Note: This article contains a free printable.
In the Stick It Girl Mom Squad Facebook group, many of you have shared your gymnast's recent struggles.
One of the biggest buzz words that came up was CONFIDENCE.
From “her coach believes in her but she doesn't believe in herself” to “my gymnast just needs confidence to do her skills” it's clear that your gymnasts are missing an important element to help them succeed.
But I'd like to set the record straight.
I'm going to argue that it's not confidence your gymnast needs right now.
Trust is what allows your gymnast to do the skills she knows she can do but can't seem to do. Trust is what gives her confidence to move through her fear. Trust is what's missing!
Now I'm not saying her confidence isn't low too. When trust is low, confidence is also low.
But it's TRUST that your gymnast needs to build first.
And it's not trust with coaches.
It's TRUST WITH HER OWN BRAIN.
When your gymnast is going through a mental block, she's unknowingly decreasing trust with her brain every time she attempts her skill.
When your gymnast's brain is putting the brakes on (my term for what it feels like when your gymnast has a mental block) or stopping her from going for her skill, it is a signal from her brain that her brain doesn't feel trust.
This can be because her brain recognizes that her thoughts have been all over the place, questioning her abilities. Or it can be because her brain is feeling the tremendous pressure she is placing on herself to do well or get certain skills in time.
When her brain feels these things, her brain knows your gymnast isn't in the right mindset to throw these hard and potentially dangerous skills.
So it stops her.
But...being a gymnast, your gymnast will keep pushing through.
She's taught to keep trying her skills until she gets them.
And this might mean her standing on beam for minutes at a time trying to throw her series. Or doing pass after pass on floor trying to connect her round off to her back handspring. Or attempting her push away flyaway without letting go.
And yet, every single time she tries to do her skill unsuccessfully, her trust level goes way down and her brain eventually learns not to trust her at all.
Because by causing your gymnast to stop or balk, her brain is telling her it doesn't trust her in that moment. That's why to your gymnast it feels like someone has put on the brakes. Her brain is literally stopping her from doing her skills.
But then when your gymnast ignores this message and continues to try her skill over and over, her brain learns that she can't be trusted.
Her brain now realizes that it has to take even more drastic measures to get her to listen. And this is when her mental blocks become even worse and/or she starts "losing" skills on other events.
So how does your gymnast develop trust with her brain?
This is the million dollar question!
The goal is for her to give it what it's asking for.
And the way she does this is by asking her brain what it feels it can successfully do in each moment.
That's the same thing as your gymnast deciding which progression of her skill she can be successful at in that moment.
If she's trying to do her cast away flyaway on the pit bar and she's not letting go, she can ask herself what might help her go for it.
Does she need a spot?
Does she need to do tap swing flyaway instead?
Does she need to do flyaway drills into the pit?
Figuring out what she CAN do is the biggest thing your gymnast can do to build up trust with her brain.
Then when she find the progression she is able to do that day, she should do rep after rep so her trust and confidence start to grow.
Over time her brain will feel "safe" and will give her the feeling that a harder progression is possible.
And that's when your gymnast can try to do the next harder progression.
Build trust is a gradual process that can seem painstakingly slow.
But it's the ONLY process that will get your gymnast's brain to trust her again.
And when your brain feels like your gymnast is listening to it and giving it what it needs to feel "safe" then your brain stops trying to control her skills. This is when your gymnast then is able to do her full skills again.
Below is Stick It Girl's Mental Block Trust Process worksheets. Download them now to help your gymnast work through her mental blocks.
One random note about mental blocks...
The big misconception is that mental blocks come on suddenly and without warning.
The truth is, getting blocked on a skill is a gradual process.
It builds up after many, many instances of trust fading between your gymnast and her brain until eventually her brain has to take big action to get your gymnast to listen.
Therefore, it's important that you and your gymnast have patience when trying to regain skills.
Trust re-building takes time and consistent effort. Hang in there! Stay hopeful. Keep doing the mental work. And most importantly, keep building up trust day after day.
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