Simone Biles - Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Simone Biles

Gymnast Simone Biles removed herself from the Olympic team competition and the all-around final because the “twisties” were affecting her mental health in a negative way, according to The Washington Post on July 28. The BGSU gymnastics team has also experienced the “twisties,” and say they continue to put their mental health first in all circumstances.

College gymnasts say they have a lot to juggle, including school, practice, their friends and family. These gymnasts practice 20 hours a week, plus strength training. With these hours added onto school, many gymnasts say they are mentally exhausted.

“Being a gymnast in college is like having a full-time job,” Senior BGSU Gymnast, Kayla Chan, said.                                                      

To add onto the intense practice schedule, gymnastics can be simply dangerous. Gymnasts must train their bodies and mind to do unimaginable skills on apparatuses not generally used in everyday life. With this comes scary consequences, like being affected by the “twisties.” The “twisties” can happen to any gymnast, at any given time, no matter the event. There is no way for them to plan for this occurrence.

“Suddenly you’re upside down in midair and your brain feels disconnected from your body. Your limbs that usually control how much you spin have stopped listening and you feel lost,” The Washington Post said.

All these factors combined can take a toll on the athletes’ mental health. Chan explains this as a ‘mental game.’ In this case, it is important for the athlete to do what is best for them. This could mean for the gymnasts to take the time to do mental routines and visualization or, in some cases, for the gymnasts to take time off from their sport. The main idea is they get the help they need and take care of themselves.

“Get yourself back to your support system, get yourself back to the place that you feel good about and do what you need to do,” Sports Psychologist and BGSU Professor, Dryw Dworsky, said.

Mental health is not always an easy topic to discuss. With that being said, many different options exist for BGSU athletes to talk about their mental health. The Counseling Center, their coaches, their friends and family and even professors, are all good outlets to reach out to when these athletes are struggling. Coaches say it is important to not deal with this alone, because several athletes have said it is a very difficult spot to get out of without help.

“It’s almost like being tangled in a web and the counselor can slowly untangle that, so the person is free to do what they want to do with their gymnastics,” BGSU Women’s Head Gymnastics Coach, Kerrie Turner, said. 

Another important factor affecting the gymnasts mental health is the environment they are in. The BGSU gymnastics team say they have plenty of support to go around the entire team. In the case the athlete makes a mistake, the coaches give helpful critiques and continue to cheer them on. Coach Turner does a great job making sure everyone is working to their full potential without adding any extra pressure. The athletes constantly cheer their teammates on, even if they are doing a basic skill. The girls resemble a family, and they even have their own chant they say as a group.

“‘B what?’ ‘B-G’ ‘Get your Falcon mind right,’” said the BGSU gymnastics team.

It is important to take your mental health seriously, no matter what the cause may be. Whatever the circumstance is, do what is best for you, individually.

“It’s more important to be happy as a person than to push through something that is taking so much out of your everyday life,” Chan said.

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