7 Division I Gymnasts Share Their Secret To Mental Preparation Before Meets

Gymnastics is as much a mental sport as it is a physical one. In fact, many gymnasts would even argue the mental preparation is more difficult than physical training, since it can be more difficult to control. A gymnast may be able to perfectly execute her routines in practice, but if she is not mentally ready to face the crowd, judges and her own nerves, she will not perform to the best of her ability. 

With so much focus on being prepared physically for a meet, we set out to see what seven Division I gymnasts had to say about how they make sure they are mentally ready to hit their set on competition day. 

1. Caroline Caponi | JR | William & Mary

“To prepare mentally for a meet, I usually don’t like to think about my gymnastics too much because then I start to overthink all of my skills. I like to just focus on having fun and rely on my training to take care of the rest. I talk and joke around with my teammates and always listen to the same pump-up playlist. Before I compete each event, I do one mental set in my head and take a big, deep breath that helps me calm my meet nerves.”

2. Jasmine Estrella | JR | Temple

“I usually do almost anything to keep my mind off of competing. I have found that when I overthink my gymnastics, everything starts to go wrong. I often have music blasting while I do my makeup and hair and I try to keep a positive mentality when going into any competition. Throughout the day, I have to tell myself that I have done this long enough to be able to trust myself. If I ever find myself thinking too much, I find a new topic to distract myself. The most important thing that I do to mentally prepare before a competition is to say a prayer. After everything is done, I take time to myself to say a prayer and calm all of my nerves. “

3. Skyler Memmel | SR | Central Michigan University

“The night before a meet, I always do mental imagery of my routines and imagine myself in the arena I’ll be competing in. The day of the meet, I love getting hyped up to music and doing makeup and hair with all my teammates and setting the positive energy. Before warm-ups I go to the beam and listen to the same songs while I do a mental set/dance-through next to the beam. Then during the meet, I try to stay energized but also in the zone. I always at least do one beam routine on the floor before I go and a mental set right before I go.”

4. Mia Lord | SO | Northern Illinois University

“To mentally prepare for a meet, I like to visualize myself making perfect routines at the meet venue. I currently only compete beam, so I try to visualize myself nailing a beam routine in a competition setting at least once a day before a competition. Another thing I like to do to get in the right mindset before a meet is to remind myself that it is just another routine. We put in so much work at the gym every day during practice, so I tell myself that I have prepared for this to the best of my ability.”

5. Emily Briones | SR | Utah State University

“I basically just stay in the moment and take everything one step at a time. I wake up and focus on eating a good breakfast with the team and that’s all I think about. I’m not thinking or overthinking about the fact that I’m competing later today. I’ve found that it helps me a lot to stay as in the moment as possible. Even while I’m getting ready, I’m focusing on what music is playing and how much fun I’m having with my team. Right before warm-ups start, I say to myself what my “assignment” is for the day, which is normally just one hit beam routine and one hit floor routine. I simplify what I’m doing as much as possible. Staying in the moment and really pouring my positive energy into the team helps me get pumped and ready to go.”

6. Josalyn Ray | SR | San Jose State

“To prepare for a meet I do lots of mental imagery the day before and the day of. On the day of the meet, I do my hair and makeup while listening to the same playlist. Once I walk into the arena, I slowly start to get into competition mode and I turn everything outside off. I’m a pretty quiet competitor so I don’t talk a whole bunch or get super hyped with music, but I like to cheer a lot to distract me. Not every event is the same, but for vault, I honestly don’t think about much at all and I don’t like to talk to anyone before I go. Floor is different, I tell whoever I’m talking to what I’m going to do on each pass before I go, so sort of a verbal/mental set, I guess you could say. Beam I also speak to someone and go through every single skill that I have in my routine saying my ‘key words.’ I focus a lot on breathing and positive self-talk throughout the meet as well. Just reminding myself ‘I’m ready,’ ‘Just have fun’ and ‘You can do this,’ as well as taking deep breaths whenever I’m feeling the nerves.”

