Cheerleading is 90% mental work.Posted: February 2, 2011
We all know the physical exertion we must endure during practice and on our own time, stretching and contorting our bodies in ways we didn’t know were possible, and doing countless hours of conditioning to get our bodies into tip-top cheer shape. Don’t underestimate the importance of all this, however note that I have come to the conclusion that the hardest conditioning we have to put up with, is that of our mind.
Speaking from the standpoint of a flyer, my brain is something that often messes me up. Before every single stunt I do (be it a double base or a scorp), a little tiny voice at the back of my head says the following in a really fast chipmunk-like voice (no doubt hoping I won’t notice it, and indeed I try not to):
“Mina what are you doing, are you about to let yourself be lifted up? What if you screw up? What if they don’t catch you? What if you fall? Oh you’ll surely fall, this might be the last time you walk, and you’ll end up paralyzed in a wheel chair! You better not screw this up or everyone else in the group will be really disappointed and they won’t like working with you and they’ll want a new flyer, and your coach will be disappointed and won’t put you in any stunts, you need to prove to her you can do this so you better not fall out of that stunt! But wait, you’re not seriously doing this after all I ju -…..”
And it goes on and on. And then I, tune it out, bare a smile, and jump into my bases’ hands. It’s basically a tedious mind battle every practice. I tell myself I love stunting, but that little tiny part in my brain is always dreading it.
Stunting with the right mindset is extremely important. And I’ve found that the only thing that truly makes the little voice in my head quieter and quieter and eventually can completely silence it, is practice. Practicing stunts over and over and over until they’re flawless makes it shut up because it gives me confidence. And boy does that feel great! Actually, it’s that feeling I get when I get a stunt just right, that keeps me going and makes me continue cheering.
But it’s not just the little annoying voice that I have to deal with. You see, to get a stunt just right, it takes an odd combination of concentration. You can’t concentrate too much, because you have to let your body do what it knows how to unconsciously do. But if you concentrate too little, you’ll fail as well. Go figure! It’s so difficult to capture that in-between state of mind and stay there… it’s almost like a type of meditation because you have to focus but not focus at the same time.
Then there are mental blocks that seem to appear out of nowhere. One day you’ll have your full, and the next, boom! All of a sudden you can’t do it anymore and there is absolutely no logical reason as to why! You’re in shape, you’ve been doing it all summer, but darn it it’s like your brain just spat it out one day and decided to forget how to do it!
I’ve heard that many tumblers and sometimes bases too go through mental blocks like these. I recently read a case about a base who started being really afraid of catching, because someone had fallen on her head, so every time she had to catch, she would crouch low (clearly worsening the situation).
Mental blocks can be very frustrating, but what you have to do is imagine yourself executing the skill over and over, and then force yourself to try it out over and over. (Use spots to help if you’re afraid, but don’t learn to rely on them too much). It may take a few practices, weeks, or even months, but it’s just something you have to not give up on. Thus I have faith that my full will return one of these days out of the blue, just like it disappeared.
Anyways, click on the title of this post so you can leave a comment in the comment box that will appear below, and let me know how you cope with mental blocks!