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Coping with competition nerves (Not our child's nerves, our own

Who relates to this? Your child has their first competition. They are excited and looking forward to show everyone how good they are. You, however, are a nervous wreck. So, what can you do with coping with your competition nerves?

Here are a few things that may help. Firstly, it is ok to feel nervous for your child. Anxiety happens because we care, and we want our child to do well. However, this could be detrimental to their performance as you could be transferring your nerves onto your child or cause a distraction!

So what can you do to calm these nerves and support your child to be super confident?

First thing is to recognise when you feel anxious and acknowledge it.

Goal setting: Speak to your child about what goals they have for the competition. Ensure that they have sent goals that are about themselves and not comparing to other people’s performances. Work together to set goals that involve effort and commitment and not just on the outcome.

Visualisation: I would imagine that your child is completing visualisations for their routines as part of their preparation for the competition, if not, encourage them to visualise themselves delivering an awesome performance. You can get involved too, by developing your own visualisation that involves you remaining calm and enjoying watching your little one competing in a sport that they love and how proud you are when they have done their best and given a great performance. Practice this at least 2 or 3 times a week.

Get a journal and write down when you get the most anxious and why. Concentrate on 3 things that make you proud about your little athlete. During the competition, write down all the times when your child does well. Look for evidence where they are concentrating, working hard and showing commitment. If they fall, look at how well they deal with it and move on.  

Challenge the thoughts and ask whether they are detrimental or helpful.

Learn some mindfulness techniques. You can do these together with your child, it's a great way to regulate your emotions and stay in the present.

Eradicates the what ifs. Many of the what ifs never happen and we worry about nothing. Shift the focus to

Celebrate the effort not the outcome. At the end of the day, not everyone wins or gets a medal. Celebrate the positives and look for learnings. Don’t be afraid to listen to any disappointments your child may have from the competition, discuss feelings that you both have and look forward to the next competition drawing on the lessons learnt and not on things that you have no control over.

Parents play a vital role in the support of athletes during competition and by putting these tips in practice, can reduce the anxiety you have and help you enjoy the experience.

If you feel that you need more support, I offer a free parent strategy session. Here you will get clarity on your anxiety and put together a strategy where you can support your child to be an awesome confident. 

If you are interested in applying for a free parent strategy session, please Contact Me and we can arrange a time to chat

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Worry Monsters

A few weeks ago, my daughter came home from school raving about a worry monster that the teacher had brought in to use with their children.

The concept is that they write down their worries on paper and feed the monster (He has a zip on his/her mouth. When the child is asleep the monster eats the letters and the worries disappear.

I know that some of my clients use worry dolls, the worry monster I guess is the next step as it allows parents to support their children on a higher level.

I thought this was a great idea and we decided to buy one to try at home.

Whenever my daughter is struggling with something either at school, gymnastics or any other part of her life, She writes it down and feeds it to the monster. In most cases, we have discussed what has been written and work through it together but if your child doesn't want to talk about their feelings, you have the opportunity to read the letter before the monster chews them up 😘

Many children worry about things that are coming up in their sport such as competitions, landing a new move, or coming back after injury and this little aid could help soothe those fears and concerns in a fun and mindful way.

It would be great to hear if you have used anything like this with your children and share what things they have been used for and how it has helped your child.

I understand how important working with our children on how they cope with difficulties in their life can improve their  performance immensely, therefore, my performance programme designed for parents and their athletes to do together, includes powerful techniques to help both yourself and your child cope with dealing with anxieties, not only in sport but also in business, education and life itself.

If you are interested in applying for a free parent strategy session, please Contact Me and we can arrange a time to chat

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3 Secrets to help your child overcome mental blocks in sport

We all know what it is like when our child comes back from training telling us that they can no longer do a move. It's a feeling that is heartbreaking for both of you.

At first, we think that it will be ok at the next training session but 6 weeks later we realise that this mental block is here to stay.

However, all is not lost though as there is a way out of this spiral.

Secret 1: Build the foundations

Sometimes we do not consolidate a move before advancing to the next level. I see it like building a house. If you don't get the foundations of the house right, you will have trouble when you start building up the bricks. You may not realise that the foundations aren't secure until well into the building process. It is then hard to rectify the error and in most cases, the builder has to knock it down and start again. Fortunately, you shouldn't have to do that. Get your child to go back a level or complete the move on an easier element (floor instead of the beam), consolidate the move before moving back up to the level in which the mental block is happening

Secret 2: Change the story

In many case, our children are thinking about "not thinking about the mental block" Close your eyes for a moment and don't think about chocolate!!! You are thinking about chocolate aren't you?

