Parents Back handspring on beam mental block

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aerials4ever

Proud Parent
Gymnast
Hi,
My daughter has been struggling with her BhS on beam for about a year after a pretty major fall where she missed her hands and ended up in hospital getting her shin xrayed as she whacked it really hard on beam on the way down. It seems to have spread to other skills on beam aswell. She made a brief comeback with her BHS about a month ago and competed it at a showcase with a spot from coach which was a huge step for her but is back to where she started and scared to even do her front walkover on beam now. Seeking advice from other coaches and gym parents on how to tackle this? It’s been almost a year and she’s losing confidence in herself. We are looking into getting her a sports psychologist to help her with this but keen to hear others experiences and what helped and didn’t help.
 
I'm sure the coaches did the normal take all the skills back down to the floor and build back up. And/or use panel mats next to the beam.

As far as competition the coach can stand next to the beam, as long as they don't touch the gymnast there is not a deduction (as far as I understand). This helped my DD a lot who had a similar issue where her hands missed the beam and she got hurt falling.
 
Seeking advice from other coaches

While she will have to have a good environment and coaches. It is primarily going to be up to her. She is going to have to believe in herself and push through it.

What she is going through is very normal.

The first question I would ask is... "What are you actually truly scared of?"

If she doesn't know... or says she doesn't know... then there is probably not a good chance to get past it.

If she says... "I'm scared of falling and hurting myself"... then go into that further. How do you see yourself falling? Why do you believe that you will fall?

If you could have only 1 thing that would allow you to do this skill... what would it be? If she says... "I need more strength"... then there you go... fix that. If she says... "I need super powers to not feel pain"... well not a good outlook there... she believes that she is going to fall no matter what.

You can help her figure out what she needs to do... but no one will be able to do it for her. It's going to be on her.
 
My daughter did complete performance coaching for several months and it helped her and also me as a parent. It teaches parents what not to say to make blocks worse and the kids how to believe in themselves and face their fears.

My daughter took a couple of falls which caused mental blocks on all backwards skills and her fly away. I found that as soon as the season was over and the pressure to compete skills was gone she slowly got each of her skills back over the course of several months. She was blocking on skills for almost a year. She has been blocking on her flyaway for even longer. Our season just ended and the day after the season was over she went into the gym and did her flyaway. She is xcel so she didn’t even need to compete a flyaway but she must have been putting pressure on herself to do the skill.

I believe it really helped that I stopped asking her if she did certain skills at practice, particularly ones that we both knew she needed to compete. We talk about practice now but I never ask her if she did a certain skill. I let her tell me. It was a complete surprise to me when she did her flyaway because it had been so long since we had talked about it.

I think the pressure she was putting on herself and the pressure she felt from me was a bad combo for her.

I’m not saying you are putting pressure on your daughter. I’m just sharing my own experience with my daughter.
 
My DD had a mental block 2 weeks before state. They just had their last competition and she fell on Bars, Floor and Beam. The whole season, she struggled on beam as she has a back walk over + korbut for connection/flight. All her state qualifier competitions (3), she either fall on her backwalk-over or hang on the beam for her korbut. She was able to do a clean connection only once, and the other successful times, she was OT as she has to do her BWO again to complete her connection. After going through all of these the whole season, she went home crying the weekend before state. She was stressed and had mental block on the beam. Can't do her connection, she keeps on falling off the beam.

At first I do not know how to console her. All I can do was hug her. But she loves this sport so much and I told myself I have to say something. So I decided to tell her this: "When you do your beam, and you are stressed, you overthink. And when you overthink, you fall because you want each skill to be perfect. So how about trying to focus on an end goal, which is Sticking It on your dismount, and think about it while your doing your beam routine. You see, this whole time, you memorized the entire thing, your body knows your routine. When you think of the landing, your body will just flow with what it knows. And your brain will focus on sticking it, as opposed to perfecting every skill or being afraid to fall."

I think, this mindset worked with my DD. The whole week of training before states, she got rid of her mental block, connected her acro series/flight and made it to regionals. She was 2nd on beam, despite the fact that she gets low score most of the time during the season.

I am no gymnast, so I usually do not know how gymnastics works. But as a Mom, I cant bear to see my DD stressed, frustrated and scared. Each of them has their own set of mental gymnastics, but I hope as a parent, we can at least help them ease out on this mental fatigue. Lots of hugs, and if possible, listening to either what they say or their silence. Not sure if this helps, but hope your DD will get pass through this hurdle.
 
Thankyou so much for all the responses. A few things here, her coach is great, we love her and my DD loves her but unfortunately her club does not offer privates and already train less then other clubs comparatively for her level (level 7 - 16.5 hours) so it’s really difficult to work through blocks in the already limited time they have. We have found another club willing to take her for privates to try to help her work through it. I am keen to know more about this complete performance coaching mentioned by @Dad1234? We’ve also been looking at engaging a sports psych which sounds like may be similar to what you reference here?
 
