For Coaches Gymnast’s Mental Block Cycle

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Srose

Coach
Gymnast
Fan
Nov 4, 2020
34
27
Hi friends,

I’m in a bit of a pickle. It’s kind of a two parter. I have a lovely strong and flexible athlete who has some mental blocks. She knows how to do a roundoff back handspring and has been able to do it for a while. But, she’s always had fear. Every day we go through a ‘cycle’ of her being scared to do it on the floor alone, she warms it up on tumbltrack with a spot, she does a few there, and then on floor she does it with a spot, then she can do it sometimes.

We’ve done tons of drills for the roundoff and connecting the back handspring. She’ll do them all and then panic on the floor. When I spot her, she’ll do it. Then she realizes it’s okay and then she’ll do it alone several times. But that only lasts a day.

She and I are both tired of this cycle and I want her to just be able to do the skill without the fear. I’ve tried giving her pep talks and extra drill time and teaching her the mechanics of back handspring. And she’ll do all of that and then get scared all over again each day. I’ve worked through many mental blocks but none that have done this daily cycle.

Two, she has trouble being spotted by coaches who aren’t me. She is very attached to me and though I adore her, I need her to be able to work with other coaches. At one point, she’d even be rude to coaches who weren’t me, so I had to talk to her about kindness and respect. Because of her fear and apprehension (the respect issue has improved immensely), she makes little progress on the days I don’t teach.

So tldr: #1 athlete has a cycle of a mental block that repeats each day and #2 she has trouble trusting other coaches to the point where she makes less progress on days where she’s without me

Thanks
 

Aussie_coach

Staff member
Gold Membership
Coach
Proud Parent
Gymnast
Club Owner / Manager
Jan 4, 2008
4,017
I think you need to wean her off spotting.

The brain is an amazing tool and it’s always working to create shortcuts to improve it’s function. So it creates new neural pathways all the time when two things are closely associated with each other.

If you spot her every time she goes to floor, her brain creates a connection between your spot and her being able to do the skill. So every time she hits the floor, her brain tells her that she need your spot to do the skill.

Every time you spot her your are reinforcing this need, not helping her to get past it.

To get her past this, you will need to retract the skill from scratch using a different method.

I like to build it up. Standing BHS first, then cartwheel BHS, step round off, then hurdle etc.
 
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cmg

Proud Parent
Jul 2, 2018
157
63
So, my daughter had this same issue. Not sure she ever really got over it as she is a really good front tumbler. I suggest you just let her do the skill un-connected without spot. She will get a big deduction, but she will do it on her own. She will then not like her score and either fix it on her own or accept the lower score. If you continue to drill her over and over with spot, she will continue to depend on you. Give her space and time to figure things out. At first, she might be really unhappy etc. My daughter is training level 10, does mostly front tumbling and the gym just accepted her limitations. Some gyms would not. Continue working the drills etc. but you can't spend all your time with one athlete. And if you do privates with her don't spend the entire time working on the anxiety driven skill, maybe ten minutes at the end with spot and hopefully one without spot.
 
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Srose

Coach
Gymnast
Fan
Nov 4, 2020
34
27
I think you need to wean her off spotting.

The brain is an amazing tool and it’s always working to create shortcuts to improve it’s function. So it creates new neural pathways all the time when two things are closely associated with each other.

If you spot her every time she goes to floor, her brain creates a connection between your spot and her being able to do the skill. So every time she hits the floor, her brain tells her that she need your spot to do the skill.

Every time you spot her your are reinforcing this need, not helping her to get past it.

To get her past this, you will need to retract the skill from scratch using a different method.

I like to build it up. Standing BHS first, then cartwheel BHS, step round off, then hurdle etc.
Thanks! You’re totally right about the reinforcement. I really don’t want to reinforce it, but then I find myself frustrated that she won’t make progress. It’s even more frustrating that she will ‘solve’ the problem and then start all over. I’ll take your tips into account, thanks!!!!!
 

GymAir

Coach
Proud Parent
Gymnast
Aug 28, 2018
95
I wish I had the answer for you, but a couple of things stand out to me. One, the warm up process for her is pretty long. She needs a spot to warm it up on the tumble track. I would hope that she could at least start off doing it by herself over there if she’s supposed to be doing it by herself on the floor. Does she have a strong standing bhs by herself on the floor? I would try to take her back to any warmups or skills she can do by herself, whether it’s doing a bhs by herself into the pit or some other drill. When you spot her, are you spotting or just standing there?

I would also say the more she’s spotted by other coaches, the better off she’ll be. She is now in a situation where she thinks she can only do it if a specific set of circumstances are met: specific warm up specific coach, etc. You need to show her that she can still do it even if the specifics change.
 

Pineapple_Lump

Coach
Judge
Jan 31, 2008
1,186
Some ideas... I usually take the speed (and excess power) out of all tumbling during the learning process.
I usually teach connected back handsprings (in a modified location) before teaching the back handspring from round off connection.
I make a small hill with crash mats and they will standing back handspring down the hill and then on the flat crash mat for the second. The crash mats are firm enough to jump from, but soft enough to prevent strains from any short landings.
Connected back handsprings on the tumble track (using mats for first timers).
The first round off connected back handsprings are from a step round-off with a thin tumble mat on the floor. I will usually use a cartwheel step in BHS for my nervous athletes so they still feel like they are progressing with the group.
I also like having them round off to land feet on a crash mat (often in the pit) and connect BHS, so they are having to work the round-off but still have forgiving landing surface.
Another drill is jump hurdle round off from a mini tramp and tumbling on crash mats.

I generally don't need to spot much at each progression, because the previous step has left them feeling confident and ready to attempt safely after a few turns. I also don't spot kids on the floor if they are needing spots for earlier progressions.
They usually want to try on their own, loose the mats, and add the hurdle /run - they have to earn those things.
 
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