Talking to Coaches about Fear & Blocks

Today’s Topic: Talking to Coaches about Fear & Blocks

Hey everyone.  I’m coach Sara with Complete Performance Coaching.  Today we are going to talk about a very important the topic, fear, but specifically how you can talk to coaches about fear and blocks.  This is one of the things that I talk to athletes with quite a bit, and it’s honestly one of the biggest missed pieces when it comes to working through a fear or a block.

Most Coaches Already Know

When a gymnast is feeling scared or they’re just not going for skills, coaches often know about it.  Coaches see the athlete struggling, they watch them regress, they see them spending a lot of time standing on a piece of equipment or avoiding a certain skill.  Coaches know about it, but that doesn’t mean that they understand it.  I will say sometimes coaches don’t even know.  You might have an athlete who is shaking on the inside and it’s freaking themselves out, but they still managed to go for the skills.  I’m always super impressed with those athletes because that means they are very, very mentally tough because they can get themselves to go for it, but it doesn’t mean they need to stay that way.  Sometimes coaches have no idea that an athlete is feeling scared.

If your athlete is dealing with a block, chances are the coaches know about it and your coach, they spend a lot of time yelling or encouraging, your coach knows what’s going on, again, it doesn’t mean that they understand the full story.  So it’s really great if your athlete is already working with us.  If they are taking the time to work on their mental skills.  This is a really, really big part of working through a fear or block.

When a Coach Doesn’t Understand

But if the coaches don’t know, if they don’t understand, then this can really derail your athlete’s efforts when it comes to using their own mental skills.  For example, if we are working with your athlete on a pre-series routine (I always use the series as something that an athlete might be scared of because I was terrified of series when I was a gymnast), they have certain things that they do to help them go for the skill to minimize their worries or their nervousness, that might add a little bit of time for when they actually go for the skill.

If your coach does not know that your athlete is working on their own mentals skills and that maybe they’re going to have a little bit of extra time before they go for that skill, the coach might get really frustrated.  They might see this athlete as just stalling or just not going for it.  They are taking too much time, when in reality, you athlete is taking the steps that they need to try and go for the skill and to deal with the feelings that they’re having.

Coach Tries to be Helpful

So now, the coach might get frustrated, yell, or might push your athletes quicker than they would like or quicker than is helpful.  The coach thinks that they’re being helpful but in reality that they’re not.  This is where communication becomes so important to really help coaches understand what your athlete is going through when it comes to blocks.

Communication

You can probably see where communication is super helpful, but it might be a piece that has gotten missed.  Let’s face it, coaches are busy.  For any of our coaches out there, you know, it’s not always easy to talk to you, right?  You’ve got a lot going on.  You want to support athletes, but you’ve also got a lot of to manage.  Communication with coaches, unfortunately, can get overlooked, so we’re going to talk about a few strategies, but just know that communication is something that can be developed.

Developing a Life Skills

These strategies that we’re going to talk about might not work in every situation.  If you are at a gym where a coach’s attitude is “my way or the highway”, maybe they’re not open to conversation.  That’s a much bigger challenge that you’re facing.  These are these tips for coaches who do seem more open and maybe you just haven’t taken advantage of having a conversation just yet.  As you might know, communication can be hard and scary, but again, it’s a skill that can be developed, and it’s one that really is so important that we help our athletes work on.  This is talking to a coach now, but it might be talking to a teacher later, it might be talking to a boss, so we need to give them opportunities to learn how to be better communicators and to understand how to communicate effectively when there’s a challenge, encouraging them to utilize these skills.  We really are helping give them a life skill.

Seven Tips for Communicating with Your Coach

All of these ideas can be used to talk to coach, but also in other times that you need to communicate.

1. Plan Ahead

Consider what you want to say. We’re going to talk about that “what” in just a minute and how you want to say it.  Have your athlete practice this out loud.  You can be in the room.  You can encourage them just to say it into a mirror, but figure it out what they want to say and then practice.  Depending on the age of your athlete, maybe they can communicate all of it.  If you have a younger athlete, maybe elementary school age, early junior high, maybe you do some of the talking, but you can plan and prepare together.

What do you want to have said?  This is really important.  It will help everyone feel more comfortable going into the situation if there’s a plan and if it’s been practiced. The out loud part is very important of this.  If your athlete is older, help them prepare there, but really encourage them to do the communicating on their own.  If they need you there for support, you can stand by quietly, but let them do the talking.  This is very, very important.  If they’re not super comfortable with the talking, they can even read what they’ve written down, but it’s important to verbalize that to the coach, not just hand over a pre-written letter.  So plan ahead.

2. Consider the timing

As parents, we all know that there are better times to talk to us about things and less ideal times to talk to us about things.  While we’re in the middle of trying to get out of the house and juggling all sorts of details, that’s not the best time to bring up a request, at least not in my house.  Coaches are the same way.  There are times where your coach is more likely to be busy and othered by some sort of interruption.  Then there are times, like before practice starts, where they’re just in the gym and they’re dealing with details, but they’d be open to a conversation.

