5 Big Mistakes Gymnastics Coaches Make in Preparing their Gymnasts for Competition Day…and What to Do Instead!


Dr. Joe “Doc” Massimo & Dr. Sue Massimo


Meet preparation, of course, is paramount to a successful competitive season. You all know how important physical preparation is, and assume you’re preparing your gymnasts mentally for competitions as well.  But did you realize that part of the mental/emotional preparation for the gymnast is to have an understanding of what to do at every stage of the actual competition?  Plus, are they prepared as well as what to do if they make a mistake or have a fall? We’re sure you all want your gymnasts to be successful at their next meet, right?

So, here are the five biggest mistakes the gymnastic coach makes in preparing their gymnasts mentally and emotionally for the day of competition and what to do instead. These are very important for your beginner gymnasts but work extremely well for your seasoned competitors as well.


Mistake #1 – Failure to Prepare your Gymnasts for the Stages of Competition

We’ve seen many coaches go to a competition after physically practicing hard in the gym only to find that their gymnasts seem to be clueless as to what to do when, where, and how. The competitive arenas can be a daunting place as well as one of excitement. But the lack of preparation can cause extreme distress for your gymnasts.

What to do Instead

Prepare your gymnasts for exactly what will go on the day of the actual competition. Discuss everything from their preparation at home, arrival at the arena, warmups, competition, and all the way through to the awards ceremony. Not only will this help reduce pre-meet anxiety and increase self-confidence, but will allow your gymnasts to perform at their best.

Mistake #2 – Failure to Organize General Team Warm-Ups

Allowing your gymnasts to arrive at the meet and warm-up on their own shows a lack of organization and preparation on the part of the coach.

What to do Instead

Many successful gym programs organize team warm-ups. A set routine lead by a coach or team leader done in group unison, whether there are two or 20 gymnasts, should warm-up your gymnasts physically and mentally for the meet. Besides these benefits, many coaches use this to as a way to show off their team’s special abilities thus perhaps intimidating other team’s gymnasts as well their coaches watching. It happens, so you may as well prepare your team as best you can.


Mistake #3 – Failure to Plan Timed Apparatus Warm-Ups and Touches

The coach who fails to prepare their gymnasts for what to do in their limited timed warm-up and touches is setting themselves and their gymnasts up for disaster, both physically and mentally.

What to do Instead

Most apparatus warm-ups and touches are on a very individual basis. Often a coach will warm-up tumbling as a group and then have the gymnasts break into warming up individual skills and dance. As their coach, you know your gymnasts strengths and weaknesses on each event, so plan their specific warm-ups for maximum productivity.  Don’t forget touches that are often planned the day of the meet based on the outcome of timed warm-ups. Apparatus touches can mentally and physically be a real plus or minus for your gymnasts, so work out a plan before they’re up.


Mistake #4 – Failure to Prepare Your Gymnasts for What to Do if they Make a Mistake

Making a mistake, especially having a fall, can be detrimental to your gymnasts ability to finish their routine. It will be difficult for them to proceed with any amount of composure or confidence if they haven’t prepared for what to do next.

What to do Instead

Mistakes in warm-up and touches happen for a variety of reasons. Talk to your gymnasts about what to do in the event that something doesn’t go as planned. In general, it helps for the gymnast to take a deep breath, relax, chalk up if needed and refocus on the task at hand as opposed to just jumping back into their routine. Also, analyze your gymnasts’ routines to see if there are any places where they are having breaks. Change the routine a little if needed or leave out certain skills or combinations until the gymnasts can perform these without breaks.

Mistake #5 – Failure to Hold “Mock” Meets

Taking your gymnasts to a competition without proper preparation, such as participating in a pretend or “mock” meet, is again unprofessional and potentially dangerous to your gymnasts.

What to do Instead

Here’s another example that many successful coaches incorporate into their programs. Hold “mock” meets with pretend judges and an audience, or better yet get real judges and have your gymnasts go through an entire meet.  Practice march-in, general and timed warm-ups, touches and then have a pretend competition. Don’t give actual scores unless you have actual judges, but still make it fun and informative for the gymnast. Not only do the gymnasts get to experience the different stages of a meet, but it goes a long way in physically and mentally preparing them for their next real competition.


Bottom Line?

You want to prepare your gymnasts both physically and mentally to ensure their success at the next gymnastics competition. You want to improve the relationships you have with your gymnasts and their parents?  You want to excel as a gymnastics coach? Right?

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