You’ve probably heard the amazing news that Simone Biles, considered the best gymnast of all time, dropped out of the gymnastics final at the Tokyo Olympics due to mental stress.
A local gymnastics studio in Barre encourages a healthy state of mind in their young athletes. At Sunrise Gymnastics, competitive gymnasts begin at the age of six. Their homeschool group consists of the girls who are in the upper grades eight and nine. The best level is ten.
Jozef Safko says it’s a tough sport overall. The girls – who, he said, “live and breathe gymnastics all the time” – train in value, uneven bars, beam and floor.
“Physical strength also becomes mental,” said Jozef Safko. “But the more you improve, the more you participate in better competition. So you learn and know how to perform.
Sunrise owner and trainer Wendy Safko said making sure girls are mentally healthy starts with training.
“Every time we train, we tell them to do their best, to give your best, to do your best,” said Wendy Safko.
Wendy Safko said it was no surprise that Biles was retiring from the Olympics. Even at this level, she said, to be mentally and physically successful takes a lot of emotional support from coaches and family.
“With the Olympics, especially Toyoko, you don’t have the support,” she said. “You don’t have the audience there. You feed off each other’s energy. So I think it might affect him somehow.
“I think as a coach, as long as you are proud of them, the girls will feel it too.”
Andrew Rosenfeld, a family psychiatrist at the University of Vermont Medical Center, said there was pressure in all competitive sports.
“I think a recent scientific article that we heard about is the idea of a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset,” Rosenfeld said. “The growth mindset is the attitude to encourage children. It’s not whether you’re good at a sport or not, it’s how hard you try.