Getting Past a Bad Performance and Self-Doubt | Q&A with Coach Rebecca

Today’s Topic: Getting Past a Bad Performance and Self-Doubt


About Me

Welcome to Q&A with Coach Rebecca. I am Rebecca Smith, a high performance coach, and the founder and director of Complete Performance Coaching, which is a group of highly skilled performance experts, performance psychology experts who specialize in helping young athletes get where they want to be.

A lot of this is based on just mental skills training. In this culture, we spend a lot of time working on the physical technique of sport, but then forget about the most valuable and most important muscle to a young athlete, which is their brain.

I’m going to be answering some questions today on end-of-season meets. A lot of us in the gymnastic community are coming up on state meets, regionals and nationals, so now is when all you anxious stress cases really start to jitter. I’m going to answer a couple questions from members of the Perform Happy community.

For those of you who are not familiar with what that is, that is the complete online mental toughness training center that you can become a member of which gives you direct access to me, my coaching, my personal coaching through the forums, and I have basically recorded every training, every technique, every method that I have so that you can pick and chose exactly what you need for a fraction of the cost of hiring a coach one on one. But also, if you want a one-on-one coach, you got me, and you’ve three other fabulous resources for that.

Here’s our first question from Tina, she’s talking about her daughter who is a gymnast.

Q: With her last regular competition of the season this weekend, we would love to get some tips on how to brush off a bad event before moving on to the next.



At times, when there’s pressure, kids have a much harder time letting things go. The best thing that any athlete can do under pressure is let things go.

Learn to Let Things Go

You know, the best athletes are not perfect. They are really quick to course correct, and that’s part of flow. That’s part of what I base a lot of my trainings on is this concept of finding flow, which is where everything clicks in, and goes really well, and you’re training shines through, and everybody’s happy. It’s wonderful. This is what we want. But in order to get to flow, you have to know if you are veering off course.

You have to know what you’re aiming for. You know, obviously, you’re aiming to execute one scale at a time very, very well. And if you’re off, you pull it right back in. If you’re off, you pull it right back in. Now, let’s say you have just a bad performance.

What’s the Big Picture?

Now, you guys, a bad performance is not a bad thing. Well, of course, it’s like, “Oh, it’s the end of the world. I was supposed to qualify. This is important.” But from my perspective, because I see the big picture, whenever I work with athletes, I’m always like, “Look at the big picture. Open it up. See how big this picture actually can be.” Because we get so laser-focused on this one meet that really matters, when even if you completely bomb it, you will gain some seriously valuable information that will help you become a stronger competitor in the future. No matter what happens, no matter what waves or upsets you hit, they’re part of your personal sport journey.

It’s Just a Bad Performance, Not the End of the World

The first thing to know is that if you have a bad event, it’s just that, and it’s probably not even bad. I hate the word ‘bad’. It just is. You look at it and go, “All right, this didn’t go as planned.” A lot of the time, those frustrations or those inability to let it go where you’re like stomping around and huffing, and puffing, and crying, and you’re like, “Well, what’s the point?” That’s because you had expectations.

You had expectations of yourself, which obviously we all have expectations. We all want to go in and train our buts off five, six, seven days a week, and then go and have something to show for it, right? Yeah. But, expectations equal frustration, basically. If you have an expectation, “I need to hit four events, four for four. I need to hit all five events in practice. I need to … Five. All I need to hit all five routines in practice … ” If you’re a guy, you got six events. Girls, we only have four. “And I need to do … ” it’s like expecting perfection is the best way to get yourself frustrated.

Examine and Acknowledge

The best way to look at it if you are frustrated, if you find yourself in that down in the dumps, is you want to stop and see if you can examine. “Okay, what was my expectation here?” There’s kind of like a three-step process that you can do with that. First, you want to identify what is the expectation. The expectation was I would stay on the balance beam. I expected myself to do a 9.75 routine, or a perfect routine, or expected myself to make all of my routines today at the meet. Okay, you’ve acknowledged.

Then, you also acknowledge, “I am mad at myself because I fell on that stupid skill.” You actually I’m giving you permission to go, “I expected to make all my routines today. I expected this to be a good meet, and I am mad at myself for that happening. This stinks.” Okay? That’s the first part, acknowledged it, have a moment. But of course, do it with sportsmanship.

