What Is A Mental Block? : Cheer & Gymnastics Edition

WHAT MENTAL BLOCKS ARE AND HOW THEY HAPPEN

Are you a cheerleader or gymnast experiencing a mental block in your skills?! You have worked tirelessly to obtain your skills and achieve your performance goals. When a mental block sets in it can be debilitating at the worst of times and frustrating at best.

As a young athlete, I remember working through mental blocks in my tumbling on more than one occasion. I was a perfectionist who had a lot of expectations and low confidence. As an extremely hard worker, I was able to effort my way forward (with considerable expense from my parents) but was never taught mental game skills that would grow my confidence and keep me striving forward. I continued to learn new skills and see the spotlight as a top competitor on my teams, but knew I could have done more.

The worst part was that I felt like no one understood what I was going through.  I still remember the feeling I had every time my teammates or coach would tell me to “just throw it”. Worse than that was the pressure of people thinking I was just being lazy or trying to get attention. Unfortunately, many coaches, parents, and athletes do not understand what is happening to an athlete with a mental block. They make assumptions that it is due to a lack of effort or will to complete the skill.   Trust me when I tell you that if you have ever experienced a mental block, I completely know how you feel.

SO, WHAT IS A MENTAL BLOCK?

Mental blocks have different meanings to different sports but today I am focusing on mental blocks in cheerleading and gymnastics. A true mental block is when you have a skill for a length of time and on multiple surfaces and suddenly you are no longer able to make your body perform the skill.

So lets say you have a BHS for 1 year, have competed it, can successfully land it 99/100 times on the trampoline, spring floor, and backyard. If you are no longer to successfully attempt the skill, it is likely you have a true block. If you have been working on a new skill for 9 months such as a standing tuck and have not been able to throw it on your own, you technically do not have a true mental block, you are still learning. Fears may still exist but you are not stuck.

The reason I want to clarify this is because the term mental block carries so much weight in the sport. Have you ever introduced yourself to a new coach or your parent is introducing you and without even meaning to, you start talking about the fact that you have a mental block? Or maybe a coach asks you to throw a skill, and your instinct is to respond with, “I have a block, I can’t!” The term carries power so be careful when you use it.

WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?

Our bodies are pretty amazing. We have a natural response to protect us that arises when our body senses we are in danger. Have you ever been in a situation and suddenly you felt unsafe? What happened? … Your body started reacting with increased heart rate, sweaty palms, tingling in your stomach, etc.. You didn’t need to tell your body that you were in trouble or afraid, it just started reacting. This psychological reaction is referred to as a fight or flight response and it is meant to keep you safe. It tells you get ready to run away or get ready to fight.

With mental blocks, instead of our bodies saying, “you need to get ready to fight or run”, your body says “Freeze! STOP what you are doing now!”. This happens because fears have built up to put you in a mental state where you feel unsafe. Frequently, this happens after a tumbler experiences a fall or they see a teammate fall or become injured. These are common but not the only way that blocks occur.

Sometimes blocks are caused by fears and unnecessary pressure we put on ourselves to be perfect or the best. Do you stress about not having perfect technique? Do you feel pressure of losing our spot if you do not  throw the skill perfectly every time? What about fearing that your parents or teammates will be let down if you messed up in competition?

If you really think about it, the cheerleaders/gymnasts that often struggle with blocks are the MOST BEAUTIFUL TUMBLERS! “If they would just throw their backhandspring, they would be in the front of the routine because it is gorgeous! They would have their tuck and make the next level team, and …..”!  These pressures and fears can build up to make you feel unsafe, so your body stops performing.

Even though the cause varies for many athletes, the key is to break down the fears and increase confidence and trust.


DID THE ABOVE RESONATE WITH YOU? IF SO, KEEP READING

If you or a loved one has ever experienced a mental block, you know the frustration of trying to force your body to “just do it” only to leave practice disappointed. A mental block is the body’s natural response to fears that have accumulated and must be addressed at the source.

Individual 1-on-1 mental performance coaching addresses mental blocks at the source. It helps the athlete identify and overcome their fears through instruction, assessments, and application. The skills the athlete will learn through mental coaching will increase their confidence and reduce stress at practice and competitions so they can get back to enjoying their sport.

Just think, how amazing will it be when you have a game plan where you can get excited about practice?! You walk in confident, you know what to focus on while you are working on your skills, and you leave feeling accomplished.

Are you ready to learn how? Click here to schedule a no-cost Performance Check Session.  

Space is limited so if you are ready to take action and start tackling those blocks and fears, reserve your spot today!

One-on-one mental coaching is the fastest and most effective method to improve your mental game, boost your performance, and make lasting changes.

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