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«Texas Dreams Mental Block Manual Table of Contents 2 Table of Contents Table of Contents Introduction to Texas Dreams Mental Block Manual Chapter 1: ...»

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Texas Dreams Mental Block Manual

Table of Contents 2

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction to Texas Dreams Mental Block Manual

Chapter 1: Introduction to Mental Blocks

Introduction to Mental Blocks

Identifying the Issue

Common Triggers

Chapter 2: Understanding Mental Blocks

Understanding Mental Blocks

From the Child’s Perspective

From the Coach’s Perspective

Chapter 3: Possible Treatments

Possible Treatments


Confrontation with Gymnast and Parent/Guardian

Back to Basics

Drills, Drills, and More Drills

Coming Out on Top

Introduction to Texas Dreams Mental Block Manual 3 Introduction to Texas Dreams Mental Block Manual Texas Dreams Gymnastics is a perfect gateway venue to pursue and achieve a child’s gymnastic dreams. Since we opened our doors in 2001, through change and achievement, we have become one of our country’s most recognized gymnasiums for the upbringing of talented, beautiful gymnasts in the world. It is our goal to have the child’s best interest at heart and through hard work, sweat, and perseverance – we as a team can achieve anything.

Gymnastics is a mental sport. In order to succeed as a career gymnast, the child is put to the test – mentally and physically. We as coaches need to obtain the knowledge and training that is required of us to keep the gymnasts safe and healthy. Besides the blood, sweat and tears, gymnasts must also have the mental power to overcome fear and stress. In exception to our former gymnast coaches that we are so lucky to have working with us, have you ever considered bending over backwards with no anticipation of when you will touch the floor behind you? What about completing a similar skill on a four-foot high, four-inch balance beam or an eight-foot high-bar, or two simple rings suspended in the air up to eight feet high? With all this being said, you can understand the fear that these young gymnasts feel for these high-level skills.

Image 1: Aly Raisman – Double Arabian Beam Dismount

In the past few years, we have seen the increase in mental blocks amongst our athletes. Through trial and error, one-on-one and extensive pep talks and stress, the quitting of these exhausted gymnasts have become too prominent.

As a solution, the knowledge and understanding of mental blocks and treatments for these blocks needs to be updated.

Introduction to Texas Dreams Mental Block Manual 4 This manual will provide you with background information, causes, and solutions for these problematic issues that our athletes are experiencing.

Research and several experiments have been included in the creation of this manual.

Image 2: Texas Dreams Elite Team As a world-known company of the founder of several nationally-recognized gymnasts we wish to keep our gymnasium growing and succeeding by the extra help from this manual: Texas Dreams Mental Block Manual.

Chapter 1: Introduction to Mental Blocks Chapter 1: Introduction to Mental Blocks 6 Introduction to Mental Blocks Mental blocks, also called “baulks” can emerge in all sports – not just gymnastics. However, since gymnastics is our specialty, we will look at these mental issues from a gymnastics point of view. In gymnastics, mental baulks can emerge in single skills such as a kip on uneven bars or a back handspring on the balance beam.

Identifying the Issue In most mental baulk situations, the gymnast will attempt the skill, and before completing it, will stop suddenly, halting the gymnast before the skill is performed. This is usually followed by an extreme wave of various emotions whether it’s tears, anger, or the ‘deer-in-headlights’ look. In some cases, especially in high-level gymnastics which requires extreme skills that most of us would not dream of even attempting, ‘baulking’ before a skill raises the danger risk dramatically. Several gymnastics cases of mental blocks have resulted in severe injury and the end of their gymnastics career. Texas Dreams’ Mental Block Manual will improve our chances of preventing these issues, which in turn will prevent injury emotionally and physically to the child.

