How to Overcome a Mental Block

originally posted at http://www.goodfeelingplace.com/how-to-overcome-a-mental-block
Mental blocks can come in many forms, but they all get fueled by the thoughts we think. Writers get “writer’s block”, actors get “stage fright”, and gymnasts (as well as other athletes) can develop an irrational fear about one specific trick or movement – like doing back handsprings on floor or beam, or doing release moves on the high bar or uneven bars. Depending on the skill, some may argue that fear is very rational, but it is still a mental game whether the fears are rational or not.


I often get asked about how to overcome mental blocks by gymnasts or their concerned parents over at allexperts, so I thought I would write a thorough post about the subject here that I can refer to.

Fear is a very powerful emotion that takes a little while to overcome. On the emotional scale where feeling empowered is at the top (love, joy, and appreciation are all empowering), fear is at the bottom. The following list of emotions is taken from page 114 of the book Ask and It Is Given (see amazon link to the right):

1. Joy/Appreciation/Empowered/Freedom/Love
2. Passion
3. Enthusiasm/Eagerness/Happiness
4. Positive Expectation/Belief
5. Optimism
6. Hopefulness
7. Contentment
8. Boredom
9. Pessimism
10. Frustration/Irritation/Impatience
11. Overwhelment
12. Disappointment
13. Doubt
14. Worry
15. Blame
16. Discouragement
17. Anger
18. Revenge
19. Hatred/Rage
20. Jealousy
21. Insecurity/Guilt/Unworthiness
22. Fear/Grief/Depression/Despair/Powerlessness

There are over 20 powerful processes detailed in that book which can help you move up the scale of emotions, and I’ve tried most of them successfully. It is a wonderful reference for practical mind games you can play to help you feel better about any subject.

I remember going hiking with my ASU gymnastics teammates about 10 years ago in Oak Creek Canyon. There was a waterfall at one point of the hike and we stopped to take a look. Some of the guys decided it would be fun to jump off the ledge right next to the waterfall (about 30 feet up) into the pool down below.

I looked over the edge and was gripped with fear, so I sat back on a rock several feet away while others jumped off and climbed back up a few times. I gave no indication that I was going to jump, so eventually people stopped egging me on. I sat very still and calmed my breath, focusing my attention on the ground beneath my feet. After awhile I had calmed down and was able to focus on the fact that the others were jumping and safely landing in the water below, and I worked my way up to feeling hopeful that I could do it too.

Waterfall like the one we jumped off in Oak Creek CanyonSo without any warning, when there was no one getting ready to jump or getting out of the water I stood up and quietly walked off the ledge. My teammates were freaking out when I re-emerged because they didn’t expect me to jump and I had barely missed the rocks on the way down (because I didn’t jump I just walked off), but I didn’t care because I had done it and I was done. πŸ™‚

I remember having several other mental blocks with specific gymnastics skills (like every release move I ever tried on high bar!), which are actions to take over and over (not just once with the cliff jumping example above). The most success I had overcoming these mental blocks happened over periods of time when I could “play” with different aspects of the skills (either in my mind or on the equipment) but not really focus on them or bring attention to the fact that I was playing with them. Just like in the example above, I had to remove myself from the situation and work my way up the emotional scale on my own (without the pressure or attention of anyone else) before I could approach it from a different perspective. Then once I felt better about it I would try it on my own (or ask for a spot or a belt if I was ready for that), but without much fanfare.

Regarding specific gymnastics skills (like backwards tumbling, cartwheels, kips, jumping from the low bar to the high bar, release moves, etc.), I believe that when a mental block is developed a break is needed from whatever skill it is to focus on others that are easier and very comfortable. Recently I’ve been skateboarding for fun at a skate park near my house, and it helps me to do something like that which is totally different from my work or family life in order to gain a fresh perspective on whatever I’m stuck on, whether it’s a programming issue or a parenting one.

The length of the break really depends on how long it takes to feel better. In the example above I was able to feel better about jumping off a cliff in a matter of minutes, but when fearful thoughts are practiced over time about a given subject it may take some time to believe different thoughts that are more hopeful and empowering.

It can help to talk about the subject if the people you talk with can help you reach for thoughts that feel better, but it is not necessary and will hinder progress if the person you talk with is frustrated about the situation. When I was training in gymnastics I learned how to block out my coach or teammates at times when I was ready to try something again after taking a break, because they were usually still frustrated about my previous attempts.