We need to shift the focus to what the goal is. (i.e. Land 'flick' on the beam) A great exercise for this is 'THE MAGIC TELEVISION' This is a great visualisation technique that you can do with your child.

Ask them to close their eyes and imagine they are watching gymnastics on the television. Encourage them to imagine the gymnasts performing the move that they are having a mental block on. Get them to see, hear and acknowledge how the gymnasts may be feeling. The next step is to let them imagine stepping into the television and overcoming their mental block. Again ask them to fully absorb themselves into the task and take in what they need to do to achieve the move. At the end, ask them to open their eyes and speak to them about the experience. This takes practice so needs to be done regularly.

Secret 3: Run along the butterflies 

Mental blocks are mainly a fear of failing or getting hurt. This anxiety is normal. It's our mind's way of saying "Be careful". It is also an indication that we care. Our children have not developed the skills to rationalise this fear at a higher order. Their mind is protecting them from feeling pain, whether it is emotional or physical. We are programmed to avoid pain and not seek pleasure so we get anxious because the risk of getting hurt is higher than the pleasure we will get when we achieve something. Are you still with me? 

Role play can help to understand what is going on. Have a game of hide and seek where your child is an explorer and you are a scary animal. Make it fun but the aim is to make your child jump and create 'butterflies' in their tummy. Most children can explain what 'butterflies' feel like.

Explain that butterflies can be positive as well. I suggest getting a journal for your child to write down their thoughts and feelings and decorate it with butterflies. When they experience butterflies in the future, ask them to imagine the butterflies as beautiful and relaxing. If you can take something with butterflies on to the gym, even better. Focusing on the butterflies when they are anxious can be used as a distraction.

Bonus Secret: Seeing the breath

Mindful breathing can help with relaxation and reducing anxiety and there are a number of different techniques to use. This one just needs a cotton wool ball

Sit with your child on the floor and ask them to place the cotton ball in their open palm. Get them to hold their cotton ball right under their nose. Encourage them to look at the ball carefully asking the following questions:

What do you see?

Ask them to breathe normally, through their nose.

Can you tell me from how the cotton ball is moving?

Are you are breathing in or breathing out or pausing with lungs full or empty.

Once they have mastered this exercise, they can progress to a 5-7 breathing technique where they breathe in through their nose for 5 seconds and out through their mouth for 7 seconds.

These exercises only take about 5 minutes but I recommend that they are done at least once a day.

These secrets will provide you with some techniques to help your child overcome their mental blockages. However, there are times when home intervention is not enough. This is where I come in.

I work differently to other sport psychologists as I believe that children need the support of their parents when it comes to mental skills training. What I do is start with a free parent strategy session via zoom to discuss the way forward. We will then follow a tailor-made programme together. When the time is right, we will introduce the gymnast and we will work together to overcome the blockages and put strategies in place in case the gremlins come back.

If you are interested in applying for a free parent strategy session, please Contact Me and we can arrange a time to chat

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Every Day you see a cow

 

About 8 years ago, I read that every day, each and everyone of us see a cow in our daily life.  At first, I thought as I live in the suburbs away from fields and farms, I couldn’t even recall when I last saw a cow, never mind seeing one every day. What I hadn’t been doing is opening my mind to all the different places that I see a cow without realising it. As it was now in the for front of my mind, I started to notice cows everywhere. The point is that the phenomenon wasn’t about seeing real cows in a field, it was about seeing cows in my fridge, on TV adverts and in films and TV programmes that I was watching. What I found most amazing what the fact that I went pass a sign with a cow on it every time I visited my dad, yet until I heard this comment, I had never noticed it. Now, my 6 year old daughter is shouting “There’s a cow mummy” practically every day.

Law of attraction has been around for hundreds of years and ‘The Secret’ has been watched or read by many people believing that if they ask the universe for what they desire, they will manifest this into their lives. Whilst this is true (I know this, as I have manifested numerous things since I discovered ‘The Secret’), there is a lot more to it than that.

IN ORDER TO HAVE WHAT WE WANT IN LIFE, WE MUST CHANGE HOW WE THINK.

Below are a few ways to create a wealth of desires in your life:

Focus on what you want in your life and not on what you don’t want.

If your child wants to go to the Olympics, get them to focus on that goal. Do not let anything else getting in the way. Create a vision board with their desires on it so that they can see it every day. What piece of apparatus to they want to specialise on, or do they want to be an all-rounder? Do they want to be a singles skater, ice dancer or do they want to be part of a synchro team? Put a picture of their hero on the vision board so they can aspire to be like them. Put any goal they want to achieve along the way. Be involved in their journey, help them to imagine what it would be like to get to that goal.

