In cheerleading, many skills take great physical ability, but there is also typically an equal amount of mental strength needed. When it comes to tumbling, there are many reasons that cheerleaders may find themselves with a mental block. A mental block is simply when you let your mind stop you from completing skills for which you are physically able. Mental blocks are not only frustrating, but can also be dangerous, so they must be addressed head-on to resolve the issue quickly.
There are three basic steps that need to be taken to begin the process of resolving a mental block.
- Identify the root of the problem.
- Find a reliable and understanding coach to work with you.
- Repetition – muscle memory is everything.
In most cases, there is a legitimate reason for the mental block, and sometimes the cheerleader may not be able to pinpoint that reason immediately. But to accurately address the underlying fears, you must identify the root of the problem. Oftentimes, it was a fall or seeing someone else fall that has mentally stopped a person from performing a skill. In these instances, your goal is to rebuild the confidence level to a point where that person is no longer scared that she will hurt herself. Injuries are commonplace in any sport, but with the right technique and practice, cheerleaders should feel confident enough to complete their skills without worry of injury. If a previous fall or injury is the root of the problem, assess why the past event occurred and what can be done differently to prevent it from happening again. Outline a preventative plan to put it into action immediately.
Finding a coach that has patience and understanding, and who is willing to be persistent enough to continue to push an athlete with a mental block, is critical. It can be very frustrating for an athlete to go through this, so it is important to know when to push versus when to lend assistance. Pushing an athlete with a mental block too soon or too hard could result in the problem getting worse and the athlete not tumbling at all.
Repetition is the main ingredient in this recipe. Muscle memory is the body’s way of assuring the brain that it has things under control. The more an athlete completes a skill, with or without a spot, the more comfortable she will become. Even though spotting an athlete who can complete a skill on her own may seem unnecessary, it is a major way to rebuild confidence when overcoming a mental block.
There is no easy or quick way to eliminate a mental block, but patience and persistence will undoubtedly be necessary. It is important that the athlete remain encouraged throughout the process, as it can be very taxing mentally. Support from teammates and coaches are a must.