It is never encouraged to really have a good huff and puff. If you need to, and you have a second, excuse yourself, go to the bathroom, and be mad. “I expected to make up all my events. I am mad. This stinks.” Okay, so that’s the first thing. You’re allowed to do that.

What Do you Want to Happen?

Next, figure out what are you trying to create there. I’m trying to have a good meet. I really wanted to have a good meet. What is that expectation? I expect to be perfect is basically the one that most of the kids I work with expect to be perfect, or upset, or be on under pressure. Whatever those expectations are, I’m not saying good or bad, but you want to just acknowledge, okay, expected this. Then, see if you can let it go, and go, “All right, so that was my expectation. Now, what’s reality? Reality is I have three more events.” And that’s it. Then, you let it go.

I always recommend when I teach people, I call them bounce back routines, take a second to acknowledge the frustration. This stinks. Then, kind of get a little reality check on it like, “Well, I was really putting a lot of pressure on myself. You know what? I did this well. That turn went great. My dismount was good. Yeah, it was bummer that I fell. But now, what’s reality?

I have three more events.” Take a deep breath and let it go. You had your moment, got to be mad, realized you had these really high expectations for yourself. Now you can go, “All right, now what am I going to do?”

Focus on One Thing at a Time

Again, we don’t want to go into the next event with a big expectation like, “I have to get the next three perfect for this to be worth my time.” No. The focus really for you to do your very bests should be on one skill at a time. That’s it. No matter what sport you’re in, when you’re performing, when you’re under pressure, one thing at a time. That’s it.

If you’re in the moment, and you’re like, “Okay, now I’m doing my turn. Now I’m finishing my turn, and now I’m doing some poses, and now I’m doing my jumps. Good job. Those were good jobs. Hey, nice work,” that’s all you really want to have really going through your mind.

Mental Choreography

I train people to actually figure out in advance what their mental routine is going to be. It’s been called mental choreography. Whatever you want to call it, it’s basically having a routine for your body that matches the routine for your mind. And again, in any sport you’re in, you can figure out ways to make this possible.

Especially, in gymnastics or swimming, where you have a very consistent thing that you do so you can actually have a word, or a beat, or something you look at, or something that’s linked into each skill because it allows you to keep your focus on your skills and not on the outcomes, or the expectations, or the pressure.

Obviously, if you have your state meet this weekend, which I love how many emails I got in the last week. They were like, “My kid has a state meet this weekend. Can you fix her?” I’m like, “Okay. We need a little more time than a week, you guys.” That’s why I have these courses that you can start into during the off season that prepare you to have all the systems in place for when you go in. That’s what you need it.

You can’t start learning how to do gymnastics the week before the meet, right? Same goes with your mind. Okay, we might be starting off now learning some lessons. Get all of those skills and tricks under your belt before next season so that next season you can go out there and be super confident and totally rock it. But anyway, I digress.

Similar question, which I’m going to go back to the mental choreography, but I got a similar question. She says,

Q: My oldest is a senior. This is her last state meet. Her meet this past weekend didn’t go well at all. Now she’s fearful she won’t qualify for regionals. How to handle self-doubt, self-imposed pressure, and how to stay focused on each event so she can perform her best?



Then, she has another question for parents after. Basically, it’s the same solution, but there’s a course in the Perform Happy community called Automatic Self-Trust. It teaches these three layers of how to get yourself to self-trust. That’s basically flow. That’s that experience of, “Hey, I trained. I’m going to go out there. I’m going to do my best.” It’s an enjoyable experience. You do the best you can. You’re open, and you typically are thriving when you really trust in yourself, if you have put in the work to get yourself to the point where your technique is trustable.

Stay Present

The foundation of self-trust is concentration, focus, being present, being in the moment, thinking only about execution of one skill at a time. Are we sensing a theme here? Okay, then, once you have your focus dialed in, that you know once you get up on that beam you are thinking about only that leg you’re supposed to be squeezing, or only that sensation of pushing through your toes, you are so in your body that you aren’t anywhere else.

You aren’t trying to stick a whole routine. Aren’t worrying about your dismount. Aren’t worrying about the next event. You are just pushing through your toes. Then, you are bending your knees and landing. It’s like little tiny bits. That’s when you start to build the confidence that comes from knowing that you can be derailed, that you only focus on what you’re supposed to focus on, which I help you guys in the finding flow course, actually choreograph your mind to match your routine.

