It’s one of the most frustrating things about gymnastics, fear and mental blocks. With all the athletes I work with it’s the issue that causes the most stress, not only for the athletes and coaches, but for the PARENTS as well. You try not to think it, but the unthinkables come anyway, “I’m paying so much money for this, why is she not doing it?”, “She’s not going to be ready for the next level!”, or even, “maybe he is just not cut out for this sport.” Well, have no fear, cause Doc Ali is here to give you a sprinkle of sanity as you deal with a very crazy making issue. Here are some tips to help you deal with your athletes fears and mental blocks.
Step #1: Fear Is Normal
Remember that fear is a normal emotion and has a purpose. Fear is a biological response that has aided our survival for centuries! When the amygdala fires into fight or flight, it’s important for parents to help the pre-frontal cortex of rationality take back control. I know that’s difficult but fear actually feeds on pressure and anxiety. You want to stay as calm as possible and express relentless optimism to your athlete that they will work through this fear. Save the freaking out for your close friends and spouse! To your child express thoughts like, “i know you can work through this”, and “fear is natural and normal. I’d be scared too if i were flipping around like you are.” Be sure to remind your child that fear is a normal and natural emotion and it’s OK to feel afraid sometimes.
Step #2: Remember Past Successes
Remind them of past successes and what they did to achieve them. For many athletes, fear and working through it are a recurring theme. Remind your child of times they have worked through fear in the past. Help them remember their bravery and tenacity. Have them write a list of past successes and what tools they used to work through fear. When they can pinpoint what’s worked in the past, they can utilize those tools in the present.
Step #3: Remove Pressure
Too much pressure? Sometimes fear is related to not feeling safe on a skill, especially if it’s new or there has been a fall on the skill in the past. But other times, especially with fears and blocks that are hard to explain, it is the system’s response to feeling too much pressure. If you have a child that seems to put a lot of pressure on themselves, be sure as a parent you are taking as much of the pressure off as you can. Channel your inner “Jamaican” and practice your “no worries, Mon” even if you have to fake it. Keep reminding your athlete that they will be fine, just do their best, and it’s only gymnastics.
Step #4: Talk It Out
Help them talk it out. It’s essential for all parents to put on their “psychologist” hat and listen, acknowledge and validate your athlete’s feelings. When they feel heard and you help them make a plan, the fear has less control over their mind and body.
Step #5: Provide Tools
Provide tools. Finally, be sure your athlete has an arsenal of tools to help them tighten their mind and push through fears. There are so many resources on pushing through fear online. I have videos on YouTube that can help, articles on my website in addition to my FEAR: Tame the Beast 2.0 course, group, private sessions, and other products as well.
Don’t let fear get in the way of your athlete’s success! Feel free to contact me for more tips and tricks. I am happy to be a part of your CHALKBUCKET TEAM!
Doc Ali is starting a FEARBUSTERS group June 6th. For more information please go to www.headgameswebcamp.com
For her FEAR: TAME THE BEAST video course, please go to www.headgamesU.com and put in the coupon code: FEARBUST50 for 50% off!
Doc Ali pioneered mental training in the sport of gymnastics and has worked with virtually every level athlete in most sports.
For the past 28 years, Doc Ali has guided Olympic medalists, NCAA champions, and thousands of athletes chasing their dream. She received her PhD in Clinical Psychology and certification in Neuroscience and Leadership from MIT. For 12 weeks she studied the mind with the masters in Nepal, spent four weeks in a Thai forest monastery, three weeks in the Amazon jungle in Peru, two weeks in silence integrating it all, and still made it back to teach it.
She has coached celebrities and corporations – the likes of American Express, Boeing, and GlaxoSmithKline. Doc Ali is relentless about helping people reach their potential and their individual and organizational peak performance.
Alison Arnold is a consistently invited contributor to regional and national congresses, symposiums, and publications around the world.