@JBS she is scared of falling and hurting herself due to missing her hands on the beam. When she had the accident there were young rec kids 2 beams over and she says she overcorrected trying to lean to the other side of the beam if that makes sense in case she fell (so she could fall to the other side). She has learnt from that to not train difficult skills around younger kids that can suddenly dart close to where she is training. I think there is also an ‘expectation’ she has set for herself that she should be able to do that skill as a level 7 so there’s some internalised pressure there aswell. Possibly also some element of being embarrassed or feeling lesser at comps as she can’t compete that skill that others are doing.
 
I think a sports psych is a great idea. Not only will they be able to give her tools for working through mental blocks but also she will have someone in her court who is neither parent or coach (two groups who she is trying to please, even if if it’s subconscious). My DD worked through blocks her entire time in the sport. I didn’t spring the $$ for the sport psych until she was an upper level optional. I wish I had engaged one much earlier in her career as it was that helpful.
 
she is scared of falling and hurting herself due to missing her hands on the beam

In my experience... this is typically not as much of a mental issue as other issues. If she is scared that she is going to miss her hands... then she is most likely not seeing the beam very well... or at all... or for long enough. Athletes learning a back handspring on beam many times are either just not ready for the skill yet... or really don't understand the skill at all.

Here are a few things to consider (and people disagree with me all the time... so there is that)...
  • A BHS on the floor is nothing like a back handspring on beam unless the athlete has been trained to operate the BHS like one done on beam. A BHS on beam is higher... the hands absorb or "catch" the beam as the BHS comes over the top. Many times the athletes just do what they do on floor and then get up and try it on beam... this is wrong. The BHS should be trained on the floor... but it must be transformed into a beam style BHS.
  • The eyes should look exactly where you are going to catch the beam and then to the next place (down the beam or where your foot is landing). In other words... I don't like it when athletes look down the length of the beam... I like them to look exactly where they will catch. Here is Simone...
See how her head is in a position to see where her hands catch and then easily move down the beam...

simone-beam.jpg



  • Eyes / head position (con't) - Sure... you can find athletes that do it the other way... but I don't like it. They are basically hitting the beam blind... it's scary. Jump high enough to get the head and eyes in position to see directly below you where your hands will grab the beam.
  • Another way of explaining some of this is that hands need to come under the body like the picture of Simone above. If the athlete is not jumping high enough... or has flexibility issues... the hands won't be able to contact right under the body where the eyes are looking (they will be out by the 2nd... 3rd... or 4th arrows in the pic).
  • Here is a test. Just pick up any athlete and turn them upside down over a floor beam. Hold them 2 feet above it (so they cannot touch it)... slowly lower them down to the beam. What will happen? You guessed it... every single one of them will easily grab the beam and step down onto it. Find this ease in the BHS and the fear will hopefully disappear.
 
One drill that many athletes do to make their BHS higher on beam is a BHS up to a panel mat (feet on ground... hands land on mat). This is a good drill in theory... however... many forget the other 1/2 of it.

If you can make it up to the mat... then your BHS should be higher... right? Many times when the mat goes away... the gymnast puts it right back down to the floor. In other words... they only understand the new movement when the mat is there.

Or even worse... their BHS never actually got any higher... they are just crunching into the mat to make it up.

This is where the athlete must not just do drill... they must understand what it is trying to create... which is the following...

Here is a test. Just pick up any athlete and turn them upside down over a floor beam. Hold them 2 feet above it (so they cannot touch it)... slowly lower them down to the beam. What will happen? You guessed it... every single one of them will easily grab the beam and step down onto it. Find this ease in the BHS and the fear will hopefully disappear.
 
In my experience... this is typically not as much of a mental issue as other issues.

@aerials4ever When I said this... I basically meant that it sounds like there is a very correctible issue... which is good. As opposed to... "I just won't go... I don't know why".

Best of luck to your daughter!
 
I spotted this page the other day and thought some of the concepts (skimming) were great. This one is an example that may help



Ties in with what @JBS about the need to see where you are landing your hands.
 
There are a ton of drills and tricks to help solve nervousness going backwards and on the beam. JBS has covered it well! Sometimes we have to break it all the way back down to the very basics. Pretty handy that the mat tape we have on hand at the gym is about 4" wide. A strip of that on the floor or mat makes a good hand target. The shape of a beam BHS is different-higher, but slower than a BHS on the floor. Biggest thing is to build confidence that she can see the beam and place her hands. Also, there are a couple of different ways that kids prefer placing their hands on the beam (as long as the coach is ok with either.) You could have her do tick-tocks, really emphasizing watching her hands. Then, we progress to the tick-tock forward onto a couple of panels or a block, then back onto the tape to simulate the shape moving backwards back onto the beam. Similar to the vault stretch above, have her lay on a bigger spotting block (have someone hold her legs) and have her do a back bend down to put her hands on the tape and kick over. We have a "Boulder" block handspring trainer that we bring out too. We also have a "tootsie roll" padded floor beam that provides a raised beam-shaped target for hands and feet. All of the drills can be done with that also. Once they are comfortable on the Tootsie Roll, we bring out the floor beam. And obviously spotting BHS on all of these-with special emphasis on the hand placement. If you have a spotter physically capable of it: slowing them down through the motion of the BHS can help them feel the proper shape (higher, more arched, and slower than on the floor) as well.
 
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