Athletes, Confidence, Mental Block, Safety, Skill Development, Uncategorized

The Mental Block Nightmare

There are times in an athletes career where they may experience a Mental Block that prevents them from moving forward in a positive direction. No matter what the sport may be, Mental Blocks can occur without notice or incident. In most cases, however, the block is due to a negative experience that occurred in the athletes life. When these blocks occur, it can be very difficult to overcome. So, can Mental Blocks be prevented? The answer is “Yes”!! How? through Prevention!!

Gymnastics and tumbling skills entail very complex body movements that require consistent training to achieve. As the skills become more difficult so does the time it takes to achieve them. In addition, the risk factors begin to come into play. This is the most common reason that Mental Blocks occur. Students often become “scared” when they are introduced to new skills, especially if there is a higher risk factor.

If a student is introduced to new skills through consistent drill training, it will create a better understanding of the skill in a non-threatening way. In addition, and most important, the student should have mastered all prerequisite skills before being introduced to more difficult skills. For example, we would not introduce a student to a back handspring before they learn a bridge kick-over and back limber. These prerequisite skills teach the student the feeling of flipping backwards.

Many times, the Mental Block is created when a student experiences an accident while training skills. This can happen to even the most experienced athletes. Accidents happen, but many can be prevented through proper training practices. Spotting is a critical method in preventing accidents and helping the athlete gain confidence in skill training . If a student is forced or attempts to perform a skill they are not completely ready for (both physically /or emotionally), an accident is much more likely to occur.

Following a progressive training program can certainly reduce the risks of mental blocks. Having a strong foundation of basic elements is important for the athlete to progress comfortably to more difficult skills. In addition, training should remain as consistent as possible. If a student takes an extended break from training, they may develop some apprehension in getting their skills back. Especially if the student has had an aggressive growth spurt while taking that break. As the body grows, everything changes: height, weight, center of gravity, all of which are important factors in skill development.

If a student gets a mental block on a particular skill, it is important for the coaches to be patient and work towards eliminating the block. One way is to reteach the skill from the beginning. Using drills and spotting helps the athlete to regain their confidence. What should not be done is to force the student to attempt performing the skill. This will most likely intensify the block. I have seen many athletes quit the sport due to blocks that couldn’t be overcome. This doesn’t have to be the case.

Mental Blocks are common and they certainly interrupt growth in an athlete. We need to do our best to “prevent” the blocks from happening. If the proper training progressions are followed, it will highly reduce the probability of a block from occuring.

My new Beginner Tumbling Training Guide is published and ready for all to use. This is a great training aid for any and all programs who offer tumbling training. If you would like to order your copy, follow this link:

In addition, if you would like a personal training session or consultation with me, we can Skype a lesson. Email me at:

Athletes, Coaching, Injuries, Round-Off, Safety, Skill Development

Tumbling: Wrist and Ankle Pain

Does your student or child have consistent wrist and/or ankle pain when training their tumbling skills? This is a very common problem and one that can be be fixed through proper training. In most cases, it is due to poor technique in performing tumbling skills. If the technique is improved, it will result in much less stress on the body and joints.

We often see athletes wearing supports for wrists, ankles, and knees. There is no doubt that the sport if gymnastics and tumbling creates stress on the joints: Injuries: Prevention and Repair. These support braces will help with discomfort and provide added support while performing skills. However, the athlete should not rely on these braces for extended periods of time. The objective should be to heal and strengthen the area. If the braces are worn consistently, the area will not strengthen adequately, thus creating a dependence on the brace.

In the case of wrist discomfort, much of the cause may be poor technique in performing skills. One example is the hand placement on cartwheels and round-offs.

When performing these skills, the student should turn their second hand so the fingers are facing toward the first hand when placing on the floor. Not only will this allow the student to push or block off the floor for an adequate finish of the skill, it is the correct positioning of the hands.

Hand Placement for a Righty
Hand Placement for a Lefty

A very common mistake and one that is often unnoticed is that the second hand is turned in the opposite direction. Not only will this make it almost impossible to block off the floor, it can cause wrist discomfort and possible wrist damage.

Another problem with wrist discomfort could come from the action of performing the back handspring. As a coach, I am sure you have heard of your student complaining of wrist pain when doing their back handspring (I hear this constantly).

The problem occurs when the student isn’t getting their arms and hands in front of the shoulders upon impact of the floor. A simple explanation is to have the student get in a push up position – put them in a position where the shoulders are behind the hands. There should be no discomfort (if there is, the problem may be more serious).

If the shoulders are on front of the hands upon impact of the floor, this is where the stress and discomfort on the wrist occurs.

This is why it is so important that proper technique is followed when training these skills. It is a sure sign that when students are complaining of pain in a certain area, it could be the result of improper skill technique.