Visualise enjoying the lifestyle that they dream of.  Visualisation is a powerful tool and it is a vital exercise that any gymnast, figure skater or anyone for that matter should be doing anyway. This visualisation needs to be in addition to the ones that visualise routines and competitions. Devise a guided imagery script for your child that allows them to imagine living their dream, put in the fine details such as the costume they are wearing, how they prepare, the Olympic village. Use all the senses, what do they see? What do they hear? How do they feel? What do they smell? Enjoy this time together bringing their dream to life.

What is the Parent’s role in creating an abundance mindset in their children?

As parents, we often feel that we need to guide our children through life especially during the early years. If we left children to find their own way in life, it is thought that they will behaviour in a way that we believe is not acceptable. When we focus on the bad behaviour, especially when our reaction is of disapproval or disappointment, we are sending messages to the child that the focus is on what we don’t want and not what how we want them to behave. Therefore, we attract more bad behaviour.

As a parent, it is important to create a mindset of shifting the focus by watching our children for signs of awesomeness and observing all the positive characteristics our children portray. Tell them about their awesomeness and then lead by example.

Most parents want the best for their children and have varying styles of parenting and this is a great thing about our society. What is important that both parent and child are in alignment with each other and this in turn will form a wonderful bond for you both to build dreams together.

I understand how important an abundance mindset is and how a shift of mindset can improve performance tenfold, therefore, my performance programme designed for parents and their athletes to do together, includes powerful techniques to help both yourself and your child attract what you desire, not only in sport but also in business, education and life itself.

If you are interested in applying for a free parent strategy session, please Contact Me and we can arrange a time to chat

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Thank you for Andrea for giving me permission to use her stunning painting. She specialises in painting animals and pets so if you are interested in seeing more of her work, you can view her gallery at www.hampshireportraitstudio.co.uk

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How to empower your child to overcome a gymnastic injury

How to empower your child to overcome a gymnastic injury

As I am writing this, I can see my 6-year-old tumbling across the living room floor. From this, I realised that it is inevitable that a gymnast including my own is going to get injured at some point due to the nature of the sport. As a parent, this can be a very difficult time. The emotional pain that we feel seeing our children in pain is enormous and we would do anything to relieve their pain both physically and emotionally.

For a young gymnast, getting injured may feel like it is the end of the world for them. They spend most of their free time doing something that they love and with like-minded people who share the same passion. Then suddenly, they go from having no down-time to having a lot of time on their hands. Instead of being at the gym, they are stuck at home on the sofa with an injured back, ankle or wrist and can’t even tumble across the living room floor.

I have many parents asking me what things can they do for their child to help them through this difficult time. Below are some of the questions parents have asked me. I have tried to answer them as comprehensive as possible.

Should I allow visits from other gymnasts?

This is a common dilemma for a lot of parents, and many ask me if it is a good idea to have other gymnasts around speaking about what they are doing and what has been happening in competitions.

Many gymnasts spend most of their time with other gymnasts out of school and this becomes their network. I like to see it as the ‘gymnast bubble’ A fit gymnast lives, breathes and eats in this bubble and it’s their way of life. When they get injured, they are on the outside of the bubble looking in. This can be a scary place for a gymnast, so it is important to allow friends to pop over to let them know they are still part of that community. However, it is important to monitor how your child is feeling about the visits and conversations in case they were struggling with not being involved. Conversations should be uplifting, effortless and engaging, involve topics than gymnastics and of course lots of giggling and laughter.

When injured, it is important for your gymnast to have a strong support network. This includes you, gym friends, school friends and anyone else who come into contact with your child regularly.

Should we be setting goals?

Most gymnasts understand the importance of setting effective goals in order to get the most out of practice sessions and the season, but many gymnasts fail to set effective goals during their rehabilitation period. Effective goal setting can dramatically increase the recovery time when combined with an excellent rehabilitation plan. However, gymnasts fall into 2 categories when it comes to goal setting: task-oriented and ego-oriented. It is important that you understand which category your child falls into so that you can decide if the goals set are to be effective.

Task-oriented people naturally set goals that relate to their own level of performance. They will automatically break down their ultimate goal (Returning to the gym full-time) into smaller manageable goals. i.e. Setting a schedule to do the exercises given to them, planning how they are going to keep up their level of fitness and evaluating their successes on how their level of mobility and strength is improving week-on week. This will in turn increase their level of confidence and sense of achievement knowing that they have worked hard and kept with the rehabilitation plan.

Ego-oriented people are more likely to approach their recovery more competitively, they will compare how they are doing on how long it has taken other gymnasts to recover from similar injuries.  For example: they may push themselves in treatment sessions especially if there are others in there who are also injured. Their motivation is to achieve their goal before the others. This is not a problem if they have someone around to ensure that they don’t do too much which could out them back for 2-3 weeks, but it is important that task-oriented goals are set to help the gymnast keep on track. Without these types of goals, the individual could start feeling demotivated if others are recovering quicker.

