The Mental Block Breakthrough!
Most of the articles written about getting over mental blocks use the same strategies. If you haven’t read any previous articles before reading this, I suggest you read For the Love of tumbling blog on mental blocks. This is one of my favorite articles, it is very detailed and gives amazing advice http://fortheloveoftumbling.com/tag/mental-blocks/. Although this article is one of my favorites, the techniques are global and followed by many sports psychologist and mental toughness trainers.
Katie came to me as a last resort. She had been battling her mental block on a standing tuck for a year and a half and it was to the point where it was effecting her life out of the gym. When I first met Katie, she and her mom introduced her to me as a “mental case”. When I asked Katie to tell me about her cheer life, she told me that she was a “head case and that she always freaked out on her tumbling”. I found it sad that the first thing that Katie and her mom said to me was all the bad things. I wanted to know what gym she competed for, her level, how long she had been in cheer, what were her plans for the future, or what was the name of her team. But at that time all the emphasis on her cheer life was focussed on was the negative.
Katie’s mental block was so extreme that whenever she thought about doing a standing tuck her stomach would get queasy, her hands would sweat, and she was so filled with anxiety that she couldn’t think straight. On days that she had tumbling lessons she would over think and stress to the point that the ride to the gym would already have her queasy, sweaty, and jittery.
Katie was my favorite kind of client. She was on the extreme side of having a mental block, but she was also very dedicated and wanted it gone. We started with her self-talk. It was saddening to hear what she thought about herself. When I asked her to list the top five statements that describe herself in cheer, they were 1. Mental case 2. Nervous 3. Loner 4. Flexible 5. Average. Out of the five things she listed, only one was positive. We had to get Katie to change the way she saw herself. After all if she saw herself as a nervous and average mental case then it made sense that she couldn’t throw skills. Nervous and average mental cases don’t overcome fears.
We came up with a new list. 1.Strong 2. Powerful 3. Unbreakable 4. Flexible 5. Determined. Katie was a strong and powerful girl and she was determined to work through her fear. And after all she had been through, she was still standing tall and moving forward and yes, she was unbreakable. After time Katie learned how to see herself in a different light. She slowly became a warrior. She wanted to get over the mental block and she worked hard at the way she thought about herself; she changed her self-talk, she got rid of expectations, she stopped believing her irrational thoughts, and she learned how to control her emotions. We worked for weeks on making tumbling fun. We retrained her so that she felt excitement and joy when she thought of tumbling not associating tumbling with doom. After a month Katie learned to love coming to practice and looked forward to overcoming her standing tuck.
The day Katie threw her tuck for the first time was a day that changed her life. Katie walked into the gym a different kid; she was happy and optimistic. She declared that she was finished with letting fear control her like. She waned to she fear that she was in control. Katie was ready, she turned to me and said, “I want to throw this on my own, I don’t need help.” I stepped back and let her take her turn. She stood to the side and visualized herself doing the tuck, she said her mental cues, she took her three deep breaths and then she stepped into place. I could see in her eyes that she was serious. She had a stare that could cut through someones heart. She was in attack mode. She slowly counted to three, then she counted to three again, then one more time, and then I saw the look in her eyes change to defeat and I could tell that she wasn’t going to go. I pulled her aside and asked what happened. She said that when she walked into place she was sure she was going to go, and then it was like she just hit a wall. After she hit the wall she knew it was over. She said that when she hit the wall it was like all of her drive, passion, and confidence was depleted.
Katie tried to throw her tuck about three more times and each time she hit a wall. At this point Katie was getting frustrated and started feeling like a failure. “I want to throw it so bad, why won’t I go? I say all the right things to myself and I visualize making it, so why isn’t it working?” I smiled and told her it was working. She was now in a place where she was wanting to throw the tuck. She was in a place where she believed she could throw it.
“So how do I break through the wall?” she asked.
Ah-ha, the magic question. How do you let yourself go for a skill? How do you know you are going to let yourself do all the right things to make sure you land on your feet? So I asked her “Do you trust yourself? Do you think you are good enough to get over your fear? Do you think you deserve to get over your fear? Are you ready to get rid of the label you have been living under for the past year and half? Are you ready to be a warrior, a fighter?” Katie thought about my questions and realized that letting herself do her tuck actually meant more than just a tuck. It meant that she was believed in herself. It meant that she wanted good things for herself and it meant that she believed that she deserved them. She answered “YES! I deserve this!”
We knew that she was going to hit a wall but we also knew that was going to be the end. When she hit the wall was going to mark the beginning. The beginning of a battle, the battle between good and bad, fear and confidence, weakness and power, and she had to fight through until the end. When she hit the wall was when she needed to find the power to fight on. When she felt depleted was when she needed to rise back up and fight. When she felt like she lost, that was when she needed to battle and fight through. The wall wasn’t the end, but just another challenge and one she could win. Katie was excited to know that she could breakthrough the wall. She knew it was coming and she was ready.
Katie got ready to try one more time. She had the look in her eyes again, she visualized herself doing the tuck, she said her mental cues, she took her three deep breaths and then she stepped into place. She slowly counted to three, she counted to three again, and again, and again, she hit a wall, she stopped, took a deep breath, and she turned into a warrior. I could see it in her eyes, the look was back. It was a look that said she was going to fight, she was going to battle, and she was going to win. It was a glossy eyed stare that looked fierce and strong. She looked angry and mad and like she was in control. She took one last breath and began her fight. She started to swing her arms and then stopped, started again, and again. She counted to three one more time and this time when she started to swing her arms she didn’t stop. She was winning the battle, she was fighting, she was strong, she was unbreakable, and as she jumped and pulled her legs around, she screamed. It was if she was screaming at her fear. It was a scream that told that fear that it was dead. It was a scream that sounded like a determined, powerful, unbreakable, and warrior. She landed on her feet. And as she stood on the other side of the wall she knew that she could win anything and everything worth fighting for.