There is a lot of pressure on young elite athletes today. In order to perform to their fullest potential, it is sometimes necessary to make significant changes in the way these young competitors approach their sport.
No matter what the sport, the parent, coach and athlete need to work together to maximize a youngster’s ability as well as her or her enjoyment their chosen sport.
A Case History With A Top Athlete
Recently, I was asked to help a young level ten gymnast. Level ten gymnasts are a few notches below gymnasts who compete at the Olympic level.
When she came to see me, this young athlete was lacking in self-confidence, enthusiasm and focus. Her performance had been rather flat and she appeared to be deteriorating from her peak performances of some time ago.
After getting to know her and her family a bit, it became clear that we needed to make a few shifts to help her to regain her edge and to compete more effectively.
First, it seemed that her mother was a bit too involved with this youngster’s sport. I encouraged the mom to back off a bit and hover over her child a bit less. Wisely, the mom agreed to ‘let her child be” a bit more. This change seemed to help the young gymnast to better own her sport and to feel less smothered by her parent.
Second, we learned that this athlete was a bit of an introvert when it came to competing. Some athletes love being the center of attention and they love to play to the crowd. Others, like this young lady, prefer to perform in a vacuum. It is important for athletes to know whether they are introverts or extroverts where the audience, coaches, parents, teammates and judges are concerned.
Third, this gymnast’s coach seemed a bit disorganized, inconsistent and unclear where scheduling and routines were concerned. In sports like gymnastics, diving and figure skating, it is imperative that athletes know exactly what they will do when they compete. There is simply no room for vagueness or ambiguity when athletes do these complicated and dangerous routines.
Fourth, gymnasts frequently struggle with injuries. When this patient came to see me, she was not feeling well and was battling pain which was making it hard for her to stick her landings. She needed a little time to heal, so that she could compete without fear of physical industry and trust her body.
Fifth, even though this athlete was competing at a very high level, she had had very little formal mental training. I taught her several simple techniques to use on a twice daily basis and prior to competing. These techniques were a combination of self-hypnosis, visualization and meditation.
Making these five changes have helped this athlete to score better in recent events.
Sometimes, a multidimensional solution is needed to get a competitor back on the right path.