About Robert

I competed in gymnastics for 16 years through college at Arizona State University. After 10 years and 5 (now 6) children, I have returned to gymnastics as a competitor. I am a lifetime gymnast. :)
This entry was posted in Skills, Training Plans and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

66 Responses to How to Overcome a Mental Block

  1. Pingback: How to Overcome a Mental Block - Good Feeling Place

  2. Trisha says:

    Robert,

    Thanks for the blog. My 10 yr old daughter is currently experiencing a mental block with jumping from the low bar to the high bar. She has done it gobs of times in the past without incident, then one day she came into the gym and told herself it was too scary and she would fall and get hurt. Her coach is beyond frustrated with her; I am beyond frustrated with her. Nothing either of us says or does makes a difference. She is at the point now that she won’t even attempt a squat on to the low bar because she knows the jump is coming next. Do you have any suggestions I could give to her?

    • Robert says:

      Hi Trisha,
      It sounds to me like there is a lot of focus on the specific issue she has developed a fear of. I would recommend having her skip that specific move for awhile until she is ready to try it again on her own (preferably while no one is watching or paying attention).
      Regards,
      Robert

    • Olivia says:

      Hey! So I’m a national gymnastics and I’m going to the OYLIMPICS someday! I think your daughter is having doubts everyday because everyone is rushing her and she is scard!! She is scard because she hasn’t gone past her mantel stage so if I were you I’d sit her down and talk about her problems and when she opens up to you than you will understand where it’s coming from!! I nervous For a few skills myself and I’m going to go into gym today believing I can do this! So thanks and hope she overcomes this! They all do.

  3. Kenzie says:

    Robert,

    I am currently taking gymnastics and have had my running back handspring tuck for 2 years now. About 6 months ago, I felt really scared to do it and haven’t been able to do it on my own. Every time I attempt it, I feel really nervous and tell myself I can’t do it. It really frustrates me because I know I can do it! Can you give me some advice to help my self esteem and overcome this mental block?

    • Fern says:

      I have the same problem but with a back hip circle. I got my back hip circle about a year ago but since then, I can’t do them consistently. After the summer break, I seemed to have lost it. My main problem is fear…when I cast and when my hips are approaching the bar, I “brake” my body and consequently can’t go round. The funny thing was that today during training, I had one of the senior girls (also a coach) stand next to me to spot me for the first one, she told me, “I’m really just tapping you. I’m not doing much.” The second round, I managed to do it, but quite a piked version BUT I DID IT. Many times in gymnastics, I’ve learnt NOT to think about the skill but just to go for it and trust that your body knows what it’s doing because it does. I still struggle with going up to HS on a beam but I keep on trying. Sometimes when I’m up there, I’m seized with the fear and it really makes me NOT want to do it but then I force myself to and all these “forcings” reinforce your little collection of “can-dos”. Think of ALL those drills and progressions you’ve done. There’s no reason WHY you can’t do the skill. As for my back hip circle, I found that when I didn’t stare at the bar, I could do it. Might keep that in mind for the future ;);). Just GO FOR IT :D.

    • Robert says:

      Hi Kenzie,
      Thanks for asking. Like Fern mentioned it is good to remember all the training and progressions you have done in the past to help your confidence level.

      Another thing that helps me is to take time to relax and get centered before attempting something I fear, then make a decision to do something from that calm perspective and try to ignore everything else and just act on my decision.
      Regards,
      Robert

  4. Emily says:

    Hi Robert,
    After a very long time of progressions, and getting past 2 mental blocks, I finally recently got my round of back handspring alone. I had done it for about 3 weeks worth of practises, and then I competed it in my floor rountine. 2 practises after my competition I for some reason, was just scared to do it. I wasn’t quit scared, nothing happened and I know perfectly well that I CAN, do the skill, I just have a mental block, and cannot do it with out my coach there. I have tried thinking about, and doing progressions, counting, visualizing, talking to my coach but when I try it again, I Wont go for it unless my coach is spotting!! This has made me so upset, and nervous, because I have an up coming competition and am competing my round-off backhandspring! PLEASE HELP! *when I have done it with my coach it has also been alot worse (higher, and less of a snap in my round off) ** I can do the round off, yet when I reach that point right after, when your rebounding I cant make myself go back! πŸ™ thanks!

