There’s a good, scientific reason cheerleaders commonly experience the dreaded “mental block.” Psychotherapist Richard Schaub, PhD. suggests that the mental block is a fear that is born from your innate love of life and the resulting hyper-vigilance to protect all that you love. Cheerleader translation: You love the sport and life so much that you may over-think, overact, over-react, or become downright anxious to protect any perceived threat to all that you love. You’re scared. So you begin to play it safe. You stop and freeze where you are, simply to try and ensure nothing goes wrong. Suddenly, the skill that you could probably do a million times over becomes seemingly impossible.
See, we are all hard wired with fight or flight instincts. But did you know we are all also wired with a freeze instinct, too? There’s your mental block.
The good news: Fear is a good thing! It keeps us alive!
The other good news: You don’t have to conquer mental block fear. You just have to embrace it so you can move through it.
- Acknowledge your fear to press on through the skill. Its normal and actually good! The next steps will help you own the good part and use the fear part as a guideline, instead of a stop sign. But step one is KEY.
- Use your fear the right way. Allow your mental block to spark questions for you, or increase your physical strength and energy in a positive way. How? Just remember that when you start to believe something bad might happen in the middle of that back tuck, the truth is your really don’t know. You have not performed it yet, so you really don’t know. As I once told a flyer, “You’re not afraid of flying. You’re afraid of falling. We’re just asking you to fly:)…” Make the choice to stop your own agony of worrying about what might happen, and instead focus on all the progressions that you’ve already mastered to get you where you are now. That, you DO know.
- Be vulnerable. Fear is a vulnerable state. Your greatest moments will rise when you accept your vulnerability as a natural state. It will give rise to your strongest states, your most victorious states.
- Make an active decision. When you are stuck in your mental block, this is bigger than just taking a deep breath and “going for it.” Instead, we mean for you to stop for a moment, close your eyes, and embrace how much you love this sport. Without thinking about the skill itself, imagine how you feel as you successfully complete the skill. You feel strong. You feel courageous. You feel excited beyond words! You feel stronger again! Courageous! Excited!! and so on. You should be physically smiling now! Yet still. Notice, this is not how you will feel once you finally do the skill. This is an active visualization of how you do feel. Making the active assumption that it is done already. Making the active decision that you are already equipped. Making the active decision that you love this life and sport so much that you OWN that you are already equipped. Because you are.
Lastly, turn off the alarm. As you are experiencing the joy of making your active mental decision, you are ready to move to your physical skill. The alarm of chaos and doubt are now replaced with ownership of your own love for this sport, respect for our vulnerabilities, and even more respect for the progressions that got you to this point. You are so peacefully, happily ready to do this. And not for anyone else but yourself!
If you begin to hear that alarm go off again, hit it and turn it off. Laugh at the sound of it. Throw it across the room! You’re too busy doing what you love and using fear for the greatest of all things: guiding you in the right direction.
As always, moving on and cheering you on:)
Aly & Andrea
PS- If this article helps you, or if you want to know more about how powerful the mindset really is when it comes to building yourself or your team into champions, you’ll want to check out the audio and downloads we have for you in the F.O.C.U.S program. Its a 5 part audio series with downloadable worksheets that will absolutely change the way you approach your cheerleading and your life. We have world champion athletes, coaches, and parents listening to, and using the Focus program with rave reviews! Click here to learn more about it.
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Identical twins Aly Calvo and Andrea Kulberg, M.Ed are leadership development experts and consultants for the cheerleading industry. They are former University of Texas cheerleaders, and former NCA Staff. Andrea is one of the founding partners of a major international event producer, served as the International Representative for USASF, and is in the USASF Hall of Fame. Aly and Andrea together have been named among the best business coaches in the country and among the “Top 50 Women to Follow on Twitter.” Now, they help coaches, gym owners, and parents have extraordinary experiences within the cheerleading community via their online training, mentorship programs, live events and competitions. For more information about Aly & Andrea, click here or find them on Facebook or Twitter. To request a free consultation for your gym, click here.