Building Confidence

If you haven’t done that yet, you members, go in and check it out. I think it’s flow sessions seven and eight are all about focus. Then, you get a whole one on choreographing your mind. Then you got your confidence and then your composure comes on top of that where you completely know that you concentrate the way you’re supposed to, which builds this massive amount of confidence.

That comes from not worrying, not doubting yourself, not thinking about what could go wrong. You’re just in the moment. You’ve done the work in practice to then lean on that in competition. If you have a chance, I know you’re like, “We have [inaudible 00:12:14] in four days,” go through that automatic self-trust course. I think it’s five half-an-hour sessions.

Mom also said, “How do I get her to listen to these videos? My younger does. My older daughter’s resistant.” Do it in the car. That’s the thing, if you’re a senior in high school and you’ve got all this homework and all this training, it’s hard to be like, “Here’s another thing you should do for an hour every week.”

Most people, they work it in where it fits. Instead of trying to make room for mental training, put it where it fits. Put it in the car on the way to practice. If you’re in the car for 15 minutes, you can get half, the first half, of the training on the way there, the second half of the training on the way back. You can get five trainings done in one week if you need to if you have a 15-minute car ride.

Add Creativity to Your Routine

Get creative and make it so that it’s not an extra thing. It’s just something that you add into something you’re already doing. You know, if you have to walk the dog, you can put your headphones in and you can listen to a training while you go. That’s the cool thing about the community is that it’s completely portable to work with your busy student athlete lives.

That my suggestion for that, is just make it easy for her. And if she’s resistant, she resistant. You can lead a horse to water, right? And you know, little sister’s sticking her beam routine because she’s watching videos, so you know, obviously be sensitive with how you pitch that.

Okay, then, the next question, she says,

Getting Past a Bad Performance and Self-DoubtQ: How do I suggest she listen to the videos?



That’s what I suggest. I have, obviously, the whole parenting course in there that teaches you how to talk to your kids, and less is more. It is always so frustrating, you know? We have the big parents group in the Perform Happy community. It’s a big Facebook group. We’ll be like success video, success video. There will be the one mom who’s like, “My kid won’t watch the videos.” I’m like, “We can’t make her. You got to just stay neutral, and you learn.

Show her. You model the type of behavior that you want her to have. Then, when she’s ready, it’s there. But I know, I know, we just want to beat it into them and be like, “There’s the solution. Just pick it up and use it,” but such is parenting teenagers, right? I’m like in for it with my two little girls that I’ll have.

It’s All About Focus

If you can get yourself to be in the moment, and in the sensation, one last little thing on those moments where you are just down, down, down, because you messed up and you feel like, “What’s the point? I already screwed up my first event,” or whatever it is, you hit a low spot, acknowledge it and feel it.

Look at the reality of the situation. “I still have three events left to go.” I love pulling at your hand and finding five things you’re grateful for. That can kind of reorient your mind toward what’s going well. You know, “What did I do well on that routine?” Try to kind of snap into the positive, and just go out and do your best and stay in the moment.

Then, if you’re really tweaked by something, if something is just like, “I can’t believe I did that. I’m so mad,” take a second and feel it in your body. Do you feel it in your stomach? Do you feel like a burning in your chest?

I remember the first time that I stopped and was like, “What is this feeling?” And it was anger. It was like this burning in my chest. I don’t like this. I just took a second and felt it.


It doesn’t make it necessarily go away, but it allows you just to kind of sit with it and go, “Okay, there you are, anxiety. There you are, anger. There you are, sadness” Whatever that feeling is that feels like too much, if you just give it attention, and go, “I’m feeling that in my arm,” or, “I’m feeling that in my leg,” and you just breathe into it, you take three, four, five deep breaths into that sensation instead of running from it, a lot of the time it will kind of process out. Then, you go, “All right, what’s next? Next we’re going to beam. What can I do to make it better? We’re going to floor. What can I do to make that? What one skill at a time can I do next?”

All right, you guys, those of you who are members of the community, of course you can find me in the parent Facebook group or in the forums, and we’ll continue our Q&A that way. Otherwise, I will see you guys again next week, Tuesday, at our regular time 4:30 Pacific. See you then. Bye.

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