Fear is one of the greatest limiting factors we face as athletes. Tony Robbins says that we are driven by two basic factors…attaining something that makes us happy or avoiding something that makes us unhappy or scared. Not surprisingly, the biggest fear that most athletes face is simple…getting hurt.
There is typically an idea that something they do may cause them harm. Most often, it won’t; but the fear is crippling. A common fear in cheer is the fear of going backwards when tumbling. Whether it’s a back tuck, back handspring, or even back walk over…no matter the case, this fear is more common that you think and if you are struggling with it, you are not alone.
Here are 4 tips to overcome your fear of going backwards:
1. Proper progression- One reason a person might be experiencing anxiety with a new trick is that they simply aren’t ready for that skill. There is a proper progression that athletes should follow in order to build the foundation to move on to the more challenging skills. If you are scared to do a new trick (not nervous you might not hit it, but actually fearful) then it might just mean that you aren’t ready.
2. Spotting- If you are at the point in your skillset to progress to a higher level, your fear might be caused by a lack of feeling secure in your spotter. Make sure than when you are struggling with a tumbling skill, that you try with a few different QUALIFIED spotters (like a coach or tumbling instructor). It might just be that you do not feel comfortable letting that particular person spot you.
3. Safe Landing- In an attempt to assure yourself that you’re not going to get hurt when you land, set yourself up to have a super safe (usually soft) surface to land on; something like a crash pad or pit. This can add another layer of security that even if you bail, you’ll be okay.
4. Counts- Once you begin to have break throughs with your fear, start doing all of your skills to an 8-count. Having a set number that you have to go on may give you a kick in the pants enough to throw it without thinking too much.
Just remember, this fear we are talking about. It is created by your brain. You MUST stay positive and optimistic during these times. Stress is only going to make it worse. COACHES, you must be patient with someone that is dealing with fear when it comes to tumbling. Being too aggressive or forceful will more than likely cause them to shut down. Be positive and uplifting and point out the athletes strengths.