[Insert self-taken image of gymnast under pressure and distress “deer-inheadlights” pose] Common Triggers Mental blocks have not proven to have any substantial evidence of a medicinal illness that causes them. Since no studies have shown what the specific causes of the baulks are, in gymnastics, we have found that they can be triggered by numerous situations. The gymnast may have suffered a previous injury from the skill causing fear of re-injury, or the gymnast may have no explanation at all for the cause of the random fear. In these unknown cases, we must handle them with care to prevent emotionally damaging the child and their confidence.

(Of course confidence is a major key to gymnastics.) Of course, these are only a fraction of the countless causes of these mental blocks. It’s essential to be open-minded when it comes down to several different cases and types of mental issues in specific gymnasts. Every gymnast is different, whether it’s their style of attitude, their mental capabilities, and even their emotional attachment to gymnastics. As the caretakers and major motivators in these child's lives, we must also adjust our thoughts and understandings about the complex infrastructure of these mental issues.

Chapter 1: Introduction to Mental Blocks 7 Chapter 2: Understanding Mental Blocks Chapter 2: Understanding Mental Blocks 9 Understanding Mental Blocks As a professional child gymnast with an age ranging from six to sixteen, mental blocks can affect each individual differently. Some may show signs of fear, sadness in the form of tears, or they may have a sense of helplessness and cease to put forward any extensive efforts due to the feeling of ‘not being good enough’. Before the treatment process begins, we have to take the time to assess each child’s reactions and mindsets separately from any other individual’s.

From the Child’s Perspective From the child’s perspective, mental blocks can create a sense of intense fear, which can risk the spread of these issues to other skills. These skill baulks are known to spread like wildfire – from skill to skill and eventually reaching the point where children are not able to complete a single skill anywhere in the gym. Children who suffer from this may, in result, have a low self-esteem, depression, anger, or an overbearing fear of just about everything. Imagine – if you suddenly were frightened by a simple task as driving a car with no apparent reason of how this came-about. The natural reaction to this situation would be frustration, of not having the ability to get from place to place.

Imagine if you wanted nothing more than to go to the grocery store, but were not able to because of an unexplainable fear and inability to force you to get in the car and drive. These feelings are very similar to the feelings a young gymnast, having done the same skill numerous times before, and having it ripped from your abilities. These affected gymnasts are emotionally fragile and we must handle them with care and understanding.

From the Coach’s Perspective From the coach’s perspective, of course this could be extremely frustrating.

Having taught the child the certain skill for months on end, running them over and over again until it was perfect may seem like it was all-for-nothing.

However, this is not the case. Every single child gymnast is a human being – not just a machine (even though they appear as one at times!). Despite our personal feelings on the situation, we must understand that the efforts and actions that we put into these gymnasts with mental issues affect them now more than ever. Most gymnasts, especially of younger ages, will cling to the coach for support and help. If the coach responds with anger and forcefulness, this could push the gymnast closer to quitting more swiftly. As we will cover in the ‘Treatments’ section of this manual, we must handle the baulks with care and patience. We must take the time to analyze the child’s emotional stance on Chapter 2: Understanding Mental Blocks 10 the issue, break down the skill to its most basic parts, and in simple terms – start from square one. In the next sections we will go into detail on how to perform these tasks and hopefully overcome the fear that is dwelling and taking over the young gymnast.

–  –  –

Possible Treatments Brainstorm Reminder: Keep the child’s best interest at heart – never give up.

