Vault was by far one of my best events, but I hated it!! (Watch it here)
I struggled with Vault during practice. I was fine in the pit, but when it was time to throw my Yurchenko Full on hard ground…my palms would sweat, my heart would race, my mind would wonder, and my legs would shake.
“THINK POSITIVELY” my coaches would say, and so I tried to. I thought I was, I would stand at the end of the runway and say, “please don’t die, please don’t die, please don’t die.” I thought that was positive, I wasn’t saying I wanted to die because that would be negative. What I didn’t know, was that hoping NOT to die wasn’t what I needed to be thinking about.
“YOU HAVE ONE OF THE BEST VAULT IN THE COUNTRY” I heard on a regular basis, but it didn’t help. Telling me I had a great vault, didn’t magically make my fears go away. It made me think I was weak. Why would I be scared to do a vault that was one of the best in the country? I must be mentally weak. I should be more confident, but I wasn’t. I felt even worse about myself for being scared of something I shouldn’t be scared of.
“YOU COULD MAKE VAULT FINALS IN THE OLYMPICS, YOU COULD WIN A MEDAL” Was this how people were trying to motivate me? Maybe they didn’t understand that I HATED vault. I didn’t want to do it. I was so conflicted to know that I could potentially win an Olympic medal, and that wasn’t enough to overcome my fear. Why was the chance to win a medal not enough? Others would jump at a chance to win a medal but it only brought me more fear. Would I have to do this Vault in Finals in front of everyone?
As I look back on my gymnastics career, I see so many times where Mental Training would have been helpful. Of course back then, we didn’t know what we do today.
Back then I didn’t really KNOW why and how I was able to vault. I didn’t really KNOW what I did to consistently perform successfully. I only KNOW that I could vault and I did it well. When I was challenged or stressed, I didn’t KNOW what to do. I just stood at the end of the runway praying to the Vault Gods and asking not to die. No wonder I was scared to Vault. I was focused on what I didn’t want to do. I was focused on not dying and I was hoping to make it, but I wasn’t focused on what I WANTED to do and HOW to do it.
Every time I thought about Vault, I focused within the same mind frame. These thoughts continued my cycle of fear.
I focused on the wrong thoughts…which lead to…
More fear…which lead to…
Baulking…which lead to…
More fear…which lead to…
Focusing on the wrong thoughts…and on and on and on and on….
To break the cycle I needed to:
- KNOW how to HIT: by Intentional Practicing in Deep Focus
- FOCUS on what I wanted to do: by using Empowering Self-Talk, Cues, and Mental Rehearsal
- Become aware of Distractions: by recognizing helpful and unhelpful thoughts
- Learn to REFOCUS: by Acknowledging and Accepting the Distraction and knowing how to bring my thoughts back to what I WANTED to do
- Practice staying in the PRESENT moment: by using Music, Mindfulness, and Breathing techniques to enter my Peak Emotional State
Easier said then done, I know. But I do think that using these Mental Tools could have eased my anxieties and fears. I entered my competitions with the hope to HIT, I would have loved to know that I knew HOW to HIT. I entered with anxiety and doubt, I would have loved to have been confident enough to trust that I could HIT.
And this is why I do what I do today! Today I teach athletes the tools that can help them relive stress and fears and compete with confidence. I completely understand what they are going through, because I went through the exact same situations. I baulked at Championships of the USA in front of thousands and thousands of people. I had to perform my Vault in the Olympics even though I HATED it. I had to overcome my fears and do what I had to do.
I understand fears and Mental Blocks because I had them. I felt the fear, stress, embarrassment, disappointment, and pain of having a Mental Block. And Vault wasn’t my only event. Today, we at least have viable tools and techniques that work. I have seen my athletes overcome and rise above. I wish I could have had these tools back then, but I am happy to be able to share them today.
Wendy was a 1992 Olympic Gymnast and is Founder of the company GET PSYCHED SPORTS, LLC. For More information on Mental Blocks, check out our website www.getpsychedsports.com. You can also purchase our workbook, Breaking Through a Mental Block, here. We work one on one with all athletes on Mental Blocks, Composure, and Confidence. To schedule a session, contact us today!