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Overcoming Mental Blocks in Gymnastics

Whether you're a gymnast or the parent of one, you have likely come to know that mental blocks are an unavoidable part of the sport for most athletes. The high level of difficulty and risk of gymnastics is part of what makes it so amazing - and frustrating! We get it – those tough moments when fear or self-doubt creeps in can make mental blocks feel impossible to overcome. If you have experienced this sensation while practicing, or have a child who has experienced this, you’re in the right place. We're going to dive into the nature of mental blocks in gymnastics and provide some excellent tools to overcome them! Mental blocks are not forever, and it is 100% possible to get back on track with confidence. 

Gymnast chalking up

Mental blocks in gymnastics often manifest as sudden and unexplained fears or hesitations when attempting a skill that an athlete has previously mastered. These blocks can be triggered by a variety of factors. A past fall that may have caused an injury, fear of a skill, or even a lack of confidence can cause the onset of a mental block. When this happens, it is important to remember that you are not alone in feeling this way.  Athletes should recognize that mental blocks are a normal part of the sport and should not be viewed as a sign of weakness. Acceptance allows the athlete to approach the issue with a positive mindset and feel open to communicate feelings with their coach and/or parent.

One action that can help overcome a mental block is to dive into all of the possible underlying factors that could be contributing to the block. Don’t hesitate to talk to your coach, parents, teammates, or friends about the issue. Talking through the issue out loud can be very effective in overcoming the internal distraught that often accompanies a mental block. 

  Visualization is another effective technique in combating a mental block. You’ve probably heard your coach talk about visualization a million times, and there is a reason for that! Visualization is actually proven to help rewire the brain. Actions follow thoughts, which means taking control of your thoughts can work wonders in building confidence and familiarity with the movement before even attempting the physical execution.

Another sure fire step to get your confidence back is to go back to the basics! Breaking down the skill you’re struggling with into smaller, more manageable components. Gradually progress through each element, focusing on mastering one part at a time. This method helps rebuild confidence step by step to help you regain control of your movements. 

Sports mental health

Positive self-talk and affirmations are important in overcoming a mental block, and are also a great general practice to enhance your mental health overall! Examples of ways to put this in practice include: putting a sticky note on your mirror or somewhere you often look that says a positive affirmation, or repeating what you want to believe or become every night before you go to sleep. These may seem silly at first, but they are effective in instilling deep-rooted confidence and belief in an individual's self image. 

Yes - overcoming mental blocks in sports, especially gymnastics, is challenging. However, overcoming these frustrations is absolutely achievable. Try not to be discouraged when they arise, and remember that everyone encounters mental blocks. The important part is how you choose to react! Mental resilience is a skill that is developed over time and will contribute to not only success in gymnastics, but will be an undoubtedly helpful tool throughout everyday life beyond sports as well. You’ve got this! 

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