    • Robert says:

      Hi Emily,
      One thing that might help is to work on the back handspring separately from the round off. Can you do a backhandspring from a handstand snap down or from standing still? If you can do it either of those 2 ways you can build your confidence to the point where your body will want to do it after the round off and you will naturally land your feet close to your hands so your momentum is still horizontal and not going straight up after the round off.
      Regards,
      Robert

  5. Sofia says:

    Hey Robert,
    I’m terrified of doing my cartwheel on beam. I had it, then lost it! When I’m in the handstand position in the cartwheel my mind says stop! And I go of the side! πŸ™ I keep trying positive thoughts but nothing works! I have to get it by competition which is in Nocemeber! Please help!

    • Robert says:

      Hi Sofia,
      A cartwheel is a trick that requires a good deal of momentum. If you try to roll a hula hoop and don’t push it hard enough it just falls to one side. Cartwheels are the same way. Even on the floor, if you go to slow you’ll end up falling to one side or the other. But if you go fast enough you can’t help but stay in a straight line.

      I would recommend practicing cartwheels on the floor along a chalk line, tape line, carpet seam, or even along a string or rope in the grass. When you practice them try to go as fast as you can to help you stay in a straight line. Then the next time you are on the beam remember to go faster and you might surprise yourself. πŸ™‚
      Regards,
      Robert

  6. Nicole says:

    Hi Robert,

    I am a coach and I have one specific girl who will not do a back handspring on beam. She will do them with the slightest of spots. I legitimately have to touch her back with one finger and then she will go (most of the time) as soon as I’m not there she will NOT go at all. We have taken all the progressions though numerous times. Up to a mat, on a floor line, on a floor beam, on a low beam she will do them fine by herself. As soon as she has to move to a beam that is more than 6inches off the ground she will not go at all. This has been an on going battle now for 2 years. Her parents get upset with us as coaches telling us we aren’t being encouraging enough, or sending us links on the psychology of mental block and how to break them. As a coach I know how to break them, where can I find the resources for the gymnast to break them. It seems as though I have done everything as a coach you say to do. Is this just something that will never happen? I don’t want to give up on this girl but I feel that the attention she gets from NOT doing it is what she is really after. Did I mention that her back handsprings are pretty much text book perfect… oh and that she has NEVER fallen?

    Thank you for any advice you might be able to send my way!
    Nicole

    • Robert says:

      Hi Nicole,
      It sounds like you are in a tricky situation!

      I agree with you in that the attention on the issue is making it bigger. If I were you this is what my game plan would be:

      I would explain to my gymnast and her parents that the mental block will just get stronger if we continue to focus on it. So in order to remove the focus that skill will not be asked of the gymnast on a high beam at all. When it’s time to do that skill during a routine on the high beam I’d replace it with something else (like a jump full turn, something totally different).

      If she wants to practice it on a low beam I’d let her do it by herself. But I would not let her try it on high beam again until she wants to do it by herself with no one watching. I would tell her that whenever she is ready to try it again on the high beam, she can’t tell anyone she is about to do it (and I would discuss the game plan with her parents to get their support, otherwise they will wonder why it’s not being addressed).

      This will effectively take the power and energy away from the mental block. It may take weeks or even months before it happens but she’ll do it if you and her parents can remove all attention from the issue following a process like the one I described and be patient (that’s the hardest part).
      Regards,
      Robert

    • lauren says:

      Hi Nicole, i am a gymnast level 6, to over come my fear on the high beam, i put a huge, huge mat under the high beam and it felt like it was a low beam, so i did my back handspring easily so i took out the big mat and it was so easy to do a back handspring. Nicole you should try this.

  7. skyler says:

    Hi,
    can you help me, i am experiencing a mental block with fly-a-ways on bars, when i attempt the skill i never let go because i worry that, because i always flip in place, that my feet will hit the bar and i will fall. also, i dont know why but i dont really trust the coach who is spotting me.

    • skyler says:

      oh and now my coach wont even let me attempt the skill

      • Robert says:

        Hi Skyler,
        It sounds to me like taking a break from the skill might be a good idea for you. I think your coach has the right idea. Once you feel more confident and are able to trust your coach more it would make sense to try it again with a spot.
        Regards,
        Robert

