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For Coaches Perfectionism and how to work with it.

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Dec 16, 2007
Hi everyone. This is my first time posting, but I really need help. I have a little girl on our level 5 team, she is very good and has the ability to score VERY well. At practice if we are "scoring" routines or doing a practice meet for practice she gets very shaky and nervous and before you know it making mistakes she never makes. She gets very frustrated when trying to get a skill and will break down and cry and you almost can't get her to refocus after that. At the meets she shakes like crazy and if there is a big mistake of course falls apart and then still has to finish the meet. Part of it is she has high expectations for herself and puts more pressure on herself than she needs to and makes herself so uptight she messes up. I have worked with kids who were perfectionists before but not to this extent, we just started meet season and her parents and I are working hard on trying to get the child through this. ANY IDEAS:D


Apr 9, 2007
Just a couple general thoughts when dealing w/ gymnasts in my experience. This may be helpful it may not.

1. If you put an emphasis on scores, the kids also will.

2. If you put the emphasis on fun, the kids also will.

3. Goal setting works!!!

4. If kids are introverts and and are having a rough time, give them their space. Don't force conversations or try to figure out "whats wrong"

5. If all else fails pull out your hair.


Aug 2, 2008
east coast
I would sit down with the parent- that pressure she puts on herself has to come from somewhere! Try to explain to them that her behavior is hurting her performance and enlist them in helping figure out what helps her.

You definitely need to stop the crying- she needs to learn how NOT to react like that. If it happens, gently explain that the crying isnt acceptable, and give her some options as to whats he can do next time instead. (be determined to do better, take 3 deep breaths, etc). Tell her if it happens again, she will have to sit out for 5 minutes. This is learned behavior and she has gotten a lot of attention for it, I'm sure at the expense of others. I dont want to sound harsh, but she needs to ahve an incentive to stop behaving this way- and no attention to it is the best way.

Then praise her like crazy when she is acting appropriately- she will get it- believe me.:D


Is it that she's really nervous about performing in front of people? Everyday at practice you could have everyone stop and watch a beam routine so she gets used to it. I also send my hysterical kids to get a drink of water. They're not going to be able to focus and do good gymnastics when they're upset so I want them to take a mini break. Then, depending on the skill, maybe have them work on a different skill or do drills to take the focus off the one skill that is upsetting them.


Active Member
Former Gymnast
Jun 24, 2008
One thing that could help while learning or working on skills is to ask her to tell you one thing that she thought she improved from the previous attempt. It sounds like she's focusing too much on the parts where she's messing up than on changes that she's made and how the skill is improving. When I coach, I like to use the "one improved thing, one thing to work on" approach so that the kids aren't overwhelmed with corrections.

The shakiness while performing is really just something that she has to get used to. At my gym, kids always have to show at least one routine on each event with one of the coaches watching the entire thing, and when state gets closer, we start doing a timed warm-up like they do at meets, followed by everyone sitting down and watching each person's routine. It does take a little time out of practice, but maybe you could rotate kids for showing routines, so maybe only 1/4-1/3 of the group could show routines in a given day.


What gymch34 says about crying is dead-on. She has to be taught that it's not a positive or helpful way to react.

Do you work higher level skills in practice at all? When a kid is ready to do that I have them do a routine for me at the beginning of the event and it must meet certain requirements before they can move on.

Do your gymnasts have key words they use during their routine, so they can focus on coaching themselves through rather than worrying about falling?


Nov 12, 2007

This kid sounds like she is just not a natural performer/competitor.
You need to find strategies to settle her down. teach her how to relax through breathing for example. When she gets all shaky and stuff. sit her down tell her to close her eye and try to wipe her mind clean... as she does this get her to take a deep breath in through the nose, and nice controlled breath out through the mouth (she needs to breath through the stomach).
If this does not work, you need to try and find another means of channeling her anxiety, or negative reflection. example in competition have her bring her iPod or walkman or whatever kids have now a days, to listen to to relax her.

You also need to expose her to as many under pressure situations as you can, such as mock meets (inhouse meets), random routine trials, anything that will tend to cause her to breakdown, so that she can work on fighting through it, by using whatever strategy you have deemed most effective. This will take practice, it won't happen over night.

Talk to the parents to see what they do when their kids get like that at home. What works for them...For example i have a kid that has dislexia, and sometimes can just loose it. Her parents told me to ask her what her energy dial is? they have a system of 1-10..she knows it... If iask her and she says she is like 10... i tell her to sit down, and go into another room, and bring it back to down to 5 before she comes back. She is comfortable with this method as her parents use is, she knows it works for her, and it solve me having to send kids out, or punish them for no go reason. It is a skill as much as anything else how to be effective under pressure.
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