Do imagery techniques help?

Imagery is one of the most powerful tools that your child can use and can contribute to a speedy recovery in a variety of ways. There are several rehabilitation techniques that can help with the recovery plan and reduce the loss of skill acquisition.

A simple healing imagery programme can reduce the healing time and help maintain confidence during the recovery period. Gymnasts can visualise their recovery period right up to achieving their ultimate goal. A skilled professional can also incorporate guided imagery to help with pain management.

Skill imagery ideally needs to be introduced at the beginning of the rehabilitation period. Gymnasts can be encouraged to watch videos of other gymnasts completing the moves that they normally carry out in the gym and then carry out a mental imagery exercise to help retain the neural pathways for that move in the brain. The best way to explain what a neural pathway is, is by comparing it with the paths you see on a country walk during the summer. When you go across country fields, you will see a few paths. Some with be well trodden on, some will be evident, but you can see that they have not been walked on as much and there may be some that have become overgrown. Using the combination of watching the videos and the mental imagery, you can keep the pathways imprinted in their mind helping to maintain the skills learnt in the gym.

Does Mindfulness work?

Mindfulness and relaxation techniques can have a huge effect on the gymnast’s recovery and well-being. It can also help with concentration and focus for all people and is something that can be learnt and incorporated into someone’s daily life easily and effectively.

Mindfulness is allowing your mind to be fully in the present. You are aware of everything around you and provides you the opportunity  to spend time away from the stresses that you may be going through. It can involve focusing your breathing and being aware of feelings and thoughts without passing judgment. Many like to carry out mindfulness formally by sitting with your eyes but it doesn’t have to be. Anything can be done mindfully e.g. eating, going out on a walk or washing the pots. Start with 5 minutes a day and increase the timing when you feel ready. This is something you can do together and then discuss what you noticed afterwards.

How do we deal with the negative thoughts?

Thought management is essential to keep your gymnast on track to a speedy recovery. Using mindfulness to calm your thoughts and then challenging those thoughts can keep them, and you become focused, positive and calm during this difficult time. These thoughts are a coping mechanism that come from the fight and flight phenomenon. When our mind predicts danger, we start making plans to fight, flight or freeze. These negative thoughts however are no longer needed in this current age, so we need to challenge them and change the story.

I see thoughts as being ‘hot’ (negative) and ‘cool’(positive). How many of us have started with one hot thought (I’ve forgotten my gymnast’s lunch box) and before we know it, we have thought about all the other times we forgotten things and we work ourselves up to be thinking we are the such a bad parent and feel rubbish. Maybe an exaggeration but I am sure you get what I am saying. By taking a minute to practice mindfulness to acknowledge your thoughts and feelings, we can then cool down the ‘hot’ thoughts with a ‘cool’ thought i.e. "That’s fine, I can nip to the local shop and grab something, it may not be as healthy but its only for one day".

Teaching this technique to your child can help them manage their thoughts better. Start by doing it together as you may be able to help with the cool thoughts initially then gradually allow them to think of thoughts themselves to calm them down and see the situation in a positive perspective.

This technique takes time to master, so it needs lots of practice but you will see it gets easier.

When should we consider seeing a sport psychologist?

In most cases, a gymnast who is motivated to work with their coach and rehabilitation team and are seeing progress in their recovery will deal effectively without any external sport psychology support. However, if your child has feelings of stress or anxiety in returning to the gym or have a fear of getting injured again, has a significant reduction in confidence or the strategies being adopted by the club’s team don’t seem to be working or your little gymnast seems to be struggling mentally with the injury, it may be worth consulting a sport psychologist. What we can do is prepare your gymnast to be mentally prepared to return to the sport. If possible, this intervention should be sought before the gymnast is ready to return to full practice so that the techniques can complement the rehabilitation back into the gym.

Many  gymnasts find that an injury helped them to become a better athlete, both physically and mentally. They learn how to dig deep to find the motivation to keep going when times get tough and find their inner strength, Injuries can also provide the opportunity to work on other aspects of their training/fitness that they may not have had the time to concentrate on before. For example, an ankle injury may prevent someone from working on the lower part of their body but there is a lot to be done regarding upper strength and your flexibility or their mental toughness.

This is Part 1 of 3 blogs on injuries in gymnastics. Part 2 for concentrate on ‘the anxiety of re-injury’ and concluding on ‘what to do if you have to retire through injury’. In the meantime, it you would like to find out more about how we can help you overcoming a sport-related injury, contact us by clicking the button below

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