You know your coach best.  Sometimes this can be what feels like a spontaneous conversation, “Hey coach, can I talk to you for a few minutes?” But you’ve thought out ahead of time when that time is, but your coach might be better if you set an appointment with them.  You can send them a text or an email asking, “Can I have five minutes of your time after practice today?”

3. Focus on Yourself

This is what you can think about as you plan what you want to say in this conversation with your coach about your fear or block – focus on yourself.  For the content of the conversation, remind your athlete to say focus on themselves and their feelings.  It isn’t tying to say that the coach yelling isn’t helpful.  We know that.  Maybe you can apply that a little bit, but you don’t want to say, “Wen you do this, when you do that, I get more scared and more stressed.”  Keep it at “I statements”.  “I’m really scared of my series right now.  I feel really freaked out and I worry that I’m going to fall anytime I have to get up on the high beam.”

4. Highlight What You’re Doing to Work on the Issue

But as a part of that, highlight what you’re doing to work on the issue.  Hopefully, your coach cares, but they might not be encouraged to help you if you just say, “I’m scared.  I’m freaking out.”  They will be more encouraged and inclined to help if they know that you already are trying to help yourself.

So for our athletes who are working with us, this is a very great time to say not just, “I’m scared,” but, “I’m working with a mental skills coach on this,” or, “I’m in a mental training community with other athletes and we’re really trying to improve on me being more positive, more calm, more confident.”  I think coaches like to see that you are working on it.  You can also highlight that as part of this training, we’ve encouraged you to come up with a pre-series routine where you deal with the worries, so sometimes it takes me a little longer to go for my series, but it’s because I’m doing my mental skills.”  Communicate what you’re doing and why and how that’s helping you.

5. Highlight What’s Helpful from Coach

Remember, don’t say, “Don’t do this,” or, “I don’t like that,” but highlight what helpful.  For example, “I really appreciate how you’ve been letting me spend time on the low beam before I go to the high beam.”  You’re giving that positive reinforcement to the coach.

Coaches, if any of your athletes come and talk to you like this, you know what they’re doing.  They are reminding you, “I like this.  Please keep doing it, and more of it.”

6. Ask for Specific Help

Again, you know your coast coach best.  Some of my athletes don’t feel like they can ask their coaches for specific help.  It feels like they’re telling them to do their jobs. So you might not utilize this tip.  But depending on the relationship, it can help the coach sort of see that you’re really wanting to work through it.  If you can say something like, “It would be really helpful if you would let me spend a little bit more time on the low beam or if I can do my series on the mid bean before I go to high beam until I feel really confident there.”

It’s also helping remind the coach that we have the same goal.  We both want me to have my series on hiving.  We both want me to feel confident in that neither of us wants me to have this fear a block.  But here’s how we can get there together.

7. Thank Your Coach

And then last but not least, no matter how the conversation goes, thank the coach for their time and their support.  Even if this was emotional, even if there was maybe some crying, some big emotions, maybe some lack of encouragement from the coach, still be gracious and thank the coach for their time.  That will leave everything on a positive note if it didn’t go as well as you wanted.  Hopefully the coach continues to think about this.  They heard this specific help where they really are seeing that you’re trying and maybe they give you a little bit more encouragement.

Recap

So those are seven tips that you can use to talk to your coach about your fear or your block.  For our parents watching, you can utilize these and tell your kids these things. Planning ahead, consider your timing, focus on yourself, highlight what you’re doing to work on the issue.  This next one is [inaudible] dependent on the relationship, but highlight what’s helpful about what they’re doing. Also dependant, ask for specific help and then always thank the coach for their time and encouragement.

By adding in communication with your coaches as part of the process of working through a fear or block, this can take some of the pressure off of your athlete because they know they’re not in it alone and they feel like they have a bit more support.  Hopefully these types of conversations lead to not only more understanding but actual support and action that helps your athlete work through a fear or a block.

Extra Support

This is a lot of information and it can definitely be hard, but one of the things that we do work on with athletes in our work together, especially one-on-one, is prepping for these types of conversations.  If you do ever feel like your athlete needs more support, communication, mental skills, all of that good stuff, don’t forget we are here to help.  You can click here for a free consultation if you have not met with us yet.

Thank you so much for your time.  Remember, communication is a skill for all of us. It can always be improved on.  Encourage your athlete to use these ideas whenever they need to communicate, especially if it’s about a tough situation.  The more they use utilize these ideas in any situation, the easier it will be.  And again, depending on the age of your athlete, consider how much you can empower for them to do the communicating on their own.

With the little kids, you might want to go in there with them, put your arm around them, hold their hand, let them speak a little bit, and then you support your older kids.  You’re in the room with them, you let them do the talking and maybe speak up if they need some support.  Your older kids maybe send them in on their own and check-in afterward.

You know your athletes best, your gym, and your coaches.  But don’t forget this really important piece of working through a fear or a block.  If you need anything else, we’re here to support you.  Thanks everyone.  Have a good, great day.

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