7. Haylee Roe | SR | University of Illinois

“Going into a meet, I focus more on my training leading up to it and putting myself in a meet situation during practice, so when a meet comes, I can just visualize my routines and go through my mental cues. Right before and during my routines, I usually distract myself and think about completely random things so I can just trust my training instead of stressing in the moment.”

After hearing from seven different Division I gymnasts, we can see that every gymnast has a slightly different way of preparing for a competition. Whether a gymnast visualizes her set many times or completely ignores her routine until it is time to perform doesn’t matter as long as she finds the way that works best for her, so it is a good idea to try a few different ways before settling on one. 

Mental blocks, only getting one try to hit a routine, large crowds and other factors can create pressure on competition day and make it difficult to perform a routine. Gymnasts should practice being mentally ready for a meet as young as they can, because the more mental preparation they are used to, the easier it will become.

Miranda Martin is a freelance writer who writes about gymnastics, social justice issues, and more. You can follow her on TwitterInstagram, or contact her through her website.

10 Useful Summer Vault Drills

Summer practices can get long without the deadline of a meet approaching, but these drills can help switch up practices and keep them interesting. Here are 10 drills to work on for various skill levels. If you have a good one we missed, link a video in the comments. 

Clara Raposo & Felix Dolci Lead Canada's Junior Worlds Teams

The inaugural Junior World Championships begins June 27, and the top junior artistic gymnastics will be competing in Gyor, Hungary. Like the senior World Championships, the meet includes team, all-around, and apparatus competitions, but the team sizes for Junior Worlds are smaller. Women's teams consist of three gymnasts, while men's consist of four. 

5 Gymnasts To Watch At 2019 FIG Junior World Championships

The FIG Artistic Gymnastics Junior World Championships is coming up, and this event is especially exciting because it is the first time this competition has ever been held! Previously only senior gymnasts could compete in the World Championships. By giving junior gymnasts their own competition, FIG Artistic Gymnastics can keep Senior World Championships the same as they always have been, but also give the juniors a shot.

10 Creative Bar Drills

Summer is a great time for gyms to work on all the things they don’t have time to focus on during competition season! Whether that is going back to the basics, cleaning up form on old skills, or learning upgrades, we have a drill for you to incorporate into your summer practices. Here are 10 drills to work on bars for various skill levels. If you have a good one we missed, link a video in the comments.

Gymnastics Is A Sister Act For Bella & Ava Mabanta

Many gymnasts discover the sport through mommy-and-me gymnastics classes. But advancing out of those introductory classes to dominate the J.O. gymnastics world, qualify to elite gymnastics meets, and make a verbal commitment to the University of Denver? That’s not quite so common. Especially not for two sisters to do it together.

10 Fun Gymnastics Conditioning Ideas For Summer

One great thing about summer in the gymnastics world is that practices are often longer since school is out, giving more time to focus on strength and conditioning. If you feel your gym or team is stuck in a rut and doing the same conditioning month after month, here are 10 new ideas to work with to create stronger gymnasts that love strength time (or just hate it a little less!). 

USA's 2019 Junior World Championships Team

Sydney Barros, Skye Blakely, and Kayla DiCello, with Konnor McClain as the traveling alternate, were named to USA's 2019 FIG Artistic Gymnastics Junior World Championships team.

More Ways To Watch FloGymnastics

Never miss a moment. 

Previewing The US Nominative Roster For Junior World Championships

For the first time ever, junior elite gymnasts will have an opportunity to compete on the world championship stage. Gyor, Hungary, will be the host site for the 2019 Junior World Championships and the women’s competition will run from June 28 to 30, 2019. 

June National Team Camp, Jr Worlds Team & Pan Am Training Squad Selection

The USA Gymnastics June National Team Camp begins this Friday June 14 and serves as the selection for the 2019 Junior World Championships team as well as the selection for the 2019 Pan American Games training squad.