  8. Katie says:

    I’m a trampolinist and I’ve been doing half outs (double front somi with a half twist) for over a year. It took me a year to learn it because I kept twisting after the first somersault and then landing on my head or neck in the pit. The coach I had kept pushing me into do it on the trampoline even though I clearly wasn’t ready as I couldn’t even do it in the pit. I got a new coach and slowly we worked through the problem. That was just over a year ago.
    A few months ago, after a trying the next progression of the move in the pit, I just refused to take off for the half out on the trampoline. Every time I tried to take off I’d find myself freezing and terrified that I’d do what I did when I first learnt the move and land on my head. With the support of my new coach I managed to get it back in time for an important competition but shortly after the comp I found myself beginning to get more scared. I recognised the signs of losing the move again and tried as hard as I could to keep doing it. I just kept getting worse and worse and soon I was back to not doing it. Since then I’ve done exactly the same thing about 4 times – get the move back then lose it. I know I can do it and I go for the half out in the pit fine but as soon as I get on to the trampoline I freeze.
    I know it’s not gymnastics but I was wondering if you could help in any way. Taking a break from the move is not an option because it’s a vital part of my routine and there’s nothing I could use instead of it.

    • Robert says:

      Hi Katie,
      It is not necessary to take a long break from the move that is causing you trouble. If you look at my story in this post about jumping off the cliff into the creek, it was a very short time for me to withdraw from the situation, calm my nerves, make a decision, and then act on it. I was fortunate that no one was paying attention to me while I did that, I just lost my place in line. πŸ™‚

      When you are in the gym and on a piece of equipment (in your case the trampoline), it is more difficult to withdraw from the situation if your coach or teammates are watching you and expecting you to do a specific skill. But if you can do your “inner work” like I mentioned above in-between turns on the apparatus, then you will avoid some of the negative attention which feeds mental blocks in the first place (and later, as you mentioned this is a repeat issue).

      One other thing I’d like to mention is that the way you describe your situation is like you are between a rock and a hard place, you are cornered with no way out. That makes it difficult to withdraw from the situation. You’ve got to find a way to think of the whole thing with a more light-hearted tone, for example you might say to yourself:
      “This move is something which is very important to me and it is a good challenge. There have been times when I was prevented from attempting this trick due to some voice in my head which told me I could not do it. However, I have also overcome that voice before and done this skill safely. That voice is not helpful to me and it does not speak the truth of who I am. I have the power to listen to any voice I want to, and I have demonstrated that power by ignoring this particular voice in the past. I can learn to do that more often, I can even decide what this particular voice inside me should say instead. “

  9. Abby says:

    I have the same problem as everyone else. I have a mental block on a layout/back I do a roundoff flip-flop and then stop.Acutally I got my full on the floor with a spot 1 week ago but know I can’t do a back or layout! Sometimes my coach gets mad she knows I will go for it when everyone is silent but then I can’t do it! Some coaches are very nice and normal to me and offer a spot I gladly take the chance after a few more spots I do it. But now my other coach is my floor ex coach and I don’t do it!
    I just really need help!

    • Robert says:

      It’s important to try and remove the focus from the mental block and try to focus on other skills that feel easy and give you confidence. I would tell my coach that until I am ready to do that skill again I’ll spend the time conditioning that I would have spent on the skill.

  10. Abby says:

    Oh and she refuses to spot me

  11. Sany says:

    I’m having a mental block and it’s on a handstand forward roll I’m scared and I just started gymnastics so I have NO experience whatsoever I’m scared I’m going to break my neck! What should I do?

  12. Kate Cassidy says:

    I’m scared to do a backtuck what should I do?

    • Robert says:

      Hi Kate,
      It really depends on your situation. If you are in a gym with a coach spotting you and you want to try it, then tell your coach what you are feeling and I’m sure you’ll get some encouragement from them. If you are trying it by yourself in the backyard and you are scared, then please don’t do it.

      If you are in a gym and have never tried a back tuck before, maybe you should focus more on conditioning, for example tuck jumps as high as you can go.
      Regards,
      Robert

  13. ali says:

    Hi Robert,
    I can do a front handspring vault and score in the 9’s, but recently I have not even been able to go for it. My coach will stand there and I will run and stop. I have tried many different techniques but I still will not go. I know i am perfectly capable to go but I feel as if I just can’t. I have states this weekend and don’t know what else I could be doing. When I pushed myself to go I go to a handstand then put my leg down and quickly jumped off. So even when I go and my body is completly capable I hesitate and do something stupid. Please help !c

  14. Robert says:

    Hi Ali,
    With a competition this weekend I’m sure you are feeling a lot of pressure to have a vault ready to perform. Is there another vault you can do as a backup to take some of the pressure off? Mental blocks are fueled by the importance we assign to whatever it is we are having trouble doing. If you can act like it is not a big deal by preparing to do another vault, you may surprise yourself and do a handspring again soon.
    Regards,
    Robert

