After spending the week with Debbie Love, one of the premier tumbling and mental block coaches in the sport of Cheerleading, mental blocks and fears in cheerleaders has been on my brain. I have been reading articles written by Mrs. Love and others, mostly Dr. Alison Arnold. In our gym it seems that we have quite a few of our cheerleaders who have some sort of fear or block when it comes to tumbling, having spent the week with Mrs. Love I have started to wonder; “What is causing these in our cheerleaders? Is it something we are doing?”
The answer is simple, they are not being caused by us, more so, they are being sent to us. I have no formal education in the realm of Sports Psychology, but I do have an unfortunate (sometimes) inability to not care. I see the kids who hurt, who doubt, and who fear, yet hide it under their attitudes or fake confidence. I have noticed that the insecurities show themselves in their tumbling and skills. I am not laying claim to some kind of psychological breakthrough, but these are just my ideas.
As coaches we push our athletes to try to reach excellence in competition, but at what cost?
The life of a teenager in this society is not an easy one. You should see the things that the girls on my twitter feed are saying on a regular basis. The reality is that young men and ladies carry this feeling of inadequacy and unimportance. I understand as an adult that the things they find so serious are really not in the grand scheme of things, but the reality is that to them, they are. It is our job as cheerleading coaches and adults in general to empower them and help build confidence and self worth. Not in a proud and arrogant way, but in a constructive positive way.
If the blocks and fears come from doubt and lack of confidence in their abilities, perhaps the way to remedy it is with love. There are some fears that are formed from injury and the like, but I wonder if the insecurities come from beyond that. What if the fears come from what is happening behind the doors of their hearts?
I watch as my twitter feed is filled with “tweets” of young ladies crying for someone to care. They feel like as teenagers no one sees them unless they see the wrong they are doing. The pressures of school, family, and friends, trying to balance a life in society that teaches destructive behaviors and superficial relationships. As coaches we add to that pressure with continually pointing out their flaws and yelling at them for their failures, without celebrating the victories no matter how small they seem.
The reality is that their brains are filled with so much that they have a hard time handling. Broken homes and families, stress at school and trying to stay or become relevant, and the desire to be heard without the feeling that they are being silenced. When they come to our gyms they are looking for the escape from the reality of their lives. As cheerleading coaches we offer them just that. We offer them a place where the broken can be fixed, where they can feel as if they are not only welcome, but empowered.
So, the next time you find yourself frustrated at the athlete who is no longer throwing a skill have been throwing before, look in their eyes, listen to their words, and care about where they are coming from. Maybe the problem is not with the skill or even the gym/sport, maybe it has something to do with what is going on in their lives. After you listen, care. Learn to love your athletes, care how they feel, care when they hurt, and love them through the distress. I also suggest reading Debbie Love’s books and tips at: