Practical Tips to Help Athletes Control Anxiety

How is it that some young athletes learn to be good performers?

I got these tips from an excellent article:

Creating a Healthy & Effective Motivational Climate.

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.

gymnastics – Managing Training Time

A superb and unique article addressing the amount of training time spent on each area of training.

Most gymnastics coaches are forced into standard size blocks of time (e.g. 30min). Not optimal!

Check the article and compare their recommendations against what happens in your gym:

article – Technique magazine by Bill Sands & Jenni McNeal

psychology – the Anger Trap

The Anger Trap: How did we get in? And how can we get out?

article – Technique magazine, by Bill Sands and associates, University of Utah

An excellent summary of why anger does not work long-term in the gymnastics setting. I think of this article every time I see a coach lose their cool in the gym.


If we want our athletes to perform to their potential, then we need to create a conducive learning environment in which they feel safe and secure and willing to take risks without angering the coach or risking the loss of his approval. Don’t get caught in the “Anger Trap.” There are too many negative side effects of using anger to manage behavior.