Crash and Learn
My younger daughter, Katie, started competing in gymnastics at age 8. On one occasion, she was at a state-qualifier meet, where she was competing with kids who were very good. Katie noticed that they were much more precise with their routines, and that they were holding their moves longer. On Katie’s floor routine, she has a move where she kicks up to a handstand and lands back on her feet. During the competition, Katie decided to kick a little higher than normal so that she could hold her handstand longer, but she overshot it and flopped on her back.
Initially, my wife and I were disappointed that she blew such a simple move and lost points. Why didn’t she just play it safe? I was trying to figure out how to talk to her about not taking risks and making mistakes, and then I caught myself: I should congratulate her for taking the risk. She took a chance to raise her performance, and in this particular case it didn’t work out. Her focus was on improving her routine and performing at a higher level, not on eliminating risks. That mindset allowed her to shake off the mistake and finish her routines strong, and she wound up qualifying for the state meet!
Katie is now 15 and competing on an expert level. She has grown a lot, and is doing skills that are scary to watch. She has had many bad routines, falls and injuries, but she overcame each and bounced back. And for the past two seasons, she hasn’t fallen off the beam in competition. Why? Because she doesn’t think about falling off; she focuses on doing the skills perfectly, and she has the mental confidence not to doubt herself.
Unlike Katie, I don’t have the same positive personality. I don’t like making mistakes, and I don’t deal with setbacks very well. However, my daughter has taught me to focus more on the positives and shake off the negatives. Now, I expect to have setbacks, and I treat them as a part of learning, growing and moving forward. As the saying goes, “If you’re not crashing, you’re not going fast enough.”
Francis Hu is the president of Performance Composites, Inc. E-mail Francis at