Today’s Topic: Staying Focused During Negativity and Off-Seasons
Hi, everyone. This is Coach Diana, and I am going to be answering a couple of questions today. I got this question from a gymnastics parent, but it was all about how to help their child stay focused even when season was over. After I talk about that a little bit, I’m also going to lead into another question that was from one of the Perform Happy parents and part of the answer will actually be part of what I talk about in the first part.
Q: How do you stay focused even after season?
I think that one of the best things that athletes can do is to set some goals. I think whether you’re in season or out of season, setting goals is really, really important but you do it a little bit differently. I want to first start with actually for those people who are just starting their season or as we go into summer, summer leagues will start, and so how to set goals for those seasons and then also for those people who are just finishing their season and looking forward to next season and the future, the summer practice.
Recently, figure skaters started their season and, like I said, summer leagues are about to start. If you’re just starting, you want to set goals and everybody thinks that pretty easy. It’s actually more difficult than you think and it’s also really important that we set different kinds of goals.
Set Your Outcome Goals
If you are starting your season, it is important to set some outcome goals, things like I want to qualify for this certain event or I hope my team or myself makes it to this tournament play. It might be I want to win something. All of those are great and I think they are necessary. The problem with outcome goals only is that you don’t have total control over your outcome goals. Winning, you could have the best competition of your life and somebody else might be, too. If you only have outcome goals, you might set yourself up for frustration and feeling like you’ve been a failure.
Setting Performance Goals
While outcome goals are really, really important, we also need to set a couple of other types of goals, so I’m going to focus on those. One would be what we call performance goals and those are all about yourself, so there’s no comparison in a performance goal. It might be that you want to better your time of your race from last meet to this meet or you might want to make more of your free throw shots this game versus last game. Make more of your double Axel turns or something where it’s all about you and that’s it.
Setting Process/Technique Goals
The other piece of it is what we call process goals and process goals are what I think of as the technique goals. If you have this outcome goal to go to a specific qualifying meet or a tournament, what is it that you need to do and practice every day to help get you there? If you want to better your time from one race to the next, what do you need to do in practice to get faster to be able to do that?
I look at that as a technique goal. Do you need to change something about your run or something about your positioning? Things like that. Those kinds of goals are really important for anybody who is in season or getting ready to start their season, the summer league, et cetera.
For those people who are just finishing season, which I know gymnastics pretty much is wrapping up right now. This last weekend there were several ending meets. I think there’s just a couple more for the upper levels and that’s it.
Q: How do you stay focused during summer when there’s a lot of things going on and maybe a lot of things pulling your attention in different directions?
Setting goals is also important but I would do it a little bit differently. For this time of season during that off season, I would set more long-term and short-term goals. Long-term goals might be what do I want to be doing for next season? Where do I want to see improvements? Do I want to have this skill or do I want to be in this level? Things like that.
Short-Term Goals are Important, Too
Then you have to back it up, and I think one mistake that athletes make a lot of times is they forget to set the short-term goals that are the stepping stones to get them to their long-term goal. They want to have this skill and that skill but they forget about setting the goals of what it’s going to take to actually get those skills in time for next season.
In gymnastics, for example, if you want to do a skill on balance beam, you don’t usually start off on high beam. You usually start off on the floor beam, the low beam, something like that. You take steps, gradual steps to get you up to doing that skill on the high beam by the time season comes around.
Looking ahead and having some goals that are far out at the end of summer by the time season starts is really important. But then taking a big step back and saying, “What do I need to do each week in practice to try to help me reach these goals?” Certainly part of that short-term goals should be process goals. What are the techniques that you need to be working on to try to better the skills?
Another question actually came from one of the Perform Happy Parents and I’m just going to read it to you.
Q: My daughter is an 11-year-old level six gymnast moving to level seven. She’s noticeably gaining more confidence as she works the program and this is wonderful to see, but she’s beginning to encounter negative comments and behaviors from other teammates or friends. I’m wondering if there’s a way to address this. I think now that she’s gaining confidence and she’s actually doing really well and gaining lots of new skills other feels threatened so now they’re trying to bring her back down. Is there any way to help her maintain her self-confidence but deal with the negative comments at the same time?