After the coach has identified the issue as a mental block and has analyzed the child’s emotions and attachment to gymnastics, it is now time to brainstorm on the solution proposal. As coaches, we have all been required to teach skills from their most basic level. With the skill on topic, take the time to break the skill down into its minor parts. Bring the physics back into the skill. With gymnastics, it’s all about timing and body positions and how this all works along with the power of gravity. Keep in mind that most likely, the gymnast being handled is still in the process of biologically growing - the slight incorrect movements may throw off their center of gravity, so steer-clear of throwing them into the skill without any basic instructions. While brainstorming on the processes and techniques for the plan-of-action, make the plan as simple and easy to understand as possible. This will prevent the child from becoming overwhelmed and mentally exhausted. To aid in the simplicity of the plan, try writing down the steps in words that the gymnast of the correct age could understand. This will also help you to plan your thoughts clearly. Read books, ask other coaches, obtain any further knowledge on the physics of gymnastics and apply these rules to the skill you are assessing. At the end of your brainstorming process, you should have a clearly written-out set of techniques and drills that the gymnast is to complete each day on that specific skill. The written plan should include the basic body shape assignments, and then move forward to specific set-up drill assignments, then moving forwards to the completion and repetition of the entire skill put together. This written plan should serve as a great go-to for the gymnast if he/she needs to back track later on.

–  –  –

Note: If a coach creates and completes a full written plan for a specific skill, it is important to make copies and save these for future references for other gymnasts and/or coaches in the future.

Confrontation with Gymnast and Parent/Guardian In most cases, especially young gymnasts who thrive for their coach’s approval and love will be embarrassed or fearful of explaining their issue to their coach or family members. As competitive athletes, gymnasts are brought up to be tough, fearless, strong, and hard working. If either of these things is compromised, they may feel as if they are not good enough or lack the talent to be a high-level gymnast. In turn, these mixed feelings result in the gymnast keeping their issues to themselves for them to dwell on the issues instead of asking someone for help. In these cases, we must address and confront the gymnast with care and compassion.

However, before you confront the child, it is necessary to address the parents/guardians first. This way, if the child becomes upset or angry when confronted, the family will have a warning of what is to come and will be able to handle the situation fully prepared. When confronting the parents/guardians, be sure to make it clear that you are in the process of creating a solution-plan for the child and that you have their best interest at heart – to overcome the skill and continue on in their progression to becoming the gymnast they wish to be. Also confront the parents/guardians with evidence that the child is having these problems. (If needed, show the ‘Identifying the Issue’ section to the parents and have them watch their child at practice.) This will give them the sense of security that you are capable of identifying and analyzing the child’s situation and know how to deal with it. Finish confronting the parent with the eagerness and positive attitude towards the mental block. “Gymnasts experience and recover from mental blocks all the time”, or “He/she is a strong boy/girl and are able to accomplish anything they set their mind to.” This will leave the parents/guardians with the sense of ease that you have the mental issue under control.

With the child, it is vital to approach him/her with caution and care in your tone of voice. Start by asking them their views on gymnastics. If the child seems unattached to gymnastics, proceed to ask questions to try and understand where the disconnection originated. It could be a variety of things such as family issues, age (the older the child gets, the more distant they become), or the answer we were looking for – fear. If the answer is fear, ask the child specifically what they are scared of, which should have the specific skill as the answer. Talk to the child about where the fear may have come from. (If Chapter 3: Possible Treatments 14 the child’s fear originated from an injury or fall, analyze what part of the skill the fall or injury came from and build your drills around this specific piece to give the gymnast a sense of comfort and confidence.) If the child responds with anger and denial, ease-off and let the child be to his/her own thoughts about the matter (now knowing that the coach is aware of the situation). If the child responds with thankfulness and eagerness to fix the problem, then bring the written plan-of-action to them and let the child read over it. If he/she has any questions about it, answer them in full detail. Be sure to voice the fact that you are here to help and want them to succeed – which is why the plan-of-action will help their baulk if they are willing to work at it.

[Insert self-taken image of gymnast, gymnast parent, and coach (myself) in discussion] Back to Basics Break the skill down into the various body positions needed to perform the complete skill. To simplify this even more, for example, hollow-hold and straight-line body positions are essential for almost all gymnastics skills. For skills involving these body positions, make a plan to assign the gymnast with 50-100 hollow-body holds and countless minutes of holding a tight-body shape. This could start the gymnast off with a good understanding of how the body should look within this skill.

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