  15. Christine says:

    Hi,

    My daughter has been battling a mental block for 6 months. She had her ROBHS and competed it an entire season without issue. She had her ROBHSBHS for over a year and then one day lost the ability to connect the ROBHS. She could still connect 2 BH’s, but that also disappeared along with most anything backward. She worked on it, tried sports psychology and got it back briefly but needed a coach to stand near her (not touch). Then she lost it all again. She’s back to having trouble with a standing BHS even on the tumble track and resi….won’t even try it on the floor. Says she’s scared and doesn’t know why. She’s never fallen and said she hasn’t seen anyone fall. She’s a quiet child but this is beginning to cause her a lot of anxiety. SHe has a meet soon and doesn’t want to scratch floor. Any advice? Her coaches have worked progression with her, but now that it’s gotten worse again, I fear they will give up on her. She loves gymnastics and is frustrated. Her coaches have recently pointed out to me that it is now affecting her other events….she’s not going for it as much as she used to. Her confidence is definitely going down and it makes me sad to see her sad. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!!!

    • Robert says:

      Hi Christine,
      One of the things I appreciate about gymnastics is the way it helps build confidence. But I’ve also seen my own children lose confidence when they are faced with something they don’t feel they can do. If I were in your shoes I would suggest that she skip floor at the next meet and not even practice it for awhile, since it is causing so much anxiety. I would ask the coaches if she could stretch or do front tumbling or handstands or something else while the others are doing back tumbling. It sounds to me like a break from the issue is needed. When your daughter is ready to try it again she will let you or the coaches know.
      Regards,
      Robert

  16. Gina says:

    I need advice for my daughter. She just turned 7 and has had a back handspring since age 5. She has done multiples, both standing and running. She has done running back tucks, aerials, and punch fronts, all multiple times without a spotter. But she is now frozen on all running tumbling and her standing handspring. We have progressed her and she’ll be doing standing series one day then the same day can’t at all. She is a beautiful power tumbler, her form is nearly perfect. My heart is breaking for her. We’ve tried telling her she doesn’t have to at all. But she’s so upset, what can I do?

  17. Robert says:

    Hi Gina,
    I have a son who will be 7 next month. I’ve noticed that if he gets determined to do something he gets very upset if it doesn’t come easy for him. If he’s able to do something and then later has trouble it’s even more of an emotional hurdle for him.

    It’s very difficult for me to help him be objective during these times, but that’s a critical component of overcoming irrational fears (as in the story I shared in this post). What I have had more success at is diverting his attention to another subject which he feels better about. Then when he is feeling better later (sometimes much later) and returns to the emotionally charged issue it doesn’t hold as much power anymore.

    Hopefully that will give you some ideas for how to help your daughter, I wish you the best!
    Regards,
    Robert

  18. Leigh says:

    Hi. Please help. My daughter is a cheerleader and tumbles. She has her roundoff bhs and has been workimg on roundoff bhs tuck for 2 years!!! She got the skill about a year and a half ago but would never do it without a spot. Then she would do a few have a great class then the next class nothing. Round off bhs rebound she would do that for months then start doing them again. Then stop same cycle over and over. She has never done them consistently. Last month she finally did 7 passes in a row. And one by herself with no spot or coach anywhere near her with her team cheering her on. And now she hasnt done one since even with a spot. I dont understand. Shes not scared she back tumbles just wont tuck. She cries and gets so frustrated. She doesnt understand why she cant do them when she knows in her mind she can

  19. Robert says:

    Hi Leigh,
    It sounds to me like you are very much in tune with your daughter’s challenges. It may help for you to intentionally ‘forget’ her struggles and focus on what she does well in tumbling and in other areas. What I mean is to try and avoid the topic during conversations, don’t ask her about it, don’t even mention it.

    If she brings it up you can tell her that you are trying a different approach to the situation altogether. You can share with her the story in this post and tell her you are giving her room to feel better before she tries it again on her own time. Try not to let her talk about it when she is feeling frustrated, but ask her to take a walk or try (by changing the subject or suggesting another activity) to redirect her thoughts to something more pleasant.

    If she brings it up when she is feeling happy and confident, let her talk but try to just listen and not offer any advice. The most lasting change will come in her tumbling when it comes from her, not anyone else.
    Regards,
    Robert

  20. Maggie says:

    Robert,
    I’m a cheerleader and I have a mental block with my back handspring. My coach tells me she’s not even spotting me she’s just standing there but when she moves away I freak out and can’t do it. Any ideas?

