this is the last of the nerves, but now she has a few strategies and experience she can draw on next time.

Categories : Competition
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First Meet Reflections

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Great jobMy gymnastics team girls made it through their first meet of the season and they did great. During awards, I witnessed some very cool moments – ones that remind me of why I love working with kids and what is important.

  • It’s okay to make a mistake – one of the lessons gymnasts learn early is that everyone makes mistakes, but you can make them and live to tell about it. Mistakes are part of the learning experience and you can laugh about them too.
  • Perseverance – one of the best moments of the evening came from a gymnast who was on my team last year and struggled all year long. She did not progress as fast as her team mates but she always kept a positive attitude. Last night she improved her overall score from last year by almost 5 points (which in gymnastics is HUGE). The look on her face when she got called to the podium for awards was priceless. Her self confidence is through the roof and she has learned one of the most important life lessons ever.
  • Believe in yourself – another little girl came to us from another gym this summer. The first weeks of practice were filled with tears as she made the adjustment to her new training environment. She was a little girl who really didn’t believe in herself or think she was all that good. Last night as she finished her beam routine, a huge smile came across her face – she had stuck her beam routine and scored higher than she ever had before – it was even good enough for first place. It was so much fun as a coach to be able to go back to her and say, “hey, I told you that you could do it – you have been working hard and it shows!”

There were so many other little things that warmed my heart. While watching awards I told a fellow coach that when the girls arrived before the meet, they were just kids who took gymnastics, but once they finished this first meet, they are now gymnasts.


Categories : Competition, Gymnastics
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First meetI love this time of year! In our state, this is the beginning of the competition season for gymnastics. Each year the group of Level 4s I coach gets cuter and cuter and while it is so nerve wracking, I just love the first meet.

For those of you unfamiliar with competitive gymnastics, Level 4 is the entry level for competition in most gyms. Level 4 gymnasts are primarily 6-12 year olds and for most of them this is the first time they have competed or performed in front of an audience.

This afternoon my Level 4s will arrive at the gym (the first meet is a home meet, thank goodness) decked out in their new competition leotards and warm up suits. They all had their hair done in identical styles last night at practice and they will be looking so cute.

Our group is big this year – we have 19 girls on the Level 4 team, so they will be split into two groups – which is fine since we have two coaches. Only 5 of the 19 girls have ever competed before and all but 5 are ages 6, 7 or 8 so it should be fun. With the little ones it is always interesting to see who will remember their routine, who will not, who will fall on a random skill and who shines when the pressure is on. Basically coaching young level 4s in a meet is like going the craps table in Vegas – you just don’t know what the outcome will be on any turn.

You would think after all these years of coaching (23 to be exact) that I would not get nervous, but I do. It is more of an excited nervous, but I do sweat out every single beam routine, watch every floor routine with care, anticipate every vault and am there just in case on bars. You would never know it though! I am calm and cool on the outside – to keep my gymnasts focused and relaxed.

The best part about this first meet is the amazing transformation that happens to these young athletes after they have competed in their first meet. The little girls go from being girls who take gymnastics lessons to being GYMNASTS. Practices take on new meaning, the camaraderie among their team mates strengthens, and their self confidence soars.

Tonight I am a coach, then Sunday afternoon I get to swap hats and be a parent as my own daughter kicks off her 4th season competing. And that is a post for later this weekend…


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