One day you are tumbling and learning new skills and the next day you find yourself suddenly not throwing your round off back handspring. You are anxious and wonder if this is the start of a mental block. You have seen other gymnasts in your gym have mental blocks and you know how challenging they can be. You start to panic. On your way home all you can think about is your mental block and how this might end your career. The next day when it is time to practice floor, your heart starts to pound, your palms start to sweat, and you say to yourself “I don’t want to tumble today. I know I am going to crash. I am so scared.” This goes on for days, then weeks, and eventually turns into months. You have gotten to the point where you have to do something different to get over your mental block…
Here are some tips.
1. Figure out what happened the moment the block started. Many gymnasts will say that they don’t know the reason they are fearful. You may not realize what the exact reason it was, but try to find a starting place. Answer these questions: Were you physically prepared to perform the skill? Were you mentally tired or unfocused? Did you watch someone get injured or balk on this skill?
2. It is important to understand that the reason the block started is not a reason to continue to have the block. When you make a mistake, learn from it. If you were not physically prepared to throw your skill, your lesson would be to that next time make sure that you have worked the drills and conditioning that you need to be prepared.
3. What is your self-talk? What negative statements do you say to yourself that may continue to feed your fear? Replace negative self-talk with powerful commands when you think about the skill. Instead of saying “I hate tumbling, I am going to land on my head.” Replace that with “ I can do this, I am strong and I can make it.”
4. Fill your mind with performance cues. Performance cues are reminders or prompts that you say to yourself while you are performing the skill. For example, when performing a handstand, it is important to lock out your shoulders, squeeze your legs together, and look at your hands. The performance cues for a handstand could be “lock- squeeze”
5. Create a routine. Before you attempt the fearful skill make sure you are prepared. For example, take a deep breath, visualize or feel yourself performing the skill successfully, walk into your beginning position and take another deep breath. Say your performance cues three times, count to three and then go.
6. Get ready to fight for it. After learning steps 1-5 you will be ready with the tools needed to overcome a mental block. But it won’t be easy. Once you get in position to try the skill you may “hit a wall”. You want to do it, but there is something inside of you telling you to stop. Get ready to fight those thoughts. You know those thoughts will spring into your head, don’t let them win. It will be a fight you can win.
Good Luck and remember, you are stronger than you think. There is no easy answer or magic pill, but YOU have the power inside you to breakthrough.