    • Robert says:

      Hi Maggie,
      Can you do 2 in a row with your coach standing nearby? What about 3? Maybe doing a few back handsprings in a row will help your subconscious mind realize you are really doing it yourself.
      Regards,
      Robert

  21. Quincy says:

    Robert,
    I have been able to do a handspring on vault for about two years now,but when my coach decided to pull my board further away I suddenly have been unable to do it. It had gotten to the point where I was unable to do a squat on the vault. I tried telling her how I feel about the vault/spring board, but she won’t listen. Yesterday, one of the other coaches put the vault to the lowest setting, and put my board at one foot and I was able to go over and even twist. Today, when we tried it again I did 2 vaults and then my coach pulled my board back to 3 feet and I suddenly stopped. My coach claims that I pike when it is too close, but i know from experience that the board being close does not make me pike, the board far makes me pike because i am afraid of it. What do I do?

    • Robert says:

      Hi Quincy,
      It seems to me that going from 1 foot to 3 feet is a big jump, and it’s understandable that it would cause some apprehension on your part. If I were you I would ask the coach to gradually move the board a few inches at a time until you are at the edge of what is comfortable to you. There must be a way to compromise. Maybe you can ask someone to take video of your vaults as the board is moved each time so you can review it in slow motion with your coach and see objectively if there is any difference in the pike. That usually helps me if I have a dispute with someone about form.
      Regards,
      Robert

  22. Kandice says:

    (Self-Taught)

    I HAVE A MAJOR MENTAL BLOCK(S) ON BACK HANDSPRINGS!!

    Here’s the short story…

    When I wasn’t skilled enough or had the wrong form, I tried a back handspring on a mat. I landed on my head and for about 2 years I’ve had a mental block on them. Then I got my back handspring but I did them the wrong way and hurt my left elbow a little.
    ANOTHER MENTAL BLOCK
    After a while I got it again and with better form, and the day after I got my round off back handspring.
    Recently in my round off back handspring I didn’t snap down fast enough and I landed on my right shin….
    ANOTHER MENTAL BLOCK
    Now I CAN do a back handspring but I CAN’T do one at the same time! Before I do a round off back handspring I have to do an acceptable back handspring first.

    WHAT CAN I DO TO STOP GETTING MENTAL BLOCKS ON BACK HANDSPRINGS!?

    PLEASE HELP ME

    • Robert says:

      Hi Kandice,
      It sounds to me like it would help you to slow down and focus on fundamentals more as you are learning new skills. For back handsprings in particular I think it’s a good idea to start with “an acceptable back handspring” before doing a round off back handspring. That makes sense to me from a safety perspective.
      Regards,
      Robert

  23. Mom says:

    Robert,
    My 10 year-old started competitive cheer this year. She competed in one cheer competition, and the rest, she ducked. I’ve really been frustrated because I know she loves it…..but I have felt like she isn’t trying. A friend of hers told her that she has a friend that is paralyzed from doing gymnastics. Now my daughter is scared! Her friend does not have a friend paralyzed, she just couldn’t tumble and I believe was tired of my daughter tumbling all the time. (The friend is normally not mean and I don’t think she was wanting to hurt her) it’s been 3 months and my daughter still can not tumble. I tell her I’m going to take her out, but she does not want to quit. Any suggestions? I can’t keep sending her and paying for extra classes if she isn’t getting better.

    • Robert says:

      Hi there,
      My 9 yr old daughter is also susceptible to weird comments from friends, I can see why you would be frustrated. One thing you could do is take your daughter to a regular gymnastics class (not just cheer) to give her a different perspective. In that context she would be the odd one out if she didn’t tumble, not if she did. Sometimes peer pressure can be used to your advantage. πŸ™‚
      Regards,
      Robert

  24. Adi says:

    Robert,
    I have been trying to do my bhs on beam for 2 years, and I still can’t get my hands and feet on at the same time on low! Help!!!

