Hey everybody, Coach Rebecca here! In our Sport Confidence Accelerator Facebook group, we asked parents what their biggest struggle was. Many parents were talking about their children dealing with mental blocks of different lengths. One mom posted that her biggest struggle was her athlete dealing with a mental block for four years.
When parents have been watching their athlete struggle for that long, you can assume they have tried everything! The hypnotist, read books, a chiropractor, vitamins, oils, and maybe a few sports psychologists. They feel like they have tried everything and their kid is still stuck. No matter what they tried there just wasn’t a breakthrough.
The main thing we noticed all of these stuck athletes had, was a fixed mindset. Dr. Dweck has done research on the two main types of mindsets, a fixed mindset, and a growth mindset.
So a fixed mindset basically means that you believe that you have been dealt a hand of cards, so to speak, with your abilities. Your hand of cards will either say that you are intelligent, talented, funny, creative, or whatever your skill is and that is just what you have. You try to make the best of what you’ve got with that hand of cards and if you aren’t good enough then you just aren’t good at that thing and you should find something else to try that you’ve been given the right talent card for.
Anyone who identifies as a perfectionist, that is a fixed mindset. That is the idea that you must be perfect or it isn’t good enough. That implies that the card you got didn’t allow you to be good enough.
A growth mindset means that there is no deck of cards. You just start where you are and move forward. Just like a big lump of clay that can be molded into anything you want with enough effort and practice. You just focus on progress and keep putting in effort and you can build whatever talent you would like to build in this life.
My long-term mental block
I also struggled with neverending mental blocks that didn’t go away and ruined my gymnastics career because I thought I wasn’t good enough. I just thought that was the way it was and I couldn’t do anything about it.
This all happened right around the time of my parent’s divorce and as a 5-year-old my brain decided that if I was good enough, perfect enough, and impressive enough that he would come back and love me.
We see it all the time in this line of work, little brains telling themselves stories to make sense of adult problems that have nothing to do with us.
It doesn’t always have to be a big trauma like that but little things that just feel to hard or big to solve. At the end of the day, it really is just survival instinct.
The first step to breaking through the mental block is usually the longest, hardest, and most uncomfortable. Sounds like fun right? The awareness phase takes examining your own mindset and starting to find clues about what works and what doesn’t work for you. Unfortunately, most of those clues and that learning happens from setbacks.
When I am talking to an athlete who has had a bad week, that is when it is best to do a 1 on 1 coaching session!
When you have a good week ask yourself, what did you do? How did you set yourself up for success?
When you have a bad week those setbacks are so ripe with lessons to help you be a better athlete. Once you can bust through that fear athletes get these fireworks that go off! That lump of clay looks a little more like a gymnast because now that athlete knows a little more about what works for them and what doesn’t.
The second phase of crashing through a mental block is confidence. Once the athlete has pushed through that awareness phase they get to the fun part, confidence. That is where they are really getting wins and starting to really improve.
The confidence phase is not black and white. It is a lovely shade of grey. This is where perfectionists can struggle. “Wins” don’t always look like a medal, or getting all the way through a mental block. Sometimes “winning” is simply finding another strategy that works for you. That makes you that much closer to that breakthrough.
Making little strides in the right direction is still making progress.
Confidence has to be from a growth mindset. If you try to get confident while in a fixed mindset you will be undermining that confidence MUCH quicker than you can build it.
Once an athlete starts building confidence they work their way into self-trust mode. This mode means you aren’t relying on superstitions or anything else to get you through. You can just stand on the beam and go, because you trust yourself. You are aware, and confident, and you trust yourself so you can just go do your thing!
It isn’t that you have “outsmarted” the fear, which is what a lot of mental trainers actually try to teach.
It really means that you have become one with the experience of being human and being imperfect, making progress, and moving forward.
Who has a fixed mindset?
The other tricky part to all this is it isn’t always the athlete. Sometimes it is the parent with the fixed mindset, sometimes it’s even the coach.
When your kid is 100% stuck and nothing is seeming to help, maybe there is a need to step back and look at everyone involved.
Parents don’t always mean to come off this way. It is just HARD to watch your kid struggle day after day. If you catch yourself thinking these things…
- maybe this isn’t the sport for you
- gosh I am so sick of watching you struggle
- I don’t know why you can’t just go for it and move on
If that sounds like the things you are thinking, maybe look into our FREE parent webinar, let me help you help your kid!
Maybe it’s the coach. Does the coach demand perfection? Are they not praising little wins or they are ignoring or criticizing when she is struggling? Comparing your athlete to other athletes or to deadlines she can’t do anything about. That usually means that the coach is perpetuating that fixed mindset and is keeping her stuck, the coach set the context.
Life has to be lived
Unfortunately, the other factor in all this is life. Sometimes our athletes just have to live and experience life to learn these things.
I know I did. I had to live 23 years and go through HARD things before I decided I had to change some things up to get what I wanted out of life.
At the end of the day for gymnasts, gymnastics ends up being a small thing on the grand scale of the life she will live.
This is for athletes but also for parents. In life, there will be things you can control and things you cannot.
If it is something you cannot control, your job is to LET IT GO! No matter how much sleep you lose worrying and all that energy you spend, at the end of the day it is what it is. You cannot control it.
But what you can control is your mindset and how you go about things. What I have noticed in the last few years, is that when the parent’s buy-in, when the parents do the mindset work first, it is SO much easier and WAY more effective for the athletes.
Coaches, this is also something you can control. You can hold coaches accountable. Hold them accountable for the mindset they are transmitting to athletes. If you see a coach that is always ignoring the struggling kid or never giving compliments, it might be time to have a serious conversation with them. I have a whole blog and podcast about having those tough conversations if you are interested in some guidance.
Where do I go from this blog?
If you are wanting to put in that mindset work so you are better equipt to lead your athlete, check out our FREE parent training. While it is labeled for gymnasts, really any parent of an individual sport athlete will seriously benefit.
Maybe you don’t know exactly what is holding your athlete back or you aren’t sure what to do or where to go, we offer FREE 1 on 1 consultation with our coaches. These FREE consults are great for telling the coach your struggles and they will point you in the right direction for you and your athlete!