A time comes in every athlete’s life where they are going to struggle with a skill or set of skills. That’s just how life is sometimes, we might succeed in many ways but find ourselves falling short in other areas.
When it comes to tumbling there are no shortcuts, no magic drill, or or super-coaches. Good tumblers practice practice practice to obtain the skills they have. Other times we find some people are just naturally gifted and able to learn quicker than others, and this can be frustrating for the majority who have to work over and over and over on a skill before they can complete it to mastery. During our athletes’ time working on tumbling, they might experience what is called a “mental block”.
Mental block: (as defined by Jeff Benson) “Any thought or fear, whether conscious or unconscious, that undermines a skill or skills that an athlete has been able to perform several times to near perfection, in multiple venues and in front of many people.”
Unfortunately there is no way to tell when a mental block will happen, but as coaches and parents we can make sure the athletes are maintaining form and good practice so we can do our best to avoid them in the future.
Tumbling, Gymnastics, Cheerleading
No matter what sport your child is involved in, there will always be those kids who are seen as “gifted, talented or naturals”. These kids seem to achieve skills with little effort, which can be frustrating for athletes and parents to watch. “How are they able to do things so easily?” Although these kids have some natural talent, they are vulnerable because how they have been treated over their time of success. These athletes do not understand what it’s like to struggle. They can’t empathize like another athlete who has been there. These athletes do work hard. They just have not had to suffer through times of their skills plateauing.
When they finally do hit a wall and they have to drill more to achieve skills they start to question their abilities and lose confidence. Since this athletes have been called “talented, gifted, or naturals” their whole life they have high standards for themselves to succeed no matter the challenge.
As coaches and parents, we need to stop using the words “talented, gifted or natural”. I am not saying that we shouldn’t praise our athletes when they succeed but rather compliment them on their hard work – the mental and emotional characteristics that contributed to the achievement.
When we praise their hard work and the time they put in to achieve skills we help them build a healthy mindset. No matter the ability of the child all of our athletes can benefit from this simple adjustment. Praising hard work lets them understand that the hard working athlete is the one that succeeds more often, NOT the talented and gifted ones.
Check back in the next blog for Part 2: Mental Blocks