    • Robert says:

      Hi Adi,
      I’m not sure I understand your question, or whether I’m the right person to answer it. I have never practiced or coached anyone working on beam, so if this is a training question on Beam I don’t believe I’m the one to help you.
      Regards,
      Robert

  25. Julia says:

    Hi Robert,
    I am a trampolinist and i have nationals in about 2 weeks. Just recently about 2 weeks ago i did a back full on the trampoline and freaked out in the middle of it and now whenever i go and try to do a back straight or back tuck or back pike on trampoline i cant do it because whenever i prep my bounce, i feel like im going to twist in the middle of it. I really need my routine by nationals to compete. I know i can do back flips because they are so easy to me (my 5th year competing) but whenever i get on a trampoline to do it, i cant. I have done standing tucks on the floor and those are fine but i cant manage to do them on a trampoline. Any advice? Thanks so much

    • Robert says:

      Hi Julia,
      It sounds to me like a good spot would be helpful to get you started again on the trampoline. Spotting is more difficult on the trampoline because of the synchronized bouncing but that makes the most sense to me.
      Regards,
      Robert

  26. Julia says:

    Also if you were wondering my trampoline routine is back straight, barani straight, pike jump, barani pike, straddle jump, back tuck, tuck jump, ball out. My optional is back straight, barani straight, pike jump, barani pike, straddle, back tuck, barani tuck, tuck jump, rudi. Thanks so much.

  27. ryleigh says:

    Robert,

    I am working for level 9, but I am scared to do a bhs back pike on beam. I can do the skill perfectly fine when going off the beam. As soon as my coach tells me to do it on the beam (with panel mats), I freak out and stop after the bhs. I want to do the skill so badly I just can not make myself go. My coach stands there to spot but I still will not go. When I won’t go, I get very mad at myself because I can do it everywhere except where I need to do it. How can I make myself perform the skill?

    • Robert says:

      Hi Ryleigh,
      Are you comfortable with a bhs tuck on the beam? It seems like that would be a good progression if you aren’t doing it already. Or how about a back handspring whip back? Sometimes it is helpful to mix things up when you get stuck, in order to help your body feel more comfortable doing any specific movement or skill.
      Regards,
      Robert

  28. Carrie says:

    Hi, my daughter has had her bhs for 5 years, had a running bhs tuck and a standing tuck, working on a round off, bhs, full with a spot. During her high school competitive cheer season she suddenly became unable to throw any of her backward tumbling skills. She took a break from tumbling for several months and now that cheer has started again she is still not able to do a bhs and doesn’t know why. She will do it with a very minimal spot – if it’s someone she trusts. She didn’t fall or get hurt, she took a break from tumbling, thinking it was stress or a block but still nothing. Any suggestions?

    • Robert says:

      Hi Carrie,
      If you take a break from tumbling for several months while you are still growing it may feel different when you try it again since your body proportions may be different (some kids seem to get big feet long before they get taller, for example). There is nothing wrong with practicing with a spot for an extended period of time, that may give her time to regain her confidence as she gets used to tumbling again.
      Regards,
      Robert

  29. Syd says:

    im having a mental b lock to do a backhandspring and i have given myself almost 2 weeks of not doing it and i can do it by myself but now im scared togo back by myself. i can do it with the slightest spot. pleae give me tips on how to like get over the fear of going backwards and tips to do it. thank you so much i have a competion comin g up and i need to learn it soon!

    • Robert says:

      Hi Syd,
      When you feel pressured to learn something (by time, other people, or even yourself), mental blocks get worse or pop up when they didn’t exist before. Do your best to go easy on yourself, spotting can be very helpful so don’t feel bad about needing it.
      Regards,
      Robert

  30. Jamie says:

    Hi Robert,

    I am scared of doing a backhandspring back pike on the high beam. I have wiped out a few times but I am not really sure that’s the problem. I can do my series perfectly every time on the low beam which isn’t a problem. I have also competed the skill at a “mock meet” and I fell but afterwards I did not feel scared at all. The fall was not a “bad” fall so I didn’t really think much of it. Now we are off of Christmas break and I haven’t gone for ONE series for 2 practices. I try to imagine myself do it perfectly in my head before I go and lately I feel like all of the things that could ever go wrong fill my head. My coach and parents are both extremely frustrated with me. My mom even said that if I don’t go for my series at the next practice then she is going to make me quit! I really don’t want to quit but I don’t know how to make myself go after all of those negative thoughts fill my head. I feel like if I go I will get hurt and not be able to do gymnastics and if I don’t then I have to quit! Spotting never helps me go because I don’t want to hit my coach if something goes wrong. WHAT DO I DO?

    • Robert says:

      Hi Jamie,
      It is difficult to take action when you feel like you have no good options. That’s similar to how I felt in the story I shared in this post. I had a lot of peer pressure to jump off the cliff but I knew if I went too far or not far enough I could hit rocks on the way down and get really hurt.

