Gymnastics Competition - How to Train, Think, and Look Like a Champion


"No time for losers, ‘cause we are the champions… of the world.”

Who doesn’t love the song “We are The Champions?” But we have one problem with it … no one in a gymnastics competition is ever a loser! This is a difficult and demanding sport and even ESPN backs us up on this.

competitive gymnast on balance beamThey commissioned a panel of experts to rank the difficulty of sports on a scale of 1 to 10 each for ten different skills, then adding them up for the final rank. Boxing was at the top of the list, as was hockey and martial arts. We can’t disagree with something where you work hard and get punched in the face!

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Gymnastics ranked 8th … behind tennis!? We do disagree with that! Gymnastics “lost points” in the skills of speed, agility, and endurance. We guess none of these panelists have tried accelerating to top speed down an 80 foot foam runway with the goal of punching the springboard with enough power to catapult one’s body onto and off of the vaulting table (and complete the correct number of flips and/or twists) which is almost as tall as the gymnast.

Never mind ESPN. We know how hard it is and how hard you work.

Everyone who puts in the work, who sheds blood, sweat, tears, and chalk, is already a champion in our mind. But here are a few more ways for you to be stronger, have a great attitude, and look - and feel - like a gymnastics champion whether you’re competing in house, through the Xcel Program, working on Junior Olympics Levels, or testing for Elite.


Think Like a Champion

Can you only be a champion if you are the champion of everything? Chances are, you’ll never be the one, single best gymnastics competitor in the world. Gymnastics is one of the most exclusive professional competitive athletic fields in the world. Only 28 women and 28 men make up the USA Gymnastics National Artistic Gymnastics Teams. Compare this to the 1,696 professional football players or 1,200 professional baseball players and you’ll see that pro gymnastics competitors are very rare.

Right now there are more than 148,000 athletes who are registered members of USA Gymnastics. That doesn’t even include gymnasts who are registered competitors through USAIGC and AAU. That means currently competing gymnasts have less than a 0.04% chance of making it onto the National Team!

And what if you’re one of the 802,000 recreational gymnasts in the U.S. who train regularly but don’t compete? Can you think of yourself as a champion if you’re not taking part in competitive gymnastics events?


You’re Always Competing

Metal sign with gymnastics quote "I will beat her ... she is the old me."There’s one person you’re always competing against … yourself! You joined gymnastics and started training to learn how to do something you never did before. Maybe you wanted to be stronger, or more fearless, or more flexible. Maybe you saw the Olympics on TV (gymnastics gets more coverage than any other sport!) and you wanted to be like those flying, fierce women or those dynamic, daring men.

“Gymnastics has made me strong. I feel like it broke me down to my lowest point, but at the same time, it has given me the greatest strength anyone could ask for.”
-Shawn Johnson

Maybe you have no interest in competing and that’s okay too. You can still be a champion by competing against yourself. You’re guaranteed success when you become better than you were yesterday. Sure, there are ups and downs. It’s not a straight line of constant improvement.

Gymnastics is not only about strength and agility, it’s also about mastery. There are a lot of skills to learn because gymnasts compete in multiple events. Master one skill and it opens you up to three or four new, more difficult techniques. Each of them leading to more… The possibilities are endless!

We all learn through practice, failure, correction, and repetition. The goal is to consistently be better over time. You will also learn other skills like persistence, courage, and leadership that will benefit you for the rest of your life.


Train Like a Champion

Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, and Aly Raisman all spent over 30 hours a week in the gym preparing for the Olympics. You don’t need to put in that kind of time and probably shouldn’t if you’re going to school and trying to spend a little bit of time with friends and family.

What you can do, like all champions do, is train intensely. They all have limited time - even the top Olympians. They’ve got demanding schedules which means they need to get the most out of their gym time. If you’re training for gymnastics competitions, you need to make every minute of your training count. Even if you just take gymnastics just for fun, you still need to take your training time seriously to show respect for your coach’s time, your classmates’ time, and the time your family spends traveling to or at practice.

