"The fear of facing fears is harder to overcome than the fear itself." - Anonymous
Previously we have discussed the power of "Yet" and how language can effect our actions. This time, I would like to discuss how our thoughts can effect our actions in the Gym.
Recently I found myself being encouraged to discuss this topic to a wider audience, and I couldn't agree more with how beneficial it could be. Yet it is such a vast topic, where would I possibly start? In that question I had found my answer. Uncertainty.
The words "I can't" are heard all too often in the gym, but they do not mean what you think. The words "I can't" are being spoken from a place of uncertainty, fear and anxiety. The words represent the self doubt we face when we are confronted with something new.
To dive into the unknown when there is a risk is a daunting task, no matter the age of the individual. The added threat of injury at any given attempt only makes it all the more challenging.
So how can we approach something that we cannot touch or see?
I believe understanding and acceptance are where a gymnast will make their largest strides to success. Fear is natural, and has been evident in nature for hundreds of thousands of years. There is no getting rid of fear. It is here to stay!
However, Fear is not bad. In fact it is incredibly useful. It will keep a gymnast concentrating on their technique. It will aid a coach in making sure a gymnast is ready for a skill before they attempt it. It will encourage precaution and sensibility in the most outgoing of gymnasts.
Forcing a gymnast through a skill might seem like the appropriate thing to do, either as a parent or as a coach. We might see it as a simple task, and we can see they are capable. Which in turn might get some of us a little frustrated, which means we can rush things. This can lead to "mental blocks" or "skill blocks". There is a big difference between encouragement and pressuring.
If you force a gymnast to attempt a skill there is a very strong chance they are going to bail. They are not going to commit to the skill, they are going to get half way through and then they are going to panic, and do anything they can to get out of the skill. The problem is, we aren't quite as effective as cats... so when a gymnast is high in the air and decides they don't like it, they aren't able to twist their bodies and land back casually on their feet. They are almost certainly going to land on the heaviest and most vital part of their bodies. Yep, you guessed it. Their heads.
This will only prove to the gymnast that their fears where in fact correct, the worst could possibly happen and they will get hurt.
It is important to remember that a child or teenager is not as skilled at identifying emotional challenges like adults are. They need guidance until they can find themselves at a resolution.
Here are some ways we can handle fear:
1. Identifying the source of the fear. For this you will need to communicate, unless you are in fact a mind-reader and in which case may i strongly suggest a career change! Is your gymnast afraid of the fall? The height? Have they previously attempted this skill and it didn't go to plan? Are they not strong enough yet? Are they worried about looking silly?
2. Game, set and match! You need to approach it in small portions. If they are afraid of being on a high bar, change the bar or raise the crash mats so it doesn't seem as high. If they are afraid of looking silly in front of their class mates, offer private lessons until they feel more confident.
3.Mental Strength & Focus. They are always numerous aspects to a skill, and you are expected to execute all of them... at the same time.. but don't over think it... and don't forget to set up the skill properly... oh and definitely don't forget to present at the end. That's a lot to take in right? Helping your gymnast focus on one thing at a time will allow them to truly be present, and focused. This also goes for life outside of the gym. They might have maths' homework, an art project due, a family dinner and an exam coming up they need to study for!
Help them to breathe, pick one to focus on for now, and feel confident in their capabilities.
4. Remind them how brave they are for even trying! Even basic gymnastics skills are not simple, and attempting them in the first place requires bravery & gumption.
There is a lot that go wrong due to fear, but also a lot that can go right!
Do not give up! It may take you longer than you expected but you can and you will get there if you keep fighting for it.
Who do you think should read this blog post? Tag them and let's start the conversation about "I can't".
Signing off for now,