Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Meet Tips for Gymnasts and Gym Parents

With the competitive season coming up, I thought it might be helpful to give first-time competitors and first-time gym parents a general overview of your basic gymnastics meet, along with some tips and tricks to make everything run as smoothly as possible. This might be a little lengthy, so bear with me! I'll try to make it as precise as I can, though there's quite a bit to say. (Girls, tell your parents to read, too, if they're interested!)

Basic Meet Schedule:
Your average USAG meet will last about four hours and will follow a standard schedule. There might be a few exceptions to this rule (ex: Capital Cup or Chicago-style meet), but most meets will follow the exact same format, and you will soon know it by heart. It usually goes like this...

Check in (get your designated number)
Warm up/stretch
Timed warm ups
March in
Awards ceremony

You'll want to arrive about twenty minutes before the scheduled warm up time so the gymnasts can get situated with their teammates and consult with their coach.

Random Things You Should Know (gymnasts):

1) When you have downtime at a meet, it might help you to visualize your routines. See yourself acing the move that you're getting a little nervous about. Watch yourself sticking the landing. Thinking positively is enormously beneficial. If you think you can, you can. The Olympians will tell you that.

2) Prepare your gym bag the night before. It's nice to know that you're all ready to go and you have nothing to worry about except your routines. Throw some things in your gym bag ahead of time. Your bag should be labeled with your name on it. Items you might want to bring include your leos (warm-up and competitive) and warm ups, a hairbrush, hairspray, extra hair ties, a water bottle, your grips, icy hot for sore muscles, ibuprofen, healthy snacks to eat between events (such as a few granola bars, trail mix, etc.), wrist/ankle/knee braces if you need them, athletic tape, and, if you're like me, a good luck charm. I brought my green teddy bear to every meet, even when I was a teenager :P

3) You are not allowed to wear nail polish to a meet. You should remove it the night before. Take off all your jewelry before the meet as well.

4) Get enough to eat! Stomach aches at meets are no good. The night before a meet, carbs are always a good dinner option for a boost of energy. In the morning, have a bowl of cereal, a waffle (whole wheat would be best), toast, a banana, a bagel, or something similar. Make sure you're staying hydrated.

5) Go out to eat or do something fun with your teammates after the meet!! After all that, you deserve it. At travel meets, especially, you'll want to have some fun with your friends.

Random Things You Should Know (parents):

1) Get ready early. Obviously you'll want your daughter to get all the sleep she can get, but sleeping in and then rushing to get to a meet adds unnecessary nerves and pressure. Plan ahead for the time it will take to fix up your daughter's hair on the morning of a meet. Sometimes it takes longer than you think it will, especially if you're planning on an intricate braid. Allow extra time in case you get a little lost on the way, and of course take note of the weather (I can't even count the number of times my parents and I got lost, or got stuck behind a snow plow the whole way there, etc. etc.) Unforeseen problems do tend to arise, and it's best to just be prepared no matter what.

2) If you are at a travel meet, you may find it helpful to make a test drive from the hotel to the site of the meet the night before. That way you can watch out for unexpected road closings and detours, and it will just takes a lot of stress off your shoulders.

3) Focus on your daughter making her best effort and having a good time, rather than on winning. My father used to grill me in the car on the way to meets about pointing my toes in my beam routine and getting a higher cast on bars, and, though I know now that it was coming from a place of concern and wanting me to be happy with my own performance, it made me very nervous then. I felt pressured, and I also felt a little annoyed, because I knew he had no idea about the mechanics behind the moves I would be performing. I felt like, "Hey, I already have a coach. I don't need another one." Trust me, the coaches put enough pressure on as it is. Your job is simply to be supportive. :)

4) Bring cash with you to meets. There are entrance fees, and there will typically be concessions as well as other merchandise related to the meet (like cool t-shirts, grip bags, leotards, stuff like that). Some meets also provide a professional photographer, and you will have the option of purchasing photos of your daughter after the meet. Also, bring a book or an ipod or something else to entertain yourself or your other kids. Your daughter will actually only compete for a total of about four minutes, so there will be a lot of idle time in between.

5) I said this in the section for gymnasts, but staying hydrated and eating enough is obviously important for your daughter. Carbs are recommended for the night before, and non-acidic foods (cereal or bagels are always good) in the morning.

6) As you probably know, flash photography will not be allowed for safety reasons, so if you're planning on taking photos, turn your flash off right away.

Good luck to everybody and enjoy your season! Again, if you have questions pertaining to this particular post, please feel free to comment and I'll get your question answered as soon as possible. If you have a question that does NOT relate to this post, please ask it in the post below this one, until I can get a "Questions and Comments" post up for the month. Thanks!


  1. luv thsi post(:

  2. Very well thought out advice! I second it all.

  3. I know how you said we are not allowed to wear nail polish but the team and I will be wearing the same nail polish, is that okay or do we have to take it off