I’m going to try to address that. First of all, that’s so unfortunate that that happens, and one of the biggest things that you need to do first off is make sure that you have a conversation with your daughter and just talk to her about the reality of how some people, to make themselves feel better, they try to bring other people down. They want to try to take your sunshine away. It’s hurtful and it’s upsetting but she can overcome it. Understanding that some people are like that might just help.
Blocking Out the Negativity
Then, the next thing that you do is maybe together you come up with some strategies of a way to get rid of the negative comments or not hold on to the negative comments when she hears them in practice because certainly if she’s hearing all these negative comments and focusing on that, it’s going to take her focus away from doing the skills and focusing on the skills that she needs to keep making improvements and to keep her confidence up on the ones that she does have.
Think of this as a bounce back routine if you guys have done the bounce back routine yet where you let go of your mistakes. I think for this one of the things that I’ve had athletes do in the past when negative comments have been an issue for them is have the athletes make some trashcan and they can do this really in their mind or they can do it for real.
Throw it Away
One thing you can do is put your hand on your hip and then you’ve made this little trashcan. You can literally take comments and throw them through the trashcan. You can also do it more simply by putting your fingers together and now you’ve made a trashcan here that you can throw comments through. It’s just a way to symbolize getting rid of them, letting go of them at least during practice.
She can think about that or she can come up with some way. It might also be something like you just throw it down on the ground and you stomp it away. Anything that she can do that makes her feel like she’s letting go of the negativity so she’s not focusing on that is going to be a really good thing.
Breathe and Refocus
But then after she lets go of it, then I would suggest just taking a deep breath or maybe two deep breaths to help her really let it go and then be able to refocus on her gymnastics and that’s what most important. She can go back and focus on what her goals are. Maybe she’s made practice goals for each day. Maybe she’s made a goal for the week and maybe she haves long-term goals that now she needs to make some weekly practice goals that will help her so that she knows what to focus on. If she’s on bars, what is it that she’s going to focus on or beam or vaults? That’s the step two.
After practice is over, if she has any residual feelings of feeling hurt, which is totally normal and very common, then I think you want to try to address those. You got to let yourself feel the emotions. If she feels hurt, if she feels sad, if she feels frustrated, whatever it happens to be, feel that. That might mean crying for a little while, letting that go and that’s perfectly okay.
Write About It
Then I would really encourage her to pick up a journal and start writing about it. She could write the comments out. She could tell how they’ve made her feel. Then after she does that, then I think she needs to really focus on what her accomplishments were at practice that day.
In the bigger picture, what her accomplishments have been thus far, so she’s starting to regain all this confidence and doing skills and doing really well. She needs to focus on that and remind herself of all the progress that she’s made. I think that’s really, really important.
Balloon Meditation Tactic
Then after she goes through all that, hopefully by the time she’s finished, she feels much better about herself and where she’s at. If she’s still struggling, if any of you have done the balloon meditation, that might be something to think about and she might actually do it in real life like take a balloon. Once it’s blown up, she could even write some of the comments on the balloon and then go outside and let the balloon go so that again she’s just reinforcing, letting the negativity out and focusing on the positive.
She needs to always come back to really looking at what she’s accomplished, the big picture and even the accomplishments of practice that day after the negativity so that she’s ending on a positive note so she can start off again the next day happy and ready to go.
Then hopefully over time those comments would just stop. When people don’t get the reaction that they’re hoping for when they put other people down, generally it does stop. If it continues and it gets worse, you might have a conversation with the coaches as well to make sure that they’re aware of it. Then maybe they can intervene and help mediate or end the conversations that are negative.
All right. Those are my tips, and if you guys have any questions or any other specifics about this, please feel free to leave a comment and I will try to address them or answer them in a future Facebook live. Thanks so much. Bye.