When Your Coach Won’t Help You | Q&A with Coach Rebecca

Today’s Topics:

  • What to do when your coach won’t help you with your mental block

  • Routines vs. Superstition


About me

I am your, host Rebecca Smith.  I am a High Performance Coach specializing in work with athletes age 8-18 on the mind-

body connection.  Basically, I coach kids on overcoming blocks, building confidence and unlocking their maximum sport potential.  I do this in a couple of ways:

  1. Through a one on one coaching over Skype and FaceTime.
  2. I also have an online community called the PerformHappy Community, where athletes come together to build mental toughness and reach their goals.

A lot of them overcome fear, a lot of them are building confidence.  I have world champion athletes in there and Olympic hopefuls and you are invited to join us.  Part of what I do is take questions from the PerformHappy Community members and then I bring them to you, the Facebook universe, and give you my answer.  This week I’ve got three questions on deck already, but if anyone live has got questions feel free to shoot them my way and I will my do my best to answer them in the time that we have.


First question, actually the first two questions are basically the same but one is the parent perspective and one is directly from the kids, so I’ll read them both and then I will give you my answers on them.

This first question comes from a member of the PerformHappy Community.  She’s already been working in the PerformHappy Community on the fear trainings and she just reached out to me today saying,

Q: “My daughter recently started doing her back hand springs again after not doing them for a full year.  She’s been listening to the fear videos and trying to apply those techniques along with us

ng the desensitization techniques while practicing the skill.   Now she’s working on trying to reconnect her skills like back walkover, back handspring, roundoff back handspring, standing two and three back handsprings, etc.  The problem she is now working on is not only overcoming her block with connecting the skills, but with her coach not understanding that although she technically doesn’t ne
ed a spot, it makes her feel more comfortable until she can do it on her own again without pausing between skills.  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.”


This is a really common thing.  Coaches think, “No, you’re fine.  You’re doing a great standing back handspring, just connect it, no big deal.”

But it’s not that easy.

Here’s the other question:

Q: “When I ask my coach to stand there on an easy skill I lost because I was afraid, he tells me, “No.”  I can’t go if he’s not standing there.  What do I do if I can only do a skill if I have a spot?”  


In the PerformHappy Community I have a whole training series, six sessions on fear.  It’s exactly what I do with athletes one and one, who work with me over Skype.  I go through a very systematic process.  And one issue that always comes up is, “what if my coach won’t cooperate?”

Step 1: Communicate

If your coach won’t cooperate, it’s not the end of the world.  I’m going to give you a little case study on a girl who I am going to call Madison. (That is not actually her name, I would never break the confidentiality of a client on Facebook universe, so we will call her Madison.)

She was a high-level gymnast who had various mental blocks on all the events.  And her coach wouldn’t help her.  Her coach basically had lost all hope in her, wouldn’t even look at her.  He was downright mean to her.

I talked to her and I said, “Okay, what are the common goals?  What does he want and what do you want?  What do you both want?”

She answered, “We both want to get my skills back.”  “We both want me to get out of that hole and not be afraid.”

Okay great.  That’s what we have to focus on – the common goals.

Next we came up with a plan:  Madison had to feel like she knew exactly what she had to do.  Some of it involved mats and spots.  First she presented the plan to her coach.  If her coach wouldn’t spot her, we figured out how to get creative.

That’s what I recommend is first you communicate. Communication and confidence are key in these situations.


Develop a plan, and share it

Go to the coach. “Hey coach, here’s my plan, here’s what I need:

  • I can do it for a week at this level
  • Next week I’ll do it at this level
  • Next week I won’t need a mat
  • Can I get a spot until I build up confidence?

Important:  I’s not about needing the spot physically.

Most of the kids I work with don’t actually need a spot but their brain does.  Because if your brain senses the possibility of an accident, or the unknown, or pain, then your brain is going to tell your body not to go.

Even if you don’t need a spot, your brain needs one and it’s temporary.  

If you can tell your coach, “Hey coach, I am planning on only needing your help for about a week or so…”  Or maybe it’s a couple of weeks, three weeks.. but you say, “Here’s my plan:  By May 31st I’ will no longer need a spot.  Can I get some spots for the next two weeks?”  Chances are the coach is going to say, “Okay, let’s try it.”

They’re frustrated.  You’re not doing what they want you to do.  At least a plan is something. Let’s say that they won’t. Then maybe you can take a private lesson from a different coach who has a different philosophy.

When I was a coach our whole gym had this policy of “no spots on beam.”  I stuck with the policy for a long time.  I thought, “Okay, that’s the policy, I can’t spot you guys.” Then, I went on a meditation retreat and talked to a guy who specialized in overcoming fear in other arenas and I said, “I deal with all these girls on beam who are afraid.”

He recommended I have them take baby steps and asked me what that might look like.  I realized that it might involve spotting.


When there’s a will, there’s a way

I went in the next week and I was like, “you know what, I’m gonna break the rules and I’m going to spot this kid.”

