Coaching Through A Mental Block (In A Time Crunch)

Are you coaching an athlete fighting through a mental block with a meet this weekend?


Hey everyone. It’s me, coach Rebecca. My job is to help young athletes build confidence, overcome mental blocks, and build self-trust in sport and life. I also spend time helping coaches develop skills for coaching an athlete through a mental block. 


On my most recent Facebook live I did a Q&A for coaches we work with. I was asked how to handle the following situation:

“Crisis! My athlete is trying to work through her mental block and we have a meet this weekend. How do I get her doing skills in time?”

This is a question I’ve heard from many coaches when I lead team sessions on working through fear.

The Coach added that the team is using the mental training from our program and overall, they are turning around their negative thoughts, there are fewer tears (especially after setbacks), and they are becoming more resilient.

While coach and athlete are armed with this training, how do we get her doing her skills for the meet this weekend?

There are three critical stages to coaching through a mental block


  • Building awareness
  • Filling the confidence piggy bank
  • Building self-trust

When we start working through a mental block, we have to remember that it doesn’t happen overnight.

The first step in coaching through a mental block is building self-awareness.

Building Awareness. There is a lot of discomfort here. Athletes start looking at the way they have been operating, the way they have been coached, and realizing the way they have addressed fear is all backward.

We need to follow the brain’s lead here because the brain is in charge. Whether you like it or not. Your brain will either let you do the skill, or it will not let you do the skill. If you haven’t built a foundation of emotional, mental, and physical safety through this awareness phase, you’re not going to be able to build that lasting confidence.

After awareness, we build confidence.

After you have gone through the discomfort of being aware of “what I have been doing isn’t working” and moving to adopt a system that is proven hundreds of times over that it will work, then you can start to build confidence. Working the program every day allows you to start to fill that confidence piggy bank.

Finally, we create a foundation of self-trust.

Once that confidence piggy bank starts to fill up you can come to a place where you trust yourself fully. That is not a quick fix. It can be a permanent fix as long as you maintain the foundation you built.

Looking at the bigger picture of coaching through a mental block

I know it isn’t what most coaches want to hear but I am more interested in allowing that athlete to have a longer, more satisfying, more successful gymnastics career or whatever the sport of choice is. With the big picture in mind, that might mean your athlete has to scratch an event, do a watered-down routine, and not feel their best at this meet. But it is worth it to follow the brain.

So, we ask our athlete, what is that you feel you can do? What beam series can you do right now? What vault can you do? We have to find the “sweet spot” of skills that are just hard enough, just scary enough, but not so scary we will be doing damage and instilling more fear. The way you relay all this to the athlete is so important. Instead of “we only have two days we really have to get this on the high beam” we are going to say, “we are just going to try. We are going to train our butts off, stay in the moment, and take this progression that you can do well, one day at a time. Hey, you are up to the medium beam, I am so proud of you.”

When the day of the meet arrives

When it comes to meet day, and she is still on the medium beam, we need to communicate well here, it is essential. You have to help the athlete make the decision that is going to help build confidence and make her feel like she is making progress. Maybe for her, that means she does a watered-down routine, maybe she scratches. We can’t push it, we aren’t going to force it, she will get there, and she will get this skill. We aren’t going to sacrifice her season over one early-season meet. It just isn’t worth it.

By giving love, patience, optimism, and communication, you are helping to build the right foundation to get those skills back in a meaningful and permanent way.

It is a long road, but she is worth it!

Trust the process. Trust that she will get her confidence back. This is just a blip on the radar of her gymnastics career. Let’s put less pressure on all meets. It’s about the journey, the resilience of picking herself up and trying again, putting herself out there even if she feels vulnerable or if she is risking failure.

All of these steps build such strong character that not only builds amazing athletes but also build amazing humans.


If you are curious if team coaching will benefit your team, schedule a free consultation! We would love to talk about our programs and help your athletes! Scheduling is easy at






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