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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Communication, Confidence, Mental Block, Mental Training, Safety, Skill Development

Confidence and the Mental Block

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There are many factors that come into play when considering what it takes to be successful.  Of course hard work, determination, motivation, sacrifice, and confidence are all major contributors in the journey to success. Unfortunately, so is the always lurking Mental Block.  In this discussion, I will share my thoughts on the role that Confidence plays in preventing and overcoming the Mental Block.

When a person is confident at what they are doing the task at hand is accomplish with ease, it gives us a feeling of security. It affects everything we do each and every day.  Confidence not only makes you feel good about yourself, it’s contagious and can even influence those around you to also be confident. A lack of confidence conversely can create fear, panic, and at times a Mental Block.

So how is confidence achieved or how does one become confident in what they are doing and trying to accomplish?  Participating in a positive and energetic environment certainly helps.  Most importantly, however, is the consistency of accomplishment.  Building confidence in something usually does not magically happen, it must be developed.  It takes time and effort in a positive environment for confidence to begin to build.  Communication and positive reinforcement from the coach is a major factor in helping to build confidence in the athlete (Coaching: The Communication Factor).  Words of encouragement and using a positive approach should always be a part of the training process.  This approach in itself is very powerful in building a strong sense of personal strength.

 

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When a person is attempting an acrobatic skill that requires you to turn upside down for the first time there can be a feeling of apprehension, even fear.  This is natural, what’s unnatural is turning upside down when you’re used to walking around right side up!

In sports such as gymnastics, cheerleading, trampoline, and tumbling where athletes are learning to flip and twist there is always some level of fear that must be overcome with confidence.  When the activity involves inherent risks, the level of confidence required to minimize any fear of failure requires that both the athlete and coach fully comprehend the task at hand. Through a structured and disciplined training program, athletes are more likely to achieve the level of confidence needed that will enable them to succeed.

When a person has a lack of confidence in what they are attempting to achieve, it is an emotion that must be changed in order for the person to move forward. This is when the Mental Block comes into play.  Not only is this a very frustrating experience but one that can end a career or participation in an activity.   In addition, a lack of confidence can also result in an injury if a student is attempting something they are unsure about or scared to perform.

 

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This is where the coach or instructor plays an important role.  It is the coach that trains the athlete and the one that is responsible for the development of skills.  When the coach has the knowledge of progressions and drills, it helps to guide the student to learn skills in a non-stressful environment.  This is crucial in building confidence in the athlete (The Technique Controversy).  If the student is placed in a stressful environment or forced to attempt a skill they are scared to perform, their confidence will almost assuredly be diminished.

There are two basic factors that allow one to attempt a gymnastic skill. Being able to perform the skill physically, and being able to comprehend it mentally. In most cases the ability to comprehend the skill mentally is the larger concern.

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Learning a new skill usually begins with a number of mechanical drills to mimic the body positions and motions it will go through to successfully complete the skill.  The next step may be for the coach to spot or assist the student through the skill for their safety, and for them to feel the sensation of rotation. After a period of time when the student demonstrates they can physically execute the skill safely with little or no spotting assistance the instructor may step back and allow the student to attempt the skill on their own. This is when the level of their confidence and mental state will most likely show itself. How many times have you coaches spotted back handsprings but the moment the student doesn’t feel your hand there, they will not go?  Why?  because the athlete has not developed the confidence needed to go solo – they are afraid.

 

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I have worked with many students that have lost all confidence in a particular skill and developed the “Mental Block”.  Most are a result of the student attempting a skill they were not mentally ready to perform without assistance that ended badly – scaring them, or worse, resulting in an injury.  Another cause for the development of a mental block could simply be that the athlete starts to think of negative things or watching someone else take a fall or get injured doing a particular skill. Once a mental block has evolved the athlete will struggle to advance the skill further. Even worse, if the athlete cannot overcome the mental block there is even the possibility they will discontinue participating in the sport.

This is very common in almost every program and one that must be dealt with carefully.  When an athlete has lost their confidence in a skill, they should never be coerced into attempting the skill. Doing so will only serve to perpetuate the Mental Block or worse instill even greater fear. The signs are:  the student hesitates, or stalls for a lengthy period of time.  What are they thinking about?  In many cases, they are thinking about getting hurt if they fail which creates fear.  This thought process needs to be eliminated and can be accomplished through additional training.  Sometimes, it may be best for the athlete to relearn the skill from scratch and focus on drills and mechanical technique. This process takes time but in many cases, will cure the block so the athlete can continue to progress.

I have always believed that champions are created in a positive training environment. Such environments are critical in helping the students feel good about what they are doing which is a big factor in building confidence.  When an athlete has a great sense of confidence, they will be more aggressive in their training development.  The more aggressive the training, the better the chance of success!!

 

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I would love to hear your comments. 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.

For clinics, seminars, or special events, please contact me at:  scottjohnsongymnastics@gmail.com            www.scottjohnsonstga.com

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