      The way I got through it was to step out of line and ignore everything and everyone else for a minute. During that time I made the decision to jump in my own time without the pressure of people watching me and egging me on. In your case that would mean centering yourself, practicing on the low beam, then watching for an opportunity to go on the high beam when no one is expecting you to go so there is less pressure (and don’t tell anyone you are going to do it).

      When you do take a turn on the high beam, focus on the feeling and not on anything else that is going on around you. Also, make the decision to go before you get on the beam and don’t stop to think about it once you get up there. You need to figure out how to put yourself on autopilot (“in the zone”) and turn off your conscious thoughts when you perform that series, after making the decision and telling your subconscious it’s ok to do it. You can practice doing that on the low beam until you get to the point where you are not aware of anything else around you (including how high the beam is).

      Regards,
      Robert

  31. Ellie says:

    Hi Robert,

    I have had a mental block for just under a year now and still trying to get things back however I just can’t go for twists on floor. I might do one or two full twists but then I won’t be able to do them again. I’m not scared of turning because I can do double backs on floor and turns on bars! But I just can’t get over this twistπŸ˜• . Do you have any advice on what to do?

    • Robert says:

      Hi Ellie,
      If I were you I would spend lots of time doing twists into the pit, on the trampoline, and even just straight jumps with full twists on the floor (no flip). The idea is to give your mind plenty of easy, pleasant experiences twisting so that it will begin to reverse the effects of the mental block and help allow you to do what you want to do.
      Regards,
      Robert

  32. Lisa says:

    Hello! Need some help! My 8 year old daughter is a level 4/5 gymnast. Currently level 4 and moving up to level 5. She has always been a great tumbler…has been doing back handsprings since she was 5 and currently doing back tucks and recently landed a back handspring full lay…all of a sudden she has this mental block and won’t go for her double back handspring. She will do it occasionally but can continuously do it. She will do a round off back handspring from a standing position, then pause and do another without connecting. She won’t even run into it anymore. She used to do this all the time…running into it and doing multiple back handsprings. This is obviously affecting her floor routine scores. She went from getting 9+ on the floor to like a 7.2. She has been so hard on herself and says she’s not scared she just can’t go for it. What can she do to help overcome this mind block?? Thanks πŸ™‚

    • Robert says:

      Hi Lisa,
      Usually when people have trouble connecting back handsprings they are not landing with their feet far enough forwards. This can happen after working on doing flips after the first back handspring, because the feet have to land farther back to do that. Switching between doing a back handspring and flipping (and possibly twisting) after the first back handspring can be difficult, as it requires a great deal of body awareness and control to go back and forth. I don’t see this as a mental block as much as a lack of body awareness about how to change the back handspring technique in order to lead into different connecting skills. I’m sure she will figure it out as she gains experience. This is not a regression, just something more to learn.
      Regards,
      Robert

  33. Piper says:

    Hi Robert,

    I could really use with some help. For the past month I have had a mental block on 2 back handsprings on the beam. Before I had the block, I was doing them on high beam with mats stacked up and no mats on top, until one day, I wouldn’t go for them, I told my coach I wanted to warm them up on low beam but when I got there, I couldn’t go for them no matter how straight the handspring is.
    I can do them perfectly fine on the floor but when I get to beam I just freak out and don’t go.
    Sometimes however, I can go for them if I really force myself to go but I can only do 1 and then no more for the next few days. My coach has been getting really really mad at me and I can’t do anything about it. I just want to get it back really bad.
    But what I also have had breaks from it and it doesn’t seem to do much, I just still go back to doing the same thing. And I’m not 100% sure if there is an alternative option….

    Sorry it’s long, hope you can help!

    • Robert says:

      Hi Piper,
      It sounds to me like you have built up an unconscious fear of the skill and/or the beam that is preventing you from making progress on your connected back handsprings. If you feel comfortable doing one at a time then I would recommend doing that for awhile. Even if you take a break from the skill it will not help you if every time you think about it you feel tense because you are focused on how frustrated you and your coach feel.

      One way to get around that is to decide that you will replace that skill with something similar (like one back handspring), talk about it with your coach to get their support, then continue as if you have no plans of trying it again. That way you will not continue to feed your fear and it will diminish over time.

      One day you may be working on something else and realize that 2 back handsprings would be easier than some other skill you are practicing, and you might give it a try without anyone expecting it and surprise yourself.
      Regards,
      Robert

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