When Your Athlete Competes Well But Doesn’t Practice Well | Q&A with Coach Rebecca

Today’s Topic: What to Do When Your Athlete Competes Well But Doesn’t Practice Well


About Me

Welcome to Q&A with Coach Rebecca. I’m Rebecca Smith, director of Complete Performance Coaching, and a high performance coach specializing in helping kids through mental blocks, fear, anxiety, helping kids build confidence, all so they can have the best possible sport experience.

I have also recruited a team of amazing high-performance coaches that support me because my schedule’s gotten so full. I’ve actually found people with more experience than me that can help to kind of fill the case load.


Perform Happy Update

If you have an athlete who is struggling with any kind of confidence issues, fear, any of that stuff, please check out the Complete Performance Coaching coaching staff and find yourself someone to work with. We either work with people one on one, or we have a complete online mental toughness training center called The Perform Happy Community, which we are getting ready to open the doors of again.

It has not been open for months because we’ve been making improvements and really serving our current members. So if you have been interested in getting in, make sure that you go to performhappy.com and get on the waiting list just so you’ll be the first to know when the doors open again.

Now I’m going to answer a question from one of the moms in the Perform Happy Community. Her daughter is going through the Overcoming Fear course right now, and there are a few girls in the same spot. She asked this question to kind of get some advice on when your kid will do something in a competition, but then they get back to the gym and they can’t do it anymore. Her question is

Q: My daughter is still struggling with doing her tumbling passes at the gym, but will do them at competition. I just don’t understand that. Maybe you can help with the parents’ understanding, too, why that happens.



She wants to know how to transfer what she calls competition confidence to confidence in the gym. The first thing I want to address is that it’s a little bit of a misnomer that it’s about confidence because everybody who’s taken my Fear course or who’s a member of the community knows that I say all the time, confidence is the opposite of fear.


Confidence vs. Fear

If you’re confidence goes up then your fear is no longer going to win. If your fear goes up, your confidence is no longer going to win. Those are pretty much in direct reaction against each other at all times. But then there’s this other variable that comes in and shakes things up. You need one of two things to push through fear. You need confidence or you need desire.

Your heart, if your heart is in it and your heart is like, get out of my way I’m doing it, that’s when you overcome fear and you have these big breakthrough moments. That’s what’s happening at competition for these girls. They are terrified in the gym, they have low self-confidence, they’re negative.

They don’t know how to be any other way because this is just what they’ve been doing for so long: talking negatively to themselves, feeling badly about themselves, feeling like oh I’m just going to lose this skill again and then I’m going to get yelled at.


Constant Negativity

It’s this barrage of negativity, and I know this well because that was me. This is something that took years, beyond my gymnastics career to overcome, that tendency to just beat myself up. If you’ve got a perfectionist on your hands or you are one and they’re struggling with getting a skill back, I can pretty much guarantee that they’re being pessimistic, they’re being negative, and they don’t believe in themselves.

That doesn’t mean that they’re not going to get it, it just means that’s where they’re at. Then, they go into this competition environment where all of a sudden they’re like, I don’t care if I haven’t done it at practice all week, I want to do it. I used to do this before. I can do this. The judges are watching, and I’m in my leotard and dang it I’m doing it.


Lack of Confidence

Then they go and they do it, and then they get this combination of people are kind of happy for them but they’re kind of mad at them, like why haven’t you been doing it all week if you could just come here and do it? They also have this combination, whether it’s a gymnast or a figure skater, I get this lot, that there’s this combination that they’re equally happy that they did it and mad at themselves.

Why did it take me so long? Why didn’t I just do it? But it’s because it’s different. This is not confidence. It’s not confidence that makes that kid go for it. This is the chuck and pray method that I call it. This is not anything that’s going to make your confidence lasting, and, over time, this strategy typically stops working.

The desire factor, if it’s there, if you’re like I must do it today, but it’s not like that negative must, it’s that I really want this. That’s what we want every single day. We want that in gym. We want that on competition day. This is a challenge and I want it.


Fear and Negativity are Running the Show

That’s not typically what’s happening outside of that competitive environment, which is this vacuum. At the gym, it’s like I have to get this, I can’t believe I’m not doing it, what if I don’t do it again, and what if I get kicked out again. It’s that negativity comes up and the desire and the confidence are not strong enough to override it. You’ve got fear and negativity really running the show, and low self-confidence and negativity supporting that happening.