I am in the process of publishing my first training manual: “Beginner Tumbling Training” .  This will be a useful tool in training for all and any needing to learn proper technique and safety. Great for gymnastics, cheerleading, dance, martial arts, and more. 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:

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

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


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.


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.


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.


My Beginner Tumbling Training Guide is available and ready for all to use. This is a great training aid for any and all programs who offer tumbling training. If you would like to order your copy, follow this link:

My training manual for the Round-Off Back Handspring is also available. It is full of detailed progressions and technique that will allow for a positive and productive training. Follow the attached link to order your copy or e-book today!!

Scott Johnson is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Athletes, Coaching, Risks, Safety, Spotting, Training, Tumbling

Safety for Both the Athlete and Coach: Risks of Spotting

coach spotting dancer

The job of the coach entails many responsibilities in the development of their athletes. Program structure and developing class curriculums are among the first important aspects of creating a great program. But the most important responsibilities are what happens in the gym each day while training the athletes. This entails both the verbal communications of skill development and spotting the students on skill development. Although, both take a great deal of knowledge and experience to do effectively, the act of spotting skills is a serious issue and one that every coach needs to know and perform correctly.

There are two major purposes for spotting skills: One is for training the student in correct body movements and positions while training skills. The other is to protect the student from injury while performing skills. The safety factor, however, is the most important factor. Spotting not only prevents the athletes from injury, it is a great tool in helping to build confidence. When a student is learning a skill for the first time, there may be anxiety and/or fear. Through proper spotting, the student can quickly overcome this anxiety as they gain trust in the skill and coach. This will allow the student to aggressively pursue the new skill which can create a quicker result.

20180328_193239.jpg         Spotting can have an extremely high-risk factor for both the athlete and coach if the coach does not have adequate experience with spotting. It is not uncommon to hear stories or see videos posted of athletes being dropped when being spotting. Many times, this is due to students being spotted on skills they are not ready or capable of learning at that time. For example, a student at the beginner tumbling level should not be introduced to a back handspring.

This is common in cheerleading where a back handspring is required to make a competitive squad (Tumbling and the Cheerleader). If the student is older and has no or very little tumbling experience, the risks are much higher for accidents. Even the most experienced spotters may be challenged in supporting some of these students. In this scenario, both the student and coach are at risk.

Our job as coaches and spotting skills is to protect the student at any cost. Many times, the coach must put themselves in harm’s way to ensure the safety of the student. If a student bails out of a back tuck or full on the floor, the coach needs to do everything possible to prevent serious injury to the student. Getting landed on, being kicked or whacked in the face are common scenario’s that coaches will suffer. In addition, pulled muscles, wrenched backs, etc. are also common. However, many of these situations can be prevented through proper training and progressive drills and steps (Injuries: Prevention and Repair).

I have experienced many physical injuries throughout my years as a gymnastics and tumbling coach – several were serious. Luckily, I have not had any serious student injuries or accidents in my programs. I take a lot of time training my staff on the correct technique of spotting skills – and there certainly is technique involved. This is a learned part of coaching and needs practice.


Coaches need to understand the dynamics of the skills, timing and placement of the skills, and common problems that may occur. Spotting a round-off, back handspring or an aerial, for example, is a complex combination for the spotter. The coach needs to be prepared for the unexpected: an early hurdle step may occur (the coach needs to be mobile – never initiate the spot from a kneeling position!!), the student may bail on the skill or some other issue can occur.

Spotting is a risky part of coaching and should be a major focus in coach’s training. It takes time, practice, and confidence to become a great spotter. It is a necessity for every coach who is responsible for the development of skills at all levels. We as coaches may need to sacrifice our own physical well-being for the safety of the students. If we fail in our job to protect the athlete, they may also fail. Failure is not fun!! Let’s be winners!!

Scott's headshot

I am in the process of creating a series of tumbling training videos and manuals for skill development and technique.  I will keep you posted on that progress.  If you or your student are having problems with a particular skill, feel free to send me a video so I can evaluate and help if I can.  In addition, if you would like a personal training session with me, we can Skype a lesson. Private message me or email me at:





Coaching, Dance, Safety, Training, Tumbling

Acquiring Tumbling Skills in the Dance Industry: Tumbling and the Dancer

dancer handstand

We have mentioned many times of how the sport of tumbling has become a requirement in sports. Of course, tumbling is a major part of gymnastics and cheerleading, but the requirements in Dance is growing rapidly. Each sports discipline has its own specific requirements for tumbling exercises. The skills that are popular in each sport varies. In this discussion, I will share my thoughts on how the sport of tumbling is incorporated in the dance industry.

