When your gymnast is going through a mental block it can often feel like a rollercoaster ride.
One day she might be able to do her skill and the next she can't.
Or she might have a really good patch of time when things are going well for her in the gym. And then she regresses and can't seem to do her skills anymore.
It might be a time pressure that suddenly hits, such as needing to get her skills by the end of the summer or before meet season.
Or it might be a transition to a new school or to a new gym.
Regardless of the stressors that might occur during this time, it's frustrating to watch your gymnast lose her skills yet again. After all, at some point you had crossed your fingers and hoped your gymnast was finally past this! But when she goes two steps backwards it's easy to feel defeated.
First things first, a mental block often follows this roller coaster pattern of ups and downs because your gymnast's mindset isn't fully strengthened. When things are going well for her or she's gotten into a pattern of hitting her skill again she feels happy and her brain feels at ease. Her mindset isn't necessarily challenged in that moment because all is going well.
But when a stressor comes into her life, her mindset muscles are flexed and if she hasn't yet developed the mental skills she needs, she will revert back to her "old" patterns of thoughts - the ones that led her to this mental block in the first place.
Next, while it's incredibly frustrating to watch your gymnast go through this from your parental perspective, know that her repetitive loss of skill is just an indicator that her mindset has to be worked on again.
It's not a sign of defeat or failure.
It's a sign that her mindset is weak and could use a little boost.
Just like when your gymnast gets recurring colds in the winter, you take it as a sign that her immune system needs strengthening. So you might boost her up with elderberry syrup or vitamin C through the winter.
Same thing goes for your gymnast's mindset during periods of on again, off again mental blocks. If she's stuck in this rollercoaster pattern (aka a cold in the winter) she needs to boost up her immunity (aka work on her mindset training).
The immunity boosters don't work overnight. They need time to build up in her system and have an effect. Same thing goes for mental training. She can't try it once or have one session with a mental performance coach and then consider herself "fixed." It takes time and work to build up that over mental strength.
So what can you do as her parent during this time of a dip in skills?
Below are some tips for how to navigate through this rollercoaster ride with your gymnast.
1. Hang on for the ride.
If you were to jump out of an airplane at 50,000 feet and your parachute failed to open, there's not much you can do in that moment other than hang on for the ride and know it will be over soon enough.
That might be a dramatic example but the point is, when your gymnast is in that pattern of low you just have to hang on and know it will be over soon enough. In that moment there's not terribly much you can do to make her mental block go away.
You just have to remind your gymnast that you are there for her and be that shoulder to cry on and that warm hug for her to retreat to. Your gymnast should know you love her despite her not being able to do her skills consistently. And most importantly she should know you are there for her through all the lows.
Remember you don't have to "fix" her mental block. You just have to be her support system.
2. Remind your gymnast (and yourself) that her journey can unfold in many different ways.
Gymnasts often get stuck in the idea that they have to follow a certain path in order to be a successful gymnast. A lot of their pressures come from these expectations, whether they set them for themselves or feel them from others.
Many elite gymnasts had to repeat levels in their journey. In fact, many of the gymnasts who made it to the elite level had to navigate through various hurdles and challenges that changed their original path.
If you can remind your gymnast (and yourself) that success doesn't have to unfold in any particular way, it can help you both feel better about her current rollercoaster ride through her mental block.
3. Don't get too attached to the lows or the highs.
Some of the best advice I've received as a parent was to stop getting too attached to either the highs or the lows. Often when things are going well you feel so relieved and get comfortable in that "good" place. And then if things go awry, you mourn the loss of the "good" and start to resent the lows. Not to mention, you also get stuck in the "low" and feel like it will never pass.
Instead, adopt the mantra of "this too shall pass." So while you might not want the good times to pass, remember not to get too overly attached to them. Be grateful for them and appreciate every moment. But don't get so attached that you can't move forward when things go differently. And vice versa.
When you can adopt that attitude of not getting too attached to any situation, you are free to meet things as they come and not obsess over what was or what will be.
Remember, your gymnast's mental block won't be forever. This too will pass. So don't find yourself stuck dwelling in any one moment of her journey.
Parents, navigating through the rollercoaster ride of a mental block with your gymnast is tough. The emotional journey alone is exhausting, let alone seeing your gymnast struggle over and over again. Remember that this only means your gymnast has more mental work to do, just like strengthening her immune system. If she isn't hooked up with a mental performance coach yet, it's time to connect with one. I recently started offering a 3-session Mental Block Jumpstart package with worksheets to help gymnasts get a good baseline of what's going on and how they can make changes to their mindset to affect lasting change.
As her parent your job is to stay positive and hopeful. Not every gymnast's journey unfolds in the same way despite what you or your gymnast might want it to unfold. Remember not to get too attached to either her highs or her lows. In the end, she will get through this and so will you.
If you need more resources to handle your gymnast's mental block, check out my Mental Blocks: The Ultimate Guide Resource page and be sure to download the Gymnastics Mental Block Guidebook for Parents.
If you or your gymnast needs support, in addition to the resources below I also offer one-on-one coaching sessions via Zoom including a Mental Block Jumpstart coaching package.
- Stick It Girl Academy: For competitive gymnasts who want to live into their potential and need that extra push in mental training
- 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