Getting In The Zone: How To Make Corrections Stick

Getting In The Zone: How To Make Corrections Stick

Doc Ali’s Tight Mind Monday 7-3-17: Making Corrections Stick

So many coaches ask me how to make corrections stick so they become engrained habits. This Tight Mind Monday will give coaches tools to help gymnasts build the neural pathways and muscle memory needed to create great habits.  

Here are some Tight Mind Tips:


Give only one correction at a time until that correction is made at least 5-10 times. So many times coaches get excited and either over-correct or lecture their athletes. Remember, a young athlete will probably only listen to you for about 5 seconds before tuning you out. Get out of long explanations and just give them the correction that will make the most difference on the next turn. Give them ONE CORRECTION at a time!

After you’ve settled on the most important correction, provide a cue word to anchor their mind and activate their body. It is usually just one word, one syllable. Something like “squeeze”, “push”, or “lean”. Whatever you would like to see on the next turn.  

Before the next turn, help them feel the body position of the correction. Have them either do a drill, put them in the position physically, or have them walk through the skill freezing on the correction position and squeezing the feeling three times. The more they feel the correction in their body when they aren’t doing the actual skill, the more they will feel it during the skill.  

Many people have said it takes 3000-5000 repetitions to change a bad habit and 300-500 to engrain a new one. Let’s help our athletes learn skills the right way the first time by giving one correction at a time, adding a mental cue word, and anchoring the correction in their body by helping them feel the position. By working these three steps, corrections will become auto-pilot in no time!


Alison Arnold Ph.D. has been a mental toughness consultant to USA Gymnastics since 1997. For more information of Doc Ali and her on-line bootcamps, click here.