Going through a mental block is a sure fire way to deplete your gymnast's confidence.
During a mental block your gymnast sees all the other gymnasts around her doing skills that she wants to do or could do in the past.
She often gets left in the corner to work on her own, losing the positive attention of her coach.
She's stuck trying to do skills that she was able to do as a much younger gymnast. In fact, she might see all the younger gymnasts doing even harder skills.
And worst of all, she might just want to quit gymnastics because she's stuck in this negative cycle that seriously depletes any last ounce of confidence she has.
Ironically, one of the best ways to move through a mental block is to build up confidence. But you can see the irony in it all. Not doing skills lowers her confidence. Yet she needs confidence to do her skills.
So how does your gymnast build up confidence while going through a mental block?
Here are 4 ways your gymnast can build confidence through a mental block in gymnastics:
1. Focus on what she CAN do and not what she could do.
There is a big distinction in these subtle words. Often gymnasts going through mental blocks focus on what they are no longer able to do. They think about the past and how they used to be able to do that skill. In fact, coaches and parents might even encourage them to remember how they could do that skill at one time.
But right now your gymnast isn't able to do her skills because her brain keeps putting the brakes on. I coined the term "putting on the brakes" when referring to mental blocks because that's exactly what it feels like to your gymnast. She wants to do her skill but she can't, as if something is stopping her. And so often her focus is on what she canNOT do, rather than what she can do.
Instead, it's important for your gymnast to focus on the things she CAN do. Whether that's asking for a spot or going to an easier progression/drill of the skill, she needs to keep her mind on the CAN and not the CAN'T.
2. Build up trust with her brain.
The more her brain trusts her, the higher her confidence level will be. Building trust with her brain is doing things that make her brain know she is listening to it. When a gymnast is going through a mental block, she will often push against what her brain is telling her.
For example, if she's trying to do her back handspring on beam and it's not working, she will often keep trying to go for it over and over. But doing so causes her brain not to trust her because her brain is telling her not to go for it.
Mental blocks are tricky because they don't require pushing against the brain. They require deep listening to what the brain is asking for in order to feel safe.
So how does your gymnast build up trust (and therefore build up confidence)?
She gives her brain what it needs.
Is her brain too scared to go for it on high beam by herself? But it will go if she has a spot? Then building trust means asking for the spot.
Is her brain putting on the brakes when she tries to connect her round off to her back handspring? But she'll connect in on the TumblTrak? Then going to the TumblTrak builds trust.
The goal is for her brain to know she is listening to what it needs. The more trust she builds, the higher her confidence climbs.
3. Stay in the present moment.
When your gymnast is dealing with mental blocks, it's likely that she is reminiscing about the past when she could do her skills or she is worrying about not being able to do her skills in the future (i.e. meet season is coming up).
What she likely is not doing is remaining in the present moment.
When she's stuck in worry-land about what might happen if she doesn't get her skills or stuck lamenting over lost skills, her confidence takes a big dip. And that will keep her in her mental block for much longer than she needs to be there.
The goal is to focus in each moment on what she CAN do (as per #2 above) and do lots of numbers of that progression. If she's having a "good" day when she can do a certain progression well, even if it's not the full skill, then she needs to stay there and do those progressions over and over. This builds confidence. This builds trust. This builds muscle memory.
So your gymnast needs to stay in the present moment and make the most of each moment. It serves her well to stop dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
4. Focus on her own path.
Comparison is not only the thief of joy but also a big contributor of low confidence. It's natural for your gymnast to see what her teammates are doing and use that as a basis for comparison.
But when she gets stuck focusing on what other gymnasts are doing that she can't do, then her confidence takes another big dip.
One analogy I like is for gymnasts to put their "blinders" on. Just like horses are given headgear to wear to cover their peripheral view during horse races, gymnasts have to focus on their own journey and stop looking around at others.
One thing I stress in the Stick It Girl Academy in my weekly group trainings is that every gymnast goes through their own journey, on their own time, in their own way. There is no one right way to do gymnastics.
But when your gymnast gets stuck on comparing herself and thinking she's not on the right path, her confidence is going to take a hit.
Instead, your gymnast needs to focus on her journey and where it is leading her.
Another big thing I stress with the gymnasts I work with is that every mental block is a blessing. There is always something that comes from it that your gymnast wouldn't have otherwise - whether it's a better understanding of her brain or learning perseverance or being more mentally flexible. And that is an important piece of her journey.
So staying focused on herself and her journey is the 4th key to building up confidence through a mental block.
Going through a mental block is confusing, frustrating, exhausting, embarrassing, and scary all at once. Just remember, your gymnast has never "lost" her skill, even if she's blocked. It is her brain putting on the brakes and stopping her. There is a very big difference because once gymnasts realize the skill is still there, they lean into learning why their brain is stopping them which helps them get to the root of the mental block.
Finally, gymnasts going through mental blocks have to work extra hard on their confidence because of all the hits it takes during their struggles. Therefore confidence needs to be a big focus of getting a gymnast back to doing her skills. The four ways above are a good place to start when helping your gymnast get through her mental block.
If you or your gymnast needs support, in addition to the resources below I also offer one-on-one coaching sessions via Zoom.
- Resources: Get gymnastics downloads to help your gymnast work on her mental skills in gymnastics
- Mental Health Training for Gymnasts: Help your gymnast learn about her brain and the fight-flight-or-freeze response.
- Free Facebook Group for Moms of Gymnasts: Join this group to chat with other gymnastics moms and get tips for how to help your gymnast navigate through the mental ups and downs of gymnastics