Self confidence plays a key role in the success of any athlete, especially gymnasts. Since gymnastics consists of high flying, often scary skills, it is so important to possess this vital attribute.
Let’s face it, we’ve all had those little mishaps, falls or bad meets that rattled our self confidence and sent us spiraling in to the gymnastics equivalent of golf’s “shanks.” Sometimes we are able to pull ourselves out of the funk, sometimes we aren’t. There have been athletes whose careers have been ruined from sheer confidence issues.
Look at Tiger Woods. Just a few short years ago, he was on top of the world. Year after year, he was destroying the field in almost every tournament he competed in. The other golfers were literally competing for second place. Then, of course, his marriage drama was plastered all over the news. Soon after, he had a few bad tournaments, and it all fell apart. He had completely lost his ability to focus and certainly lost all the confidence he once had. He recently removed himself indefinitely from golf in order to focus on getting himself mentally healthy again.
It’s amazing really. Even though one’s physical abilities could be as good as they always were, the mind can destroy the ability to compete at a high level. When the mind decides you can’t do something, unfortunately the body will follow. What is it that is holding the mind back? Sometimes it may be the fear of repeating a poor performance or maybe even fear of a skill or apparatus itself. Regardless of what it is, it only holds you back from performing at an elite level. How can we overcome this?
I found an article written by James Clear on the topic of self confidence. He provides a great story of an athlete dealing with self confidence issues in his training.
Bob Mathias was a young track athlete in the 1940s who wound up qualifying for the 48 Olympics and winning gold as a basic unknown athlete. He was only 17 at the time yet he somehow had the ability at this young age to come on the world’s biggest athletic stage and outperform everyone. Clearly he possessed something physically and mentally that most people do not.
Years later, after he his athletic career, he began coaching. He had one student in particular who was struggling with achieving a new height on pole vault. Every attempt ended up with him hitting the bar and he was in fact getting worse after each effort instead of better. After several more failed attempts, the athlete began to doubt himself and completely froze up and became fearful of performing again.
Mathias studied the boy as this was happening and after a moment, simply said “throw your heart over the bar, and your body will follow.”
I love this quote and it most certainly applies to the sport of gymnastics. It reminds us that at some point, you have to simply trust your previous training and hard work and start to just let go. Let go of the fear, uncertainty and doubt. We don’t always know the outcome, but if you commit to going all out on every effort and believe the outcome will be good, then progress will be made every time. Each effort towards the unknown will generate more and more self-confidence until it becomes second nature to you.
If you go through life constantly doubting yourself, you will never discover how far you can go and what you are capable of. It’s time to let go of that comfortable feeling and throw your heart over the bar.
Strength & Fitness Team Lead