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Talent, Toughness, Timing and More! Lessons Learned From Other Sports.

Mindset Made Simple Tip #93 - Watch or listen HERE.

Do you have ESPN+? If you do, I highly suggest that you take some time this week to watch the NCATA National Championships. As I mentioned in Tip #88, I love watching championships and this one did not disappoint!

Seriously, search under Gymnastics on ESPN and choose a competition to watch – watch the finals between Baylor and Gannon or any other meet from the bracket.

What is the NCATA you ask?

Until last year, I would have had to Google the association as well. The NCATA governs the NCAA Emerging Sport of Acrobatics & Tumbling.

But as luck has it, I have had the honor of working with the Gannon University Acrobatics &Tumbling Team several times over the past two seasons which led to me speaking at the NCATA Coaches Convention. I then had the pleasure of doing some training with several of the other teams who compete in this awesome sport (and two others in the National Championships as well – shout out to Limestone and Quinnipiac)!

And my coaching is better for it!

Before you roll your eyes and think that this is cheerleading (not that there is anything wrong with cheerleading), read on and I am certain that you, too, will grow to appreciate this sport and the talent and toughness it requires!

As I watched these amazing athletes complete this weekend, I saw an incredible mix of physical talent, strength, teamwork and mental toughness.

If you haven’t seen an A&T competition yet, the teams have required sequences that range from incredible holds to flips after holds, to acrobatics to team routines and more.

Every little thing must be done with precision. Every move is evaluated. Every flip is counted. Every step is watched. Every toss is measured.

And the margin for error is minuscule.

As I watched, I took the competition in from many different vantage points.

#1 - As someone who cannot touch her toes, I loved the athleticism of these athletes. I also realized what a wimp I am as I do my thrusters in my workouts. These women were lifting teammates above their heads repeatedly…and sometimes with one hand only to return to the mat to do a tumbling pass in sync with 7 other people. Think about that for a minute!

#2 – As someone who loves structure, I was in awe of the precision and spot-on timing that held the complex movements together…the holds, the flips, the tosses, the landings…all done in unison and with amazing teamwork.

#3 – As someone who is always looking at the mental side of things, watching the laser focus was AMAZING.

Knowing everything they do is being picked apart with a fine-toothed comb must be a daunting feeling. And working in these conditions day in and day out requires a toughness unlike many sports we watch.

Yes. We are evaluated when we are at the plate and swing at a bad pitch or when we lose a 50/50 ball on the pitch.

But in neither case is someone sitting there giving us demerits for our screw-ups…big or small.

In this sport, like gymnastics, figure skating and others, athletes live in a world of deductions and those deductions decide whether you win or lose.

Even more nerve-wracking is the fact that these deductions are based on requirements but are judged by humans with biases and no instant replay, not unlike umpires or referees.

But there is a significant difference here; a referee does not directly change the scoreboard, but a judge does!

I am sure this feels completely normal to coaches of the aforementioned sports, but to those of us less familiar with a deduction-driven scoring system, it feels like a lot of pressure!

The question is then, what can we all learn from this type of scoring and this sport that requires ultimate teamwork?

First, there has never been a more critical place to use the “so what, next pitch” mindset.

For if these athletes focus on the fact that a toe hold was not perfect in move number 1 or a toss was not at the same height as their teammate's toss and they still have moves to make, they are screwed!

Follow the count. What is done is done. Move on to the next move. Period!

Even in this National Championship, there were mistakes. Athletes missed their landings. Others had motion in their bodies when a perfectly still body was expected.

But if these mistakes remained in the forefront of the athlete’s minds or if they were worried about the deductions, the entire event would have gone south. And I did not see that happen…ever!

This tells me that even though they probably knew in their heart of hearts that their blunder was going to cost them points, they pressed on to the next best move and focused on their W.I.N. – What’s Important Now!

More importantly, they followed their training and trusted their process!

So often, we get ourselves in trouble when we are thinking about the goal and the means at the same time.

And since it is impossible to think two thoughts at once, when we are thinking about results while we are doing the work, we are setting ourselves up for disaster!

The second lesson we can learn surrounds the importance of timing and pace.

As I watched the teams count and move in unison to a scripted plan, it reminded me of the importance of stressing timing with all athletes.

These A&T teams know they have 2:45 to complete certain skills. They also know that they must hold certain moves for 3 seconds or here come those pesky deductions again!

This means, that no matter what pressures they feel, no matter how fast their hearts are beating or how fired up they are, THE MUST STICK TO THE COUNT and follow the process.


Everything we do has a sweet spot related to pace or timing. The problem is that when we get stressed, our timing and our training often go haywire!

As I reminded my high school team who was getting their butts kicked and rushing from one bad play to another, softball does not have a clock. Yet, we speed everything up when things get sticky when we should be slowing things down…or finding our pace and timing.


Even in games like soccer where the clock just runs and runs 😊, or in basketball when we have limits on timing, but ample time if we follow our training, we can still control our pace!

Controlling our pace is a choice…

And we must be in control of ourselves before we can control our performance!

Both of these lessons go back to managing moments.

Will we allow one slight mistake to tank the whole event, at bat or possession?

Will we allow pressure, expectations, frustration or any other emotion to take us away from our timing…the timing we have trained over and over?

Many of us have never coached a sport that scores in deductions, but our minds are constantly adding up our deductions as we compete. We hang on to what we did wrong a lot longer than what we did right and we end our performances with a score that wouldn’t win many competitions.

Ultimately, it appears that these A&T athletes have some pretty good mental mechanisms in place to keep the deductions in their place.

By having a “so what, next move” attitude and sticking to the count, they can complete at the highest level staying focused on the moment and allowing the moments to build into momentum! And what exciting momentum it is!

Now…make a note in your calendar to watch and see what you can learn from this sport!

Trust me! You will be amazed and watch mental and physical toughness in action. I would love to know what your takeaways are! Send them my way at or text me at 234-206-0946.

Manage moments and have a great week!


P.S. Need a better mental training system that you can implement without doing your own research, prepping for team chats or doing the work yourself? Call today and let me build a plan that fits your budget and schedule. Shoot me an email at and let’s set a plan in motion to manage your team’s mental -game!

Julie Jones

Certified Mental Performance & Mindset Coach

SSB Performance • 234-206-0946


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