Dealing with self-doubt in the face of competition
KRISTI NIKKEL, CONTRIBUTOR
16-year-old Kaedyn Lashley is used to dealing with pressure. She’s the first Manitoban rhythmic gymnast to qualify for the Canadian national team since 2007, and she knows the weight her performances carry for herself, her coaches and the country.
“My coaches always say ‘there’s no pressure for anything,’ but it’s always there—it’s inevitable,” Lashley said. “They set a standard they want me to meet because they know that I can do it. It’s just hard for me, because I never think I can.”
She started competing at five years old and always wanted to make the national team, but she struggled and started doubting herself after she placed near the bottom of the pack in her first few national competitions.
“I was the underdog for so long, so now that I am closer to the top, I find it’s hard to believe,” she said.
Shari Hebert, the head coach of High Performance Training Centre (H.P.T.C) International and Lashley’s coach for the last 10 years, said sport psychology can help change these attitudes.
“The more sport psychology we can do, the better,” said Hebert, who also acts as the team’s sport psychologist. She said she tries to get the team together once a month to practice different mental preparation techniques, including goal setting, positive thinking and visualization.
“I think for someone at Kaedyn’s level, learning to keep focused on a goal is key,” Hebert said. “There are different pressures that come with being at the top, and the more you accomplish, the more negativity can creep into your mind.”
While Lashley hasn’t completely overcome her own self-doubt, she said a few things help her get into competition mode.
“I have to get ready in a certain order,” she said. “I do my hair in my pajamas, then put on foundation, do my eyes, eyebrows, cheeks then lips.”
She said the routine helps her mentally prepare for competitions, but her physical routine varies.
“If I’m competing ball, hoops or clubs, I just like practicing small apparatus manipulations to get the feeling for them in my hands,” she said.
If she is about to compete in her ribbon routine, however, she starts practicing earlier to give herself more time to prepare, because she’s least confident in that routine.
This May in Winnipeg, Lashley will perform four routines in hopes of keeping her spot on the national team.