The Types of Fear in Gymnastics and Tips on How to Get Through Them

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     Gymnastics is a tough and challenging sport. Gymnasts are expected to do skills that are not usually expected of children and teens their age. In the sport of gymnastics fear is a common obstacle for a gymnast. It is important for both the gymnast and the coach to understand the type of fear the gymnast is experiencing. If both are on the same page and understand what the gymnast is going through, then it is much easier to get the gymnast to push past the fear.

The Types of Fear:
~The Fear of Falling
~The Fear of Failing
~The Fear of Not Understanding the Skill

The Fear of Falling:
     This fear is the most common. It is usually caused by the gymnast herself experiencing a bad fall or seeing another gymnast experience a bad fall. Even when a gymnasts falls and the fall does not result in an injury, the feeling of not knowing where your body is in the air is enough to spook the gymnast into not wanting to do the skill she fell on again. This may lead to being afraid of learning harder skills. Another way this fear can be caused is more of a parent problem. As a child was this kid coddled everytime she fell? Did her parents freak out when the child tripped and fell onto her hands? If so, then she will probably be more afraid of falling than a child who was not in that situation.

How to help the gymnast cope with this fear:
-Tell her that you understand and that you want to help get her through this. Do not degrade or punish her for her fear because it will only make the situation more negative.
-Ask her how she wants to get through it. Give her suggestions but DO NOT make the decision for her. This is giving her the opportunity to take control of the situation.
-When she decides how she wants to get through it help her and encourage her the whole way. Sometimes you may need to give her a deadline. Remember not to be degrading or harsh.  (good example of what to say: “You understand that you cannot compete at this meet if you do not have your skill the Wednesday before the meet.”)
-Let the gymnast start from ground zero if that is what she wants to do.

The Fear of Failing:
     The fear of failing is almost always a coach’s or parent’s fault. If a gymnast is afraid to do a skill because she does not want to mess up, then somewhere along her childhood or career as a gymnast she was put down for not being perfect the first time she tried a skill. Most of the time a coach or parent doesn’t even know he/she is doing this. For example- Jane does a back handspring on beam for the first time and is super excited. Her coach Joe does not react by saying “Great job!” but instead reacts by saying “Good job going for that skill BUT you need to point your toes.” Though as a coach you are there to coach, correct and create great gymnasts, you are also there to make sure they do not emotionally fall apart in the process. A lot of gymnasts actually have this fear and don’t understand what they are afraid of.

How to help the gymnast cope with this fear:
-This type of fear can sometimes be fixed by the gymnast growing out of the fear.
-Sometimes it is a good idea to give the child an opportunity to try the skill in a private practice where it is quiet and away from the eyes of her teammates.
-Most of the time this fear takes a long time to get over. This can be annoying to the coach or coaches involved in teh gymanst’s training. Stay patient!
-If the coach explains to the gymnast that it is ok and acceptable to not perfectly execute the skill and that he/she will not be dissappointed, then this too can aid in helping the gymnast cope with the fear.

The Fear of Not Understanding the Skill
     Not understanding what your body is supposed to be doing in the air can make trying a skill very scary. This fear is often looked over by the coaches. Coaches, make sure your gymnasts know exactly what their bodies should be doing! This is a common skill and by positively explaining what the gymnast is supposed to be doing with her body can aleviate some of the fear.

How to help the gymnast coach with this fear:
-Explain the skill they are afraid of thoroughly.
-Drill the skill. There are many drills out there, so find one that you can use for the skill the gymnast does not understand.

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