How can an athlete stop being afraid of tumbling without a spot on the floor?

[Edited transcript below]

How to know when you are truly ready to try it by yourself

I’m going to address this a couple of ways. So the first way is don’t try to rush your skills. A lot of athletes rush from thinking their getting close to wanting to try a skill by themselves, even if they are not quite ready. 

They’re trying to rush through the skill, because that’s how it goes these days. There is a certain amount of time where it’s acceptable to work on the skill and then you should have it by yourself. So, I think the first thing is really being patient with the process.

Give yourself time to develop and get skills and master them truly before you go and move on to the next step or move on to trying it by yourself. I think even once an athlete masters the skill, there’s still that trust piece and there’s still that confidence piece that needs to develop for them to be able to truly feel like “I am safe”. “I’ve mastered this.” “I know how to think, I know how to feel”. “Here’s how I do it by myself and do it safely and confidently.”

So that’s something that takes time to develop, but I understand the question. 

What is the difference between trust and confidence?

Being afraid to throw skills you have mastered by yourself is a trust challenge. 

Confidence is believing in yourself. So even starting a brand new skill you’ve never done before, you can be confident in your ability to learn it. 

Trust is when you let your body do the skill. So think about when you walk into a dark room and you flip the switch on. You assume the lights are just going to turn on. You trust that the lights are just going to come, right? Another example, when you practice your routine, you practice it 100 times, and then you get to the place where at competition day, you just go and your body takes over, right.

And you just go through the whole routine. It’s like, wow, some athletes I know, when I was a cheerleader, I blacked out, like, every routine. I was like, what did I just do? But somehow my body just took me through every single piece of the skill. Um. Um, which is so funny, but that’s trust.

Right when your body just takes over. And so there’s one, um, tool that I teach my athletes to help them build up that trust is every time you do the skill, no matter if it’s on the tumble track, on a mat, with a spot, whatever, acknowledge. Okay. I did that safely because I.

And fill in the blank. So I did that safely because I really pushed off my legs. I did that safely because my arms were locked by my ears. I was really strong in my, uh, upper body, or I really squeezed my core. So I did that safe because what happens is a lot of times, their trust is not in themselves, it’s in their spotter.

It’s like, I can do this safely because my coach is standing there. Yeah. Or I can do this safely because I’m on the tumble track, or I’m doing this into a pit, so it’s not going to hurt. Right. So really shifting and building up that trust in yourself as opposed to your spotter, I think that’s going to be a tool for a lot of athletes.

That’s really helpful. Okay. Yeah. So you have to differentiate between trust and confidence. Build both. Yeah. Because you can be confident. There’s a lot of tension, actually, in not understanding the. Difference. I know I can do it, but my body won’t go. And it’s like. It’s frustrating when that happens, but no, it’s like, you know, you can do it.

That’s great. Uh, you’re confident in your ability to do it. Awesome. Now let’s work on that trust piece. Trust is when your body you acknowledge. Okay, I’m going to let my body do what it knows how to do. Okay. It’s a good point. I didn’t even think about the difference before.

Was a good explanation. Yeah. Uh, this whole world of mental coaching, sports psychology, there really is so much more that goes into it than people realize. Yeah.

Let's talk about fear in tumbling and cheerleading

Fear is not fun at all, but it’s not a bad thing. It is natural and good.  

Fear is proof that your brain is working and doing what it was designed to do, which is keep you safe. But you don’t take that fear and sit in it and say, “Oh, I feel afraid so that means something bad is going to happen.” When you recognize fear happening, don’t attach a negative outcome to that feeling.

That’s just your body doing what it’s designed to do. Instead of being overcome by fear and allowing it to hold you back in your skills, you want to process it in a way that’s helpful and to move through it in a healthy way. 

Is the approach to getting over a mental block and getting over fears and anxieties the same?

Yes it is, because anxiety and fears are symptoms of mental blocks and the source is the same. Athletes who have a lot of fear around different skills, or who avoid doing skills by themselves are more likely to develop mental blocks. Another sign is when an athlete puts a lot of conditions around when and how they can do their skills. “I can do my skill in my ‘comfort spot’ on a certain mat with a certain coach only on Tuesdays if nobody else is watching me.” 

Athletes who are very anxious, nervous, fearful, and more perfectionist are more likely to develop true mental blocks in the long term because they do have so much overthinking and pressure around the skill. They tend to overcontrol their skills and struggle with confidence and trust which are precursors to mental blocks. 

Those are the things that cause mental blocks to develop, so I would take the same approach as athletes dealing with mental blocks. But obviously, if you have a true mental block, it’s a little bit of a more intensive process, so there’s a lot more that goes into it, but a very similar approach.

That's it! Now it's your turn.

Decide right now one way that you will use what you learned in this training to try something new this week at practice. What did you learn in this training that stood out to you? What will you do differently at practice this week to apply what you learned? I would love to support you and offer you a little accountability, so share that with us in the comments below. 

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Until next time, remember that a mental block is simply a challenge you are working through. You are strong, can do hard things, and have totally got this!

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