“Here we go again” you think as your child heads towards you after practice with slumped shoulders and that familiar look of disappointment. They get in the car and through tears explain with defeat, “I want to throw my skills and overcome this block but I just won’t throw it and I don’t know why!” You want to help but you are at a loss for what to say. You have tried to stay positive and offer words of encouragement in the past but your child doesn’t even seem to hear you. What if I told you there are 5 primary thinking patterns fueling your athletes self-doubt? These are the key to connecting with your child and making them feel understood so they can begin to see a new path. Are you ready to help them turn that frown upside down (cheesy, I know but a great goal) and get back to the good old days when they loved their sport?
In this post, I will uncover the negative thought patterns that have been stealing your child’s motivation and keeping them stuck in their skills AND give you a free tool to empower your athlete. This knowledge will give you the power to help them release the negativity and confidently get back to progressing in their skills.
5 Thinking Errors That are Keeping Your Athlete Stuck in Their Skills
#1. Comparison to others ... “My teammates are leaving me behind”
Have you ever watched your child at practice struggling on a skill, and noticed that they are constantly looking around the gym at what their teammates are working on. The longer they stand there trying to “just throw it” the longer the pauses and the more tense they seem. You may have even been guilty of thinking that they are wasting time, being lazy, or just not wanting to work on their skill. The reality is that as they are watching their teammates they are thinking that they should be doing higher level skills and question if they are good enough to be on the team. They feel left out, pushed aside, and like they are hurting their team by not having their skills.
The fear of failure, embarrassment, and rejection build causing their anxiety to go up which feeds their mental block. With these thought patterns, it is nearly impossible for them to confidently throw their skill no matter how bad they want it so they become frustrated. By understanding how comparison and social approval feeds mental blocks, they can begin to catch themselves in the negative pattern and shift to more effective ways of thinking. That means they can confidently get back on track in their skills.
#2 Focusing on the past ... “I used to have it”
Comparison is the enemy of progress! Have you ever caught yourself saying to your child “You used to have it so you should be able to do it now”? If yes, it is totally understandable why you would think that and I am guilty of it as well. As a tumbling coach this was a go-to encouragement tactic I used too often. One of the negative thinking traps athletes find themselves in is thinking that they should have it because they used to do it. The challenge is that they are focusing on the lack of where they are now and feeling guilty for being stuck. They do not understand why it is happening and wish they could just go back to ‘normal’ so they get frustrated, tense, and their anxiety increases. Anxiety and fears feed blocks and are not helpful to moving forward. When they understand how focusing on the past is keeping them stuck they can catch themselves at practice and choose more helpful ways of thinking. As they release these negative thinking patterns they will feel more hopeful and confident working on their skills.
#3 Absolute standards ... “I SHOULD have it!"
Think about all of the shoulds that exist in your life… “I should workout”, “I should take a vacation”, “I should get that car”, “I should have earned that promotion”… you get the picture. As you think through these how does it make you feel? Does it make you feel excited and ready to chase after those things and motivated to work harder or do you feel judgment and a sense of loss? So you may be thinking, what does this have to do with mental blocks? The answer is EVERYTHING! Letting go of the “I should’s” is one of the biggest difference makers in the cheerleaders and gymnasts that I work with. As they understand what expectations are and how they put unnecessary pressure on them, they feel a sense of peace and calm where they are free to consider the possibility of getting their skills back. The secret is focusing away from “I should have it already” “I should be able to do this” “I shouldn’t be afraid” … and towards things that are helpful and help them see progress. Once they can see progress, they will get their excitement back for their sport.
#4 Rituals ... “I can only do my skill if..."
Let’s talk about conditional confidence for a second. This is when there is a strong belief in success under very particular circumstances. For my cheerleaders especially, this sounds a little bit like this “I can only throw my tumbling on the red mat”, “I can only do it if Coach Mandy spots me”, “I will tumble diagonally on the mat as long as no one is watching me”, “I can only throw my skills on a Tuesday at 5pm when it is sunny outside I have my favorite hair tie in no one else is in the gym my favorite song is playing and …. Sounds silly but the struggle is REAL for so many athletes I work with. Here is the deal. A mental block occurs because of a buildup of fear. This means that working through a mental block is like walking into a room filled with spiders that terrify you every single day. Of course you would rather do ANYTHING besides go into that room. This is essentially what is happening with this thinking pattern. They are fixating on externals to avoid fear. By recognizing this is what is happening, athletes actually experience a sense of relief because they can finally understand why working on their skill feels so hard when deep down they want it so badly. This knowledge gives them their power back so they can release the negativity and confidently get back to progressing in their skills.
#5 Owning the block ... "I can't do it, I have a mental block"
“Hello, my name is Sally and I have a mental block,” athlete says upon entry. “Hello Sally” repeats the group. There is not a mental blocks anonymous that I am aware of but in all honesty there probably needs to be. One of the ways I help my private coaching clients is by lovingly calling them when they are thinking in unhelpful ways. The most common thing I redirect my athletes away from is the term “my mental block”. The term mental block has SO MUCH POWER. It becomes this living, breathing thing that athletes drag around with them like an angry pet. By using the term “my” they are taking ownership of it and when you own something you like to protect it and keep it safe. We want to break through blocks, not feed them and protect them.
Another challenge with owning a block is that it becomes a go-to excuse for staying stuck and avoiding growth. “I can’t do it, I have a mental block”. “My mental block won’t let me throw my skills”. That is not helpful! Instead, I want them to own their skill and believe that they are simple working through a challenge that is making them stronger every step of the way. By shifting their thinking away from “their block” to process, growth, and confidence they will be more energized and hopeful that they will overcome it. This is where block-breaking magic happens.
There you have it!
Now that you have the 5 thinking patterns that are likely holding your child back in their skills you can be prepared to help them navigate through the negativity with confidence. Let’s get them back to thriving in the sport they love! Maybe you are thinking, “I wish my child could hear this!” We’ve got you! We wanted to make it super simple for you to share this with them so we made a motivational graphic for you to text or print and give them that includes 5 Growth Affirmations for Releasing Mental Blocks. Click here to grab the FREE template.
Hi, I am Mandy Patterson, Certified MGCP, and the Founder and Head Mental Performance Coach at MANDY PATTERSON COACHING. I help athletes push past mental blocks and fears so they can rediscover their passion, pursue their goals, and ultimately get back to thriving in the sport they love.
I have experienced the frustration of putting in the time, energy, and money into physical abilities only to get to a place where my mind gets in the way. I figured out how to push through every time but it was at a cost of time, money, and confidence. My desire is to help others get through their mental blocks faster.
If your child is dealing with a mental block in their skills, I want to support you with resources and daily encouragement! Join my FREE private Facebook Group for sports parents, RAISING CONFIDENT ATHLETES by clicking here.