There are several different types of dance disciplines that the dancer can participate in: jazz, lyrical, ballet, and more, but one discipline that is not seen as often is Acro. In the acro discipline, students combine tumbling skills into the dance choreography. These skills can range from very basic tumbling movements to more complex and advanced skills. The more advanced the dance student, the more advanced the tumbling elements. One of the biggest challenges for many dancers and dance programs needing to incorporate tumbling skills is proper training and development of these skills.

All disciplines of dance are very complex and students must commit many hours each week to develop the skills required in dance elements. In addition, many dancers on Company participate in several dance disciplines. Similar to gymnastics where the athletes participate in all the events, dancers may participate in Jazz, Lyrical, Ballet, Hip Hop, and more. This leaves little time for training the necessary tumbling skills the students would like to learn. The problem many dancers are faced with is that acquiring tumbling skills also takes many hours of consistent training to develop the skills (Tumbling: Importance of Building a Strong Foundation).

dancer back walkover

In the dance industry, the tumbling skills that are most popular are the front and back walkovers, front handsprings, aerial cartwheels, front aerials, and back handsprings. There are other skills that are seen but these are usually the major focus. The aerials and handsprings are considered the more advanced skills. These skills have a higher risk factor and takes, in most cases, years to accomplish.

dancer arial 2

Not only are tumbling skills required in the discipline of Acro, many of the other disciplines of dance are incorporating tumbling elements within their choreography. It seems the popularity of performing these tumbling skills is growing in the dance industry. This requires a higher demand of training to learn the skills that the students need to incorporate in their training schedule. Finding the time to train these skills is a big challenge for the students and program. In addition, most dance studio’s are also challenged with finding experienced tumbling instructors to train the students.

Since tumbling is not the primary objective in the dance industry, most dance studio’s have a challenge in hiring a full-time tumbling instructor for their program. This makes it difficult in finding a qualified instructor to commit to working with the program for the little hours allowed for this training. I am often asked by local dance programs to assist with training their students on a weekly basis. However, since my full time position is running my own gymnastics and tumbling programs, I simply to not have the time to accommodate them. This is the same scenario for many of the gymnastics and tumbling instructors in local communities.

coach spotting dancer      For those dance programs who are challenged with acquiring a tumbling instructor, there are several options they can explore. One option is to bring in an instructor periodically to do tumbling clinics for the students. There are many tumbling coaches throughout most communities that are employed at local gymnastics programs that would love to assist in this area. Another option is to have the dancers either join a weekly tumbling class at a gymnastics gym or explore one-on-one private lessons.

The most important reason to seek out professional and experienced tumbling coaches is due to the risks involved with learning tumbling skills. An experienced tumbling coach knows the proper technique of the skills and the particular drills used to assist the athlete with learning the skills in a non-threatening or dangerous manner (The Technique Controversy).

In addition to learning the skills properly, spotting the skills is essential to help the athlete gain confidence and protection from injury. This is especially important in learning the aerials and back handsprings (The Art of Spotting). Many times when athletes attempt these skills without an experienced spotter, while still in the developmental stages of learning the skill, accidents may occur. The result could create such a fear, the athlete may get a serious “mental block”. When this occurs, it may take a long time to overcome – and some athletes will never overcome the block. This scenario needs to be recognized so it can be prevented.

dancer handstand 2

One big difference the dance industry has compared to the other sports that incorporate tumbling, is that the dancers need to perform their skills on a wood or Marley surface. No matting is allowed. This certainly creates a higher risk to the dancer and intensifies the fear factor. This landing surface is much harder than the typical tumbling mats used in other industries. Not only is it a much harder surface, it can also be a slippery surface. It is needed for dancers to spin and pirouette, but creates a challenge for tumbling skills. This is another reason why the dancer needs to have their tumbling skills perfected prior to attempting on this type of surface.

We are getting an increased number of dance students either join our tumbling classes or taking private training lessons. Due to this increase in dance participants, we have started offering monthly Aerial clinics. These have been so popular that we usually reach capacity. The most common statement I hear from the dance parents is that their dance studio does not have the proper instruction to teach tumbling skills. Many dance programs that offer an acro class has an instructor but they lack the knowledge and experience in technique and spotting of the skills.


It is exciting to see tumbling skills incorporated in dance choreography. Many of the skills like the walkovers and aerials are elegant in their presentation and fits well within the dance routines. Let’s ensure the students learn these skills properly and safely. Through good technique, tumbling skills add a positive dynamic to the program. However, if the skills are performed poorly with bad technique, it will certainly have a negative effect in the presentation.

Please let me know what you think on this subject. Also, if there are any subjects you would like me to cover, let me know and I will do my best to post my thoughts.  Please Like and Share to all you believe will benefit from the information.

If you would like me put on a special clinic for your program, please contact me at the information below. 

For clinics, seminars, or special events, please contact me at:

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