Athletes, Coaching, Confidence, Mental Training, Preparation, Safety, Skill Development

The True Asset in Skill Development: Building Confidence for New Skills

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One of the biggest challenges students have when learning new skills, is getting over fear and gaining confidence. It is amazing how emotions take control of an individual when the time comes to perform a skill without assistance. In many cases, it takes much longer to build the confidence needed to perform the skill than the physical effort required to complete the skill. This can be frustrating for both the student and the coach, but it needs to be understood and approached cautiously.

It is amazing to see how well a skill is performed while the coach is providing a spot, even the slightest spot. It is obvious the student can perform the skill but it doesn’t happen. Why? Because they are terrified!! Although this is frustrating, it is completely normal. In fact, it is not uncommon for students to take weeks or even months before they are emotionally ready to go solo on a skill.

The coach plays a major role in helping the athlete gain confidence. This is done primarily by spotting the skills (The Art of Spotting) as the athlete progresses through the stages of development. As the athlete gains better understanding and awareness if the skill, the coach can begin to lighten the spot.

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Although the objective is for the student to perform the skill without a spot, the coach needs to be aware of the emotions of the student. In many cases, when a student is attempting to do a skill without a spot for the first time, they are not thinking about how to do the skill, they are thinking about how bad it’s going to hurt when they crash. The coach should recognize the signs- if the student is stalling for a period of time, it is a good indication that they may not be ready. In this case, the coach should stand in to give emotional and physical support.

I have seen cases where students are forced to perform a skill without a spot, even if the student asks for one. This may be acceptable depending on the risk factor of the skill. For example, a front handspring has a much lower risk factor than a back handspring. If the risk factor of the skill is low, the student can be encouraged to “go for it”. If the student fails, there will likely be little physical or emotional consequences.

If the skill has a higher risk factor, however, the student may suffer an injury and possibly serious emotional consequences. The most sever is the “Mental Block”. When this occurs, it is a huge step back in progressive development.

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It is our job as coaches to assist the athlete to grow in a positive direction. Every athlete is different both physically and emotionally. Some will have a low fear factor and others will have a much higher fear factor. This is why many students learn skills quicker than others. Patience is important and coaches need to work with the student to help build confidence. What’s even more important, is Safety. A coach should never put a student in a position where they are not comfortable or emotionally ready to perform a skill.  Let’s keep them safe, happy, and moving forward in a positive direction.

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I am in the process of developing manuals and videos on tumbling skill development that will be useful in training. I will keep you posted on that progress. In addition, if you would like a personal training session or consultation with me, we can Skype a lesson. Private message me or email me at: scottjohnsongymnastics@gmail.com

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