Gymnastics requires both physical and mental toughness

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Simone Biles made national news earlier this week when she pulled out of the Tokyo 2020 games citing that she’s prioritizing her mental health. Many have come to her defense and admire her, Coaches at Matrix gym in Huntsville says it shows just how tough of an athlete she truly is.

Jill King, one of the upper-level gymnastics coaches at Matrix says at a young age they’re already teaching kids focus, “Get into your headspace of where your body is and if you’re scared of something talk to us.”

King added communication is a huge part of gymnastics and Biles communicating that is impactful, “For the future generations it’s going to be great because they’ll be able to step back and say, ‘I’m not in the right spot, I need help.'”

Matrix gym offers everything from tumbling and gymnastics, to competitive gymnastics. Alex Vardaman, the artistic gymnastics program director and coach, said on top of coaching the athletes, they teach them mental toughness.

“We sit before and after practice and go through mental exercises, and also we have an encouraging word of the day, we might have a word that we pick out, like perseverance,” Vardaman told News 19.

Just like any athlete, training and getting repetitions in are key, not only to develop muscle memory and good form but to also continue excelling. Just like you exercise your body and muscles, “Getting in those repetitions day in and day out of a mental exercise is how they develop that mental toughness,” Vardaman said.

Every gymnast will ultimately hit a wall at some point in their career Vardaman said, and it’s overcoming that obstacle that makes them not only a better gymnast but allows them to be in tune with their mind and body.

“At that point, they have to be able to take a deep breath and understand that there are steps and there is a process and there’s a trust that they have placed in their coaches, in their training and in themselves to get through these things,” Vardaman said.

Being in the right headspace is key King said, “When you’re learning a hard skill or beginning something new, we break it down into parts.”

King said this is as much of a mental sport as it is a physical sport, “When they do have that mental block and say ‘I know I can do this,’ that’s when you have to walk the line of being a tough coach.”

King added that they will be there to talk the gymnasts through it, but they have to overcome the mental and physical blocks.

Vardaman says there are times, as a coach, he sees things the athlete can not and at some point, upper-level gymnasts will be performing skills that require a strong mental game, “If they’re not fully focused and aware of their surroundings and body control, we have to take a step back and start at the basics.”

King adds that over the years gymnastics has evolved, before there were many who thought they couldn’t say something and just had to make do, “Now there is a lot of communication between coaches and kids and making sure that not only are we feeling safe in their environment but the feel confident as well.”

It’s recognizing those strengths and weaknesses that make you a successful gymnast.

If you would like to learn more about what Matrix gym has to offer, click here.

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