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Feb 26, 2007
A long time member of the board asked me to post this anonymously.

"My daughter is a level 8 gymnast just starting the 6th grade. She's having a twisting block on floor and it's causing a lot of frustration. As early as a year ago, she was comfortably landing 3/2. Then she lost it....followed by losing her full, and now even her half is sporadic. In addition, she's been working three different coaches over the past year, all of whom take a different approach to handling her fears. Sometimes they give her space, sometimes they encourage, sometimes they get angry, sometimes they send her off the floor or out of the gym. Her regular coach is leaving for vacation tomorrow and has told all coaches that my daughter is to do no twisting until she returns.

Her coach and team spent the summer working through Doc Alli's Athlete Warrior as part of their training. My daughter finds it somewhat hard to follow along and feels self conscious that she doesn't know several of the words used during the exercises. Since her teammates are all older/high school students, she feels left behind. She doesn't want to ask over and over what all of these words mean and as a result, she hasn't really bought in to the program. Predictably, she hasn't had any success overcoming this block.

Her coach has asked me to consider doing some mental training with her at home so that she won't feel stupid or like she can't keep up. When I asked my daughter, she was agreeable to working at home but insistent that we not use the material she is using at the gym.

I guess I'm looking for some input from various sources as far as the best way to accomplish this while not interfering with her coach's authority. And also, is there a better program that the Athlete Warrior? I was looking specifically at the Head Games workbook but wasn't sure if it was written on a level she could understand better. Or should I just plan on going slow and having to define a lot of the words?

I want to respect the relationship my gymnast has with her coach as well as honor the coach's request. Obviously I want to do the best thing that will help my daughter but worry about meddling in the wrong way. So I'm looking for any advice as far as approach and materials. Thank you in advance."
Question: how was the "mental training" program handled at the gym? Did they work with a counselor or was this program delivered by the coaching staff?
I wish the coaches would take the pressure off. My experience has been that some kids who pick up twisting easily do lose it and have to go back several steps, but the skills do come back. Has the parent expressed to the coach that she/he isn't all that concerned?
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Glad to hear she is getting a break from the pressure while her coach is on vacation. Her coaches really should know how to deal with this in an age appropriate manner. From everything I have read here, these types of blocks are not uncommon, and should never be met with anger by the adults in this 11 year olds life. She needs consistent, patient coaching until she gets through this. She should never be sent off the floor or out of the gym, unless she needs to collect herself after an outburst of emotion. That is the only reason a gymnast is asked to leave the floor for awhile at our gym until they can collect themselves.I am sure this feels like a punishment to her and that she is disappointing the adults in her life. I would do whatever it took to take the pressure off.
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Head Games seems like it would be a good one to use. I would suggest that she use pre-reading strategies with any program you choose. That means to preview the section. Look at headings, and skim for words she may not know. She should write down the words she doesn't know and look them up and write the definitions before actually reading the section.
There are also a couple articles available on taming the fear beast... but you mayhave to help her with "drinking the kool-aid" because if she doesn't buy into it, it won't help.
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If she's going to continue to be exposed to the training from Athlete Warrior, it might not be a bad idea to go back through it so she understands everything. I have no doubt that, if the entire team went through it, the concepts will be raised again.

As a side note, I have a 6th grader as well. I've been amazed at how much she has grown in the past year and a half. Growth may be part of the issue your DD is battling and the reason she is struggling with skills she's previously had.
One of my daughters went through a similar block on a skill/connection that she had previously competed successfully for an entire season, at the exact same age/level, but on a different event. She was in the midst of a growth spurt, which we didn't know at the time.

Her coaches completely backed off of the connection (guilt free) and allowed her to compete a different one that worked for her, while allowing her to continue to work on the problematic one during training.

She came back to that troublesome connection 6 months later...with absolutely no problem.

As parents, we never made an issue of it, and neither did her coaches. Sometimes it just takes time and patience! Good luck to her!
My DD developed an issue with twisting. She could only do a full, not a half anymore and then she was twisting everything, even back tucks. She didn't know how to stop. It made her afraid to do a layout. The solution was they took the full out of her routine and didn't touch twisting for 6 months. When she started again she had no issues. She now can do up to 2.5's no confusion. She twists on vault, she competed a full twisting double back bar dismount. She twists front tumbling. All of that in a year. No issues going forward at all after a break and starting over. Best thing she ever did. She was 8 when the issue developed so younger than yours, but I think she just wasn't ready.

So perhaps the best solution at this point is to leave it alone. If she's a level 8 she doesn't need to twist. Come back to it after the level 8 season and start over.
Agree with Wallflower -- she probably wasn't ready to twist when she was first taught (even though she could do it for a time) and also possible that the coaches progressed her too quickly. Now they don't seem to know what to do or how to be kind to her and support her. Stop for a time and begin again -- slowly.
There are also some Doc Ali books that are for younger girls, the poster could look into those as well. I know that the poster's daughter has not "bought into" the Doc Ali books - but they have really helped my DD.

I think that if the poster goes through them with her DD, and just helps her with the words, definitions, explains them to her - they could really help...

Guided imagery is also a technique that can be very helpful - learning to visualize herself doing the routines/skills - "mental run- throughs" .
Personally growth has been a big one for my dd with twisting, she was easily doing 1 1/2, and then lost them and fulls when she grew about an inch earlier this year. She has worked back up to them, starting with getting the layout "perfected" again, then the 1/2, then the full etc. She is now working on doubles. Best thing is to take the skill all the way back to the beginning.
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There are some other good books too that can be helpful for this kind of thing-The Champion's Mind by Jim Afremow was a good read that I am incorporating at home for my girls. Good luck!
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