This girl who had been stuck on a skill on the low beam for — I don’t know, at least a year… I spotted her through it, then I spotted her through it again.  Next thing you know she’s moving up the beams.  If you can communicate that to your coach, great.

I actually have another talk I did on mental blocks, just for coaches that you you guys can check out here.  You share it with your coach if you think they would be open to it.

If that doesn’t help?  Let’s say your coach is a total jerk, not going to help.  Get private lessons with somebody else or go in for open gym.  Or, I have had kids whose parents have keys to the gym because they are on the board.  They’d go in and do basic drills with a parent (which I don’t necessarily recommend because of safety, technique confusion, etc.) but as long as you can be safe and it’s moving you forward: do it.

Sometimes you have to get creative.

If there is a will there is a way.  There is always a way.


Do something different for a change

Parents are like, “Well, there is no way.”  There always is.  Get creative.  I like to follow the two bok rule.  If you are going for a skill and you mess up, that could be you tripping or losing your focus, but if you mess up twice then do something different.  Back it up a step, because if you back three times you are ingraining the low confidence.  Really that confidence, that drop that happens when you keep failing, is way worse than being afraid and trying something easier.

I actually have a confidence ladder worksheet you guys can download for free here.  How is that for a super long thing to remember?  I’m going to put it in the notes, so go and check that out.  It’s basically instructions of how to work with your coach on coming up with a plan together.  And if you guys can work on it together, a lot of the time that can help.

Then moving onto our next question:

Q: “My daughter takes forever to take her turn on floor with this routine of stepping back and forth multiple times, pulling her hair back.  This minute long routine before she will go.”


This makes me think of tennis player, Rafael Nadal.  He’s got to turn his water bottles so they are facing the right direction, and he has a certain amount of tennis ball bounces.  He does all these certain things before he does his serve, and for him it works.

But I’m going to tell you why it’s not necessarily about having a super intricate “thing” you do.

There’s a difference between superstition and having a routine that will help you to stay focused.

My question for her is: “what is it that you are creating by doing this routing?”  Are you:

  • Giving yourself a little more time to breathe?
  • Relaxing yourself?
  • Becoming more calm?
  • Trying to gain a little control?
  • Is your brain trying to get your body to not go because your confidence is low?


Develop confidence

The first thing I always do is back it up a step.  Meaning, what can she do confidently without the intricate routine?  Do that step a few times and then see if she can slowly start shortening the routine.

Maybe the routine takes a minute now, can she do it in 50 seconds?  And then the next week in 40, then in 30?

Maybe she takes one little piece out of it at a time.  Ultimately she wants to be paying attention to only what she needs to focus on, so that she’s not overthinking anything else.

I just talked to a girl today, who is a math lover, her mom is a math teacher.  She needs to be doing math while she’s tumbling so that she’s not thinking about what there is to be afraid of.  For her, she gives the first skill in a series a number, the second skill gets another number, and then she’s dividing by whatever while she’s flipping and that gets her mind off of it.


Figure out what you need to be present

Maybe you think you need to fix your ponytail, click your hair pins, tap your toe and look to the side, look to the other side and shake it out, wipe your hands because you think they are sweaty…

But really what you need to do is actually feel your body feeling itself, to remind you that you are here.  You are not up here in your head, you’re not in the future, you’re in your body.  If that’s what the routine does for you, then that’s good.

I recommend experimenting with it.  Does she need to be present?  Is it that she needs to breathe?  Is it that she just needs a few more spots?  A few more progressions in order to feel confident?

Figure that out.

You can also use that confidence ladder and decide: what’s the routine gonna be like this week? What are we going to cut it down to next week?  And go from there, so that she can build her confidence.  Hopefully that helps.

I love routines.  I actually have trainings on them.  There are pre-performance routines,  a mistake routine, a balk routine.  I like to help kids come up with all of these routines, mental choreography for your whole routine.  But they have to be done right so that they actually help the athlete move forward.

If you’re superstitious, like: “If I don’t look to the left and then to the right, then I’m going to fall.” That’s not gonna help you.  Instead you need to know: “what I need is this mindset.  I need to be calm and relaxed.  I need to be in my body, and I need to be present.”  And whatever you can do to get in that place, that should be your routine.  It should be simple and quick to center yourself.  Done right, you improve and automate confidence.


Wrap up

Alright, that’s our time for today.  If anybody has any questions, you can always email me at Rebecca@PerformHappy.com, and I’ll do my best to get to your questions next week.  If you want to become a part of the action, join us at PerformHappy.com, where I do constant Q&A.

If you have any questions, members are my first priority.  You send it, I respond.  I bring your questions here if I want to give it a more thorough response, and I have endless trainings on everything you could need for getting over mental blocks, overcoming fear, building confidence and unlocking your peak performance potential.

Thank you guys so much for being here, and I will see you next week.

Is your gymnast struggling with mental blocks or fear?  Check out my FREE resource for parents.