Finding Zen in Gymnastics

Photo Credit: (c) Can Stock Photo

Recently I was reading an article on the teachings of Buddhism and I couldn’t help but draw certain correlations between the basic philosophies and how we can easily apply them into youth sports today….particularly competitive gymnastics.

In today’s fast paced world where everyone is trying to get somewhere as quick as possible, we often forget that what is happening around us is happening for a reason. Our children don’t fail on purpose, don’t get injured or have mental blocks to spite us, we forget…. it is all happening FOR them.

They need to learn and grow from these experiences, to help them be stronger and much wiser on their journey. It is all in preparation for what it is they will become. Our job as parents is to help them, support them and encourage them to keep pushing and moving forward. It is their big enough “why” not ours.



We all know that the years our children participate in sports will fly by us so quickly. It only makes sense to zoom out and look at things with a wide lens because it is so easy to zoom in and focus on the wrong or negative aspects. So the next time you are stressed, frustrated and seeking answers, I hope you consider applying these teachings to help put things back into perspective.

Applying the 4 noble truths to Gymnastics:

1) Ordinary life brings about suffering.

Yes, as parents you will sacrifice and suffer through the endless car rides, unanswered questions, doctors appointments for injuries, as well as through the tears and frustrations of your athletes at practice and competitions… Its all part of the journey and there are times when both you and your child will want to quit to move to an easier lifestyle yet, you will suffer and push through together… Just accept it and know that nothing is permanent, there will come a point that this too shall pass, so just take a deep breath and learn to B-R-E-A-T-H-E.

2) The origin of suffering is attachment.

Parents listen, the reason why you are so frustrated is because we feel this need to be involved in the process. Not only are we paying for our child’s sports experience with our hard earned money, we are emotionally involved as well–when they are happy, we are happy..when they are sad, we are sad. We must become aware and learn at certain points to detach from situations and circumstances so they they can fully experience what they need to learn, especially when it comes to their sport. If they need to fail because they are not doing their part or it will help them get better, let them. Sometimes the hardest lessons are the greatest blessings.

“We can’t expect them to continue the journey if we are hovering over them. It is not fair to them, the coaches, or you. Learn to let go and see what happens.”

(By the way, I am not talking about turning the other cheek if they are in an environment that is constantly causing suffering and pain or disagrees with your values, in that case absolutely leave and find a more suitable one. I am talking about the everyday challenges they face in achieving goals, facing their fears, getting along with teammates, and learning to compete.)

3) The cessation of suffering is attainable.

The bottom line is, if it gets to a point where the activity causes more pain than pleasure perhaps it is time for this part of the journey to end and a new chapter to begin. We all know that children grow, evolve and change, and in return, their needs change. So if it comes to the point where the gym no longer serves their needs, move on. If their interest changes and they want to dive, dance or join the cheer team.. let them. Let them know that there is always something better ahead and that the “best is yet to come” no matter where it takes them. They will take what they learned from the experience and apply it moving forward.

4) Suffering can cease, by following the noble eight fold path.

In order to attain liberation one must practice wholesome: View, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration.

  • If we as parents and coaches teach our athletes to have a positive view (no matter how difficult the challenges get)
  • Always go in with good intention and hope for the best, even when they don’t get it.
  • Speak positive words such as; “I can” and “I will” instead of, “I am not good enough” or “I can’t do it.” Positive self-talk goes a long way.
  • Not only do you have to talk the talk you must walk the walk… Take action and push through the tough times and I guarantee something great will come out of it.
  • Livelihood – Keep balance between home, school and the gym. When you are content in other areas of your life it reflects in your performance. You get out what you put in, so push through the bad days and learn to celebrate yourself and others in all aspects of your life.
  • Practice mindfulness and remember to stay present. Don’t dwell on past mistakes and don’t let the fears of the future rob you of your joys in the present. Concentrate on what you can do right now in this moment and be the best person and athlete YOU can be.

    “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind in the present moment.” ~Buddha

All of these truths are simple reminders and can be applied though any life stage or challenge that comes our way. If we are mindful and practice these truths and model them to our athletes they can then apply them towards their own challenges.

Additionally, when we are calm and practice compassion, especially towards ourselves and others, they will too. If we can learn to stop pointing the finger at coaches, other parents and judges and realize that everyone is fighting their own battles we can enjoy the journey with a lot less stress… so be kind always and have faith that everything happens for a reason.

by: Jodi Brichta-Coyne
(This article was originally written here. Re-posted by permission from the author.)

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