An Internal Impasse

Fear can block us from many activities, even ones we can do in our sleep.


Fear can block us from many activities, even ones we can do in our sleep.

Kalyn McLeod, Managing Editor

Mental blocks are a huge challenge for all athletes, and they are certainly difficult to overcome. But first, what is a mental block? Amy Rew with Believe Perform explains that “a mental block can be described as a psychological obstacle that prevents athletes from performing a particular skill.”  But, most of the time, the skill isn’t impossible at all.

I am a competitive gymnast, so it is no surprise that I have had several personal encounters with mental blocks. Mental blocks are fairly common in gymnastics, because the main goal is to perfect our technique. So, when a gymnast falls, hits their head, or just messes up, it can cause a huge mental block and leave them wondering what they’re really capable of. 

I currently have a mental block with my back tuck off beam (a backflip in a tuck position, off the end of the beam). I had done this skill over and over again, without any problems. But, when I was with my friend (who was also a gymnast), I did the skill, and was about four inches away from hitting my head off a diving board. In gymnastics, this is a fairly large space, so I should not have been worried. But, I have not been able to do the skill since.

I am in search of tips to get over this and to regain my confidence. So, I have asked my coach, who has had mental blocks and has gotten over them, to give some tips and tricks. 

The Horizon Sun: Did you have a particular skill that you had a mental block on?

Coach Christa: When I was a gymnast, I was deathly afraid to do back handsprings on beam. 

The Sun: Was there was a certain event or moment that caused your mental block?

Coach Christa: Yes. I had a teammate who did a back handspring and placed her hands in a wrong position, so the second she put her hands on the beam she slipped and basically “ate the beam,” and broke her nose. And ever since then, that is what instilled the fear in me.

The Sun: Were you ever able to get over the mental block? If so, do you have any tips or tricks?

Coach Christa: I didn’t ever fully get over it, but I know my coach helped me get over it. When you become a level seven gymnast you have to complete a flight skill, which was either [a] round-off, or back handspring. But, I stuck with the back handspring and had private lessons with my coach every other week. We made a deal that, at meets, she would put her hand there [behind my back], but when I would go for the handspring, she would pull her hand away. So, that is how I would go for it at meets, which helped me gain my confidence, and somewhat get over my fear. But, that’s why I love helping kids with mental blocks. Everyone has something that works for them, so you just find what works and will help you.

Mental blocks are definitely a challenge to get over. But, it is the most rewarding thing when you can actually achieve that skill that has been bothering you. Everyone has a different way of overcoming a block, so make time to meet with your coach and create a plan to help get over your block. And remember, it’s all mental.