The way that I teach kids to overcome fear is in baby steps. You start where you are, and you take baby steps forward. The key for perfectionists is that you’re not expecting to be perfect right away. You’re not expecting to get your skill back right away. You can’t come to me and say, I need it back by Wednesday, is that going to work? Yeah, you might be able to chuck and pray, you might be able to get your desire clicked in temporarily enough to get you to basically do something your brain is not ready to do one or twice.


Take Baby Steps

If your going to get lasting confidence, you need two things. You need baby steps to build successful progressions along the way. Meanwhile, being nice to yourself as you go, and going “I’m not there yet but I’m getting there.” That should really be your mantra. “I’m getting better.”  Even if you’re not where you want to be. Especially if you’re not where you want to be. “I’m getting better.” Instead of “I can’t believe I still can’t do it.”



I was just talking with a figure skater who’s been struggling with her jumps. What I recommended to her was something that I did when I was first getting a grasp on how negative I was naturally. Some of you might have heard of this before, but you grab a hair tie or a rubber band or something and you put it around your wrist. You carry it with you all day. Anytime you catch yourself being negative, being down on yourself, you just give it a little gentle snap, and please don’t hurt yourself, it’s not about that.

It’s just a little snap out of it. I caught myself being negative, snap out of it. It creates a negative association with negative thinking. Then, so you snap it, you snap out of it, and you think, what’s going well? What can I do? What’s the positive here? Then you go back to being negative because that’s what we do, and then you snap out of it and you go, what’s good about now? Okay, what can I do next? What can I do that can move me forward? You just start to turn the ship of negativity ’cause your brain is wired for it at that point. You just start thinking, what’s good, what can I do?


The Answer Lies Behind the Scenes

I know, mom, I’m not quite answering your question here, but that’s, here’s the thing. It’s like, yes, they can throw the skills sometimes in competition but that is not the solution. The solution is the slow, behind the scenes process that requires finding self-confidence and self-love and really believing in themselves. Yeah, I know.

If I could just bottle that up and sell it, I’d be a billionaire. How to get self-confidence. Going through that whole process of rewiring your brain for positivity is a huge part of it. And then they have these little wins that really matter, that really count because they had to push through something to get there.



There’s this quote that I wanted to read for you guys by Margaret Perlis. She says in regard to gritty people, people who have grit. I don’t know if you’ve heard of that, kind of catch word of grit. The people who have grit think this way, “everything will be alright in the end and if it’s not alright, it’s not the end.” One more time, “everything will be alright in the end and if it’s not alright, it’s not the end.” That’s the attitude that we have to have, parents and athletes.

If it’s not alright, it’s not the end, it’s not over. Keep trying. If that meet was horrible, okay, learn from it and get better at the next meet.


Compare Practices and Improvements

My other point that I wanted to make was just to make sure that parents and athletes, you’re looking, you’re comparing practice to practice and competition to competition because it’s very different. Once fight or flight kicks in, obviously once your mentally tough, your going to have the same practice as you have competition. Until then, all you’re looking for is for the second meet to be better than the first. The third to be better than the second. You just want a little improvement from meet to meet to meet.

Then, meanwhile, in practice, you want to improve week to week to week. That doesn’t mean that you have a better day every day because your going to have days that aren’t good. That’s part of the training process. You’re going to feel funky or be tired or just not be feeling it. But week by week you want to find improvement because you’re allowed to have a down day.

Week by week you’re improving, meet by meet you’re improving. For those of us perfectionist pessimists, get yourself paying attention to your negative thinking so that you can stop it in its tracks and replace it with something good, get back in the moment and keep making progress. That, over time, will get you through it. But this is not instant and it takes grit.

What was the quote again?


Everything will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, it’s not the end.

Alright, guys. If you want to get on that waiting list for the Perform Happy Community, go over to performhappy.com right now. Get on there so you’ll be the first to know when the doors open. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it is this community that has all of the courses that I’ve ever done in it, a whole 16-part series on finding flow. That’s just the science of peak performance.

Also, a six-part Overcoming Fear course. If you are struggling with a mental block or fear, that’s the one for you. You get full access to all those. You get mental toughness boot camp. You get basically a whole smorgasbord of anything you could possibly need to maximize your mind for performance plus a live weekly training, similar to this but tailored to you.

Tell me exactly, this is what I’m going through, this is what I’m struggling with, and I will personally coach you, live in the community, every Wednesday. If you want in on that, it will only be open for a period of time so make sure you get on that waiting list. Send your questions over to rebecca@performhappy.com, and I will see you again next week.

Is your gymnast struggling with mental blocks or fear?  Check out my FREE resource for parents.