How is it that some young athletes learn to be good performers?
I got these tips from an excellent article:
Encourage the athlete to practice short periods of deep breathing to calm himself, to get centered and to relax.
Suggest the gymnast take a “time out” to think about the task at hand and to remove unrelated thoughts.
Make positive imagery a common component of practice. Visualize performing the skill and “feeling” it successfully performed in the mind. Example: Get a good mental picture of a stuck dismount.
Encourage the gymnast to engage in positive self talk to develop an internal mechanism that will guide her through a difficult combination or competitive situation. Example: “Square my hips over the beam.”
Create a mantra that breaks the pattern of self defeating thoughts. Example: “Think strong,” “Focus.”
Teach the athlete to be aware of his thought process during a successful performance. Implement what works.
Practice blocking out internal and external distractions. Example: create as near to a real competition experience as possible and create typical distractions while the athlete is performing her routine.
Develop a pre-competition routine that provides stability and familiarity even in the midst of the most stressful and / or unfamiliar environment. Example: Perform the same warm-up routine, eat the same pre-competition meal, listen to the same motivational tape.
Teach, practice and exude optimism. Coaches who model optimism create a positive atmosphere that breeds perseverance and success.