Mental Block or Laziness?

Hey guys. It’s me, Coach Rebecca. The big discussion happening in the sports world and world of mental strength training is whether it’s a mental block or laziness that athletes are dealing with.

Mental blocks

First things first let’s discuss what exactly a mental block is. It is a phenomenon where you have a skill, you are a gymnast, cheerleader, figure skater, one of the “dangerous” sports, and you have this skill, and then all of a sudden you can’t do it anymore.

Old School state of mind about mental blocks

What brought this discussion to light for me was a self-proclaimed mental coach who made a post on Instagram it said, and I quote, “you don’t have a mental block, you have poor work ethic period”. A parent sent me the post and asked how I felt about it. Instantly I got a nasty feeling in my stomach. This is pretty much what every “old school” coach is telling their athletes.

“You don’t have a mental block. You need to work harder. If you can’t do this it’s because you aren’t trying enough.” Then these parents at home are hearing these messages from the coach and go ” well if you aren’t trying then why would I keep paying for this?” And so starts this vicious circle of continuously breaking down these athletes’ confidence and telling them that they just simply aren’t doing enough and if they just tried harder they would do better.

Mental blocks from an athlete’s point of view

For the athlete, all they know is that at one point they had this skill and now when they try it they just freeze up. They don’t know why they are bailing out. They are getting yelled out. Now they are in trouble with their coach AND their parent. The only reason they can come up with now is that “I am just not good. I am a failure. I can’t do it”

From their coach they are hearing “you need to work harder”, and from their parents, they are hearing “you need to work harder”. Meanwhile, this kid walks into the gym and they are already stressed. As they were getting out of the car mom says “go get your skill today honey”. The athlete is now feeling the pressure that if they don’t get this skill mom is going to be mad. Often I talk to athletes and they tell me they get the pit of doom in their stomachs and they just want to hide.

They don’t understand why this is happening, therefore they don’t know how to fix it. Athletes work so hard just to hold it all together, to put on a smile. Athletes at this point can become so critical of themselves and can be so harsh.

So why do these mental blocks happen

This mental block that they deal with comes from a place of survival instincts. When they go to do something crazy or dangerous your brain is supposed to jump in and say “oh nope, don’t do that”. Just like when it reminds you to not touch the hot stove or jump off that really high ledge. Your brain is working against your body and your mind. It’s natural, it is literally human nature.

Then someone comes along and says an athlete can’t do a skill because they aren’t working hard enough, or they are making excuses, or they are being lazy. That just takes a kid who is already struggling to feel successful in the sport they love and made it SO much harder for them to enjoy the sport and gain more skills.

So it’s a mental block, now what?

Now that my little rant is over, let’s talk about what to do now that we know it’s a mental block and not a lack of motivation. Through our membership program Perform Happy we teach parents how to help their kids through mental blocks. And then when the kids are ready we give them all the tools they need to be able to work through mental blocks as well.

I am working with this mom through Perform Happy and she was saying that her daughter’s been having a really hard time. She is stuck on her series on beam. She has done it before. Although she hasn’t been able to do it in weeks. She will only do it on the medium beam, and unless she does it on the high beam her effort is not being acknowledged in the gym.

The first thing in this situation that sticks out to me is that she hasn’t done the skill in weeks yet she can do it on the medium beam. The fact that she can get up there and do the series successfully is AMAZING. Right now her brain feels safe there. That is something that should be praised and acknowledged! Being able to do it on the medium beam means there is some level of confidence there and we can grow that!

What if our coach isn’t helping the situation?

With this mom, there is also a very old-school coach in the gym. He tells this athlete that if she wanted it bad enough and worked hard enough she would just do it. We see this so often so we have a blog and podcast all about how to talk to your coach about concerns while keeping the peace. (click here to read all about it)

If your coach just isn’t really helping then unfortunately some of that responsibility falls on parents’ shoulders. How can you help your kid work through this mental block and be successful? Luckily at Complete Performance Coaching, we have run into this before so we did something about it. We created a FREE parent training. If you want to learn more about parenting your kiddo through mental blocks sign up today!

If your athlete is struggling but you aren’t sure if it is a mental block or what to do first, sign up for a FREE consultation with one of our coaches that specialize in athletes and mental strength training!

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