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The power of a positive attitude. Positive thinking. Optimism. Belief in oneself. No matter what you call it, a positive attitude is at the center of a growth mindset in sports. In gymnastics, this is especially important, as the skills gymnasts perform can be risky. A gymnast who believes she can perform is much more likely to have a good performance than one who does not believe in herself.
There’s a lot that’s been written about how to develop a positive attitude in sports. One of my favorite quotes comes from a poem by Walter D. Wintle. Here is a portion of the poem:
“If you think you are beaten, you are.
If you think you dare not, you don’t.
Life’s battles are not always won
By those who are stronger and faster.
Sooner or later the person who wins
Is the person who thinks he can!”
When I was a gymnast, one of my coaches wrote out this poem for each of us before a meet. She used color-changing markers in our team’s colors. I remember reading the words over and over again. I put it up on my bulletin board, and there it stayed, for years, until sun damage eventually rendered it unreadable.
This poem has always held a lot of meaning for me, because it illustrates the importance of working hard and believing in yourself. Both of these qualities are essential to an athlete who wants to succeed.
Definition of a Positive Attitude
A person who has a positive attitude tends to look on the bright side. This person has a sense of optimism, or “hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something”. They try to make the best out of a difficult situation.
People who think positively often use statements that start with “I can”. This is something that may take some practice, but it can be incorporated into your gymnastics training. Practicing positive self-talk builds confidence, which is key when performing difficult gymnastics skills.
Next, we’ll take a look at how to develop a positive attitude in gymnastics.
The Importance of a Positive Attitude in Gymnastics
In gymnastics, it’s hard to succeed without a positive attitude. Gymnastics requires a lot of repetition, drills, and hard work. There will inevitably be times when a gymnast falls, fails to complete a skill, or develops a fear. Many skills, especially in the higher levels, take months or years to learn. A positive attitude goes a long way toward a gymnast’s development.
There are strategies that any gymnast can master to develop a positive attitude. Let’s take a look at how to do this, along with some examples.
How to Shift Your Thinking to a Positive Mindset
Take Note of Your Thoughts
The first step in changing your mindset is to take note of your current mindset. What type of thoughts are entering your mind? Stop for a moment and pay attention to the thoughts you’re having.
These thoughts may be negative, or they may be positive. Most likely, they are a mixture of both.
If you’re in a difficult situation, you may notice there are a lot of negative thoughts entering your mind. Let’s look at an example.
Let’s say you are having trouble learning your back handspring on beam. Every time you try it, you fall off. You’re getting REALLY frustrated. You think to yourself, “I just CAN’T do it! I’m so BAD at back handsprings.” If you are starting to get frustrated, it’s time to stop and take note of your thoughts.
The gymnast in this example definitely had some negative thoughts swirling around in her head. While it’s fine to feel frustrated, negative thoughts like these aren’t helpful to get through a rough patch. A gymnast who has a positive mindset will still experience negative thoughts, but she knows how to turn them around into a positive mindset. Let’s see how she does it.
Turn Negative Thoughts Around
We already learned how to stop and acknowledge our thoughts, and determine if any negative thoughts have made their way into our minds. Next, it’s time to think of a way to reframe the negative thoughts into positive ones.
Let’s go back to the example of the back handspring.
It’s time to stop, shake the negativity out of your mind, and reframe the negative thoughts. How do you do that?
Instead of “I can’t do it” or “I’m never going to get it”, try this instead: “I’m working hard on my back handspring, and I’m going to get it soon.”
Instead of “I’m bad at back handsprings”, say “I don’t have my back handspring yet, but I’m going to ask my coach for a correction that will help me fix the problem.”
Think about a problem you’ve been dealing with recently. What type of thinking have you been using? If you’ve identified any negative thoughts, turn them around to their positive side. Write down each negative thought, and find a way to turn it around to a positive thought. You can even include an action step (like asking the coach for a correction, working on drills, or doing extra conditioning to get stronger).
Decide on the Next Action Step
The final step in developing a positive attitude is to take an action step to improve your situation. You can use one of the action steps mentioned in the last section, or develop your own.
Going back to the back handspring example once again, the gymnast could ask the coach for a correction. She could move down to the low beam or a line on the floor to make sure she’s using good technique. She could work on drills, strength, and flexibility, depending on which might be the most helpful.
Think about your problem again. Look at the positive statement you’ve written. What action step can you take to make it happen?
How to Develop a Positive Attitude When Dealing With Fear
So far in this article, we’ve talked about developing a positive attitude when dealing with a difficult situation. A common situation that can evoke negative feelings is fear in gymnastics. Some gymnastics skills can be scary, and gymnasts need strategies to overcome their fears. Positive affirmations are a great strategy to use to help with fear.
To develop a positive affirmation, follow the steps outlined above for your specific fear. Here are some examples of positive affirmations, if you need some ideas:
- “I am strong and determined.”
- “I will stay on the beam.”
- “I can do this tumbling pass.”
- “I will make my bar routine.”
- “I am a great gymnast.”
Also, you can use this article for some ideas on writing affirmations.