Hitting the Competition Floor with Confidence
By Alison Arnold Ph.D. and Sara Robinson M.A.
The time is almost here to represent your tribe on the competition floor- are you feeling ready? Some of you are probably ready to jump right into season feeling great while others may feel less than confident. If you had a challenging season last year, this is the time to start fresh. This is the year to be confident in yourself and your abilities and be able to represent the ACE Tribe with pride and power. Being confident is a skill that can be built: here are some tips to help you create a tight mind so that a tight, sharp confident performance can follow.
Tip #1: Lock Down your Mind
Many fears and worries come from out of control thinking. “I’m gonna fall”, “What if we drop?”, “I can’t do this tumbling pass” are all common proclamations when we lack confidence. Rhythmic key words or mental choreography, singing, counting, or repeating a phrase like “this is easy for me” keeps the mind busy and distracted so the worries have less opportunity to rear their ugly heads. Be sure that you say these words with consistency in practice AND competition. Key words help the mind become more robotic and less emotional and a “more robo less emo” mind helps to block out the beasts of fear and lack of confidence.
Tip #2: Get the Heart Involved
We know how strongly you feel about the ACE Tribe and your squad, so a great way to fight against fear and worry is DESIRE. In order to tap into your desire, create a heart statement to say to yourself before every attempt to perform a skill that is tough, and at the start of every performance. A heart statement can be your biggest goal, (do it for Worlds, do it for tryouts,) or a personal dedication (this is for grandma, this is for my squad). The heart statement should be so powerful, it becomes a strong motivator to push through fear and creates a little discomfort if the statement is activated and you’re still not successful.
Tip #3: Build the Confidence Bank
The mind is a confidence bank with every attempt at a skill or routine serving as a deposit or withdrawal. Increase the amount of deposits by creating a Confidence Ladder for skills that give you trouble. A confidence ladder is a progressions ladder where you can take full control and responsibility for performance. Each rung on the ladder is a progression and the number of confidence building repetitions that you would like to do at each level. The top rung is completing the skill, in the routine without spot and the bottom rung is an arm set with key words standing in place, visualizing the skill. The ladder has a few rules as well. You must say your key words every time; if you balk twice you back down a rung and complete the entire number on the previous rung; you must complete the skill within 10 seconds. Talk with coaches or stunt groups about the skill so they can help you build up repetitions quickly, which is extremely effective in building the confidence bank. Balking is a withdrawal. The purpose of the confidence ladder is to break the balking/fear cycle and keep you moving forward to great performances. Celebrate with your Tribe when you move up a rung!
Following these three tips may not always get you to 100% confidence for competition, but always remember: a joyful athlete has a better chance of building fear and beating fear than a miserable one. Keep inspiring, and keep believing!
Dr. Alison Arnold (Doc Ali) has been the mental toughness coach to USA Gymnastics Since 1997. Sara Robinson M.A. is a consultant with Headgames Mental Toughness Training.