Another thing that champions do is train even when they don’t feel like it. Most of us have days when we’re a little bit tired or lazy or we’re just not “feelin’ it.” But you’ve made a commitment - mostly to yourself - to train hard and be better… and you are the worst person in the world to be disappointed in! Get good at keeping your promises to yourself and you’ll be training like a champion.

Once you understand that gymnastics is hard work and that performing at your best is even more hard work, then you’ll be training like a champion.

“Hard work is always hard work, for young gymnasts and old gymnasts. Whoever can handle this will be a champion.”
-Svetlana Boguinskaya


Look Like a Champion

Aly Raisman was recently confronted by a TSA agent who didn’t think she looked like an Olympic gold medalist. He didn’t think she had enough muscle. We think he didn’t have enough thinking going on before he opened his mouth! Unless you’re in a beauty pageant or a muscle-building competition, looks don’t matter. What matters is deep inside. It’s your training, your skills, and your strength that make you a champion.

competitive gymnast in red and blue usa leotardBut there are a few things about their “looks” that champions have in common. They look confident. Even if they feel nervous, they keep calm, maybe smile, or just have an expression of determination. Keep in mind that everyone has felt nervous or worried about their performance at one time or another. A 2009 study of competitive gymnasts showed that girls and older athletes tended to worry about poor performance, where boys were more likely to have their concentration broken in competitive sport situations.

Just knowing that fear is normal and everyone experiences it can make it much easier to handle. Learn to work past fear and it will help you feel calmer. This is a skill you can practice like everything else. And if all else fails, “fake it till you make it.”

“To be a great champion, you must believe you are the best. If you're not, pretend you are.”
-Muhammad Ali

Ali has famously said that sports writers started calling him “the greatest” because he called himself the greatest! Now, he did prove himself to be one of the greatest boxers of all time, so a champion has to be able back up their words… otherwise it’s just bragging! You want to look like a champion, not an arrogant jerk.

Now, we just can’t wrap this up without talking about one of our favorite parts of the look of champions in competition gymnastics … the leotards, of course! Snowflake Designs started because LaDonna Snow, our founder and CEO, wanted cute gymnastics leotards for her daughter. They were hard to find, so instead, she made her own! Since then, Snowflake Designs has changed and grown and so have the look of competition gymnastics leotards.


The Evolution of Leotards

In the 70’s, gymnastics competition leotards were mostly plain white leos with a thin stripe of the national colors on the sleeve and a simple emblem. That look was iconic when Nadia Comaneci became the first gymnast to score a perfect ten. In 1984 Mary Lou Retton rose to fame in her wonderful red, white, and blue stars and stripes leotard.

A decade later, the Magnificent Seven was still wearing mostly white competition leotards with red stripes and blue star fields. We still loved them, but it was time for some COLOR and razzle-dazzle! It was about the year 2000 when you started seeing a sprinkling of sparkle. That’s when designers like us began applying Swarovski crystals to our leotards. We began adding them on by hand and because of the high cost and how labor-intensive they were to apply, it was just a few crystals.

Fast-forward to today when gymnastics competition leotards for women are beautiful, colorful,  sparkly, and fabulous! The 2016 Olympic team dazzled every step (leap, vault, and flip too!) of the way to gold wearing leotards covered in crystals. While you may not be ready to spend the reported $1,200 per leotard that they cost, you can still look as fabulous as our USA gymnasts who impressed the world in Rio.

We’re incorporating the same high-foil, high-shine fabrics, trendy and gorgeous ombre dye patterns, and tons of Swarovski crystals to make our leos stand out on the competition floor and make every gymnast who wears Snowflake look AND feel their best. Over thirty years of experience makes Snowflake gymnastics competition leotards an investment worth making for gymnasts at all levels! 

gymnastics competition team in shiny silver Snowflake Designs leotards

These special leotards remind us that a gymnastics competition is not just an athletic event, it’s also a performance. We want gymnasts to look and feel that they are part of something special.

As a competitor, wearing a leotard just for competition gets you prepared for your best effort. Your competition leo should be designed to make you look great, feel professional, and be ready to give your best.

Because that’s what champions do.