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Mental Blocks

Mental blocks are one of the most vexing problems in cheerleading. There is no one-size-fits-all mental block; they come in all sorts of shapes and permutations and have many possible causes. (Similarly, there is no one-size-fits-all method of resolving a block.) 

Some cheerleaders develop a mental block after they have sustained an injury or a fall.  Others freeze up after they have witnessed an injury.  Some have trouble after a growth spurt as they haven’t yet gotten used to their new body – an increase in height and weight that comes with maturation.  Then there is the development of fear.  A younger cheerleader might be fearless and then – suddenly – becomes afraid. 

A cheerleader might develop difficulty executing a specific tumbling skill and that might generalize to other skills.  Or there will be a block with only one skill and subsequent avoidance.  Most often the difficulties are with skills that require backward movement.  Our brains are not wired to accept backward movement and so there is a natural resistance to that. It requires effort to overcome that resistance. 

The term “mental block” is interesting in and of itself.  It is most often used to define an inability to remember or to think of something you normally can do and it is most often caused by emotional tension.  

The word “block” refers to an obstruction. In cheerleading then, we can think of a mental block as an obstruction to performing a skill that one normally can execute.  I would add however, that this can happen with learning a new skill.  Some cheerleaders might balk or freeze at an attempt at learning a new, more advanced tumbling skill. 

 However we define it, the experience of a mental block is discouraging, disheartening, and deflating.  It’s no fun to feel “de-skilled” and out of control. 

Well-meaning coaches can inadvertently make the situation worse by forcing the cheerleader to “just do it” only to have the cheerleader fail again and again.  This not only reinforces the failure experience, it leaves the cheerleader feeling increasingly helpless. 

Cheerleaders need some specific tools to help get them out of the slump they are in.  Without a game plan, they are lost.  And this will only result in an exacerbation of their heartache and humiliation. 

Because blocking is such a painful problem, I have devoted a good bit of time covering this topic.  Here are some resources for you: 

  • This blog offer many articles about mental blocks.  To see them, simply scroll down on the right side of the blog site and click on that category. This will take you to the many articles on the subject. 
  • The wonderful Debbie Love, tumbling expert and consultant to cheerleading gyms all over the world, and I created a Facebook Page called Unlock Cheerleading Mental Blocks.  Please “like” our Page and join in the conversation! 
  • Debbie Love has her own website which is a treasure trove of information about tumbling and mental blocks.  Be sure to see her 9-step program called Breaking Free (which is also discussed in detail on this blog).  Debbie’s website is: 
  • I have created a paper called Guide to Unlocking the Block which contains a summary of several mental game techniques to help cheerleaders, coaches and parents resolve mental blocks.  You can access this paper in two ways. One is to go here to read it directly.  If you would prefer a downloadable pdf version of the paper, you can click on this link which will take you to my shopping cart. Don’t worry – there is no charge for this but you will be asked to provide your contact information.  Once you do so you will be given a link for the download. 

Please feel free to offer your comments and questions about mental blocks.  I am eager to help in any way I can!