Some cheerleaders are so engaged in negative thinking that their performance suffers.
Does this sound like you?
You tell yourself:
- “I’ll never stick that skill.”
- “I’m not going to do it.”
- “I’m just not good enough.”
If so, read on! (more…)
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Some cheerleaders are so engaged in negative thinking that their performance suffers.
Does this sound like you?
You tell yourself:
If so, read on! (more…)
Yesterday I wrote about cheerleading coaches who yell at their cheerleaders. I suspect many do this because they truly believe it is a way to motivate athletes. But does it work? (more…)
What happens when a cheerleader needs to build up her confidence fast? In this case, the cheerleader is someone who successfully made a varsity team last year as a freshman and hopes to be accepted again this year. But this year, the competition is tougher. How can she boost her confidence in 4 days? (Tryouts are this weekend.)
Well, this is how I responded to this athlete’s question: (more…)
Cheerleaders, like all athletes, need mental toughness to succeed. The phrase “mental toughness” however, seems to lack precision and clarity. I have written about mental toughness many times in this blog and I recently came across an article in Coach and Athletic Director Magazine (May 2006) which I thought you might find interesting.
The article offers a definition of mental toughness: “Mental toughness is having the natural or developed psychological edge that enables you to:
• Generally cope better than your opponents with the many demands (competition, training, and lifestyle) that sport places on a performer.
• Specifically, be more consistent and better than your opponents in remaining determined, focused, confident, and in control under pressure.
(This is from an article from the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, written by G. Jones, S. Hanton, and D. Connaughton.)
In 2006 two other researchers conducted a study among 22 NCAA coaches. The data showed that the following components were fundamental to the definition of mental toughness:
1. Having an unshakable self-belief in the unique qualities and abilities that make you better than your opponents.
2. Strength: You have to be in good physical and mental condition. You must be psychologically and emotionally prepared.
3. Having an unshakable self-belief in your ability to achieve your competition goals.
4. Have conviction: You have to be a little bit stubborn.
5. Regaining psychological control following unexpected, uncontrollable events (competition specific).
6. Have a strong will to succeed: Don’t let setbacks stop you from achieving your goal.
7. Remaining fully focused on the task at hand in the face of competition-specific distractions.
8. Be consistent: Recognize and adjust to change so that you are always able to make a contribution to your team.
9. Not being adversely affected by others’ good and bad performances.
10. Be competitive: It’s not just about beating your opponent. You have to internalize competitiveness and take pride in what you do.
11. Switching a sport focus on and off as required.
12. Personal management: Don’t duck potential problems; take on the problems directly to prevent small problems from building into bigger problems.
13. Thriving on the pressure of competition.
14. Take the right approach: Always be ready to play.
15. Accepting that competition anxiety is inevitable and knowing that you can cope with it.
16. Have passion for what you do.
17. Having an insatiable desire and internalized motives to succeed.
18. Bouncing back from performance setbacks as a result of increased determination to succeed.
19. Remaining fully focused in the face of personal life distractions.
20. Pushing back the boundaries of physical and emotional pain, while still maintaining technique and effort under distress (in training and competition).
What do you think? Do you think you have these qualities? Do you think they are relevant for cheerleading?
Cheerleading tryouts can give anyone the jitters and in my last posting about this topic (March 17th) I started writing about Doubts (those little negative conversations that you have with yourself). There are many things that can feed your doubts and there are also steps you can take to minimize the negative impact of doubts.
Listening to and Reacting to Others. Do you allow yourself to get caught up in the chatter about tryouts from friends and other people who are going to try out? What I’m talking about here is drama and gossip. The talk could be related to who the judges are or who is going to stay on the team or who is getting thrown off the squad or…well; you know what I’m talking about.
This kind of talk is different from the sharing of accurate information – which is good and may be helpful. This kind of talk is based on rumor and misinformation and the problem with this kind of talk is that it usually only serves to raise your anxiety.
The solution, of course, is to beware of such talk and keep your distance. You don’t have to be rude when people come up to you and have the latest hot tips or information about the tryouts. You can listen politely, nod your head, and just say. “Okay, well thanks for telling me.”
Don’t yield to the temptation to accept as fact what is actually rumor and gossip. This will only heighten your anxiety. So what I advise is that you be polite and don’t engage and seek accurate information from reliable resources.
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It’s no secret that some cheerleaders experience injuries during cheerleading practices or performances.
One such cheerleader recently wrote to me after she fell on her head, asking me to help her cope with the stress of doing the stunt that led to her injury. This cheerleader fell on her head doing a 360 elevator/extension.
What follows is my response to this cheerleader:
How awful that you fell on your head! No wonder you are afraid!
First – I assume you got immediate medical attention, right? Any injury is serious business but a head injury in particular requires immediate and thorough evaluation. There is no way you should resume physical activity until you are cleared by a physician.
Second – has your coach been certified by an organization such as the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA)? All cheer coaches and cheerleading squads should go through a safety course. Safety is fundamental and the most important thing.
Third – ask your coach and squad to review what happened in detail in order to determine what went wrong. Someone wasn’t doing what he or she should have been doing, right? A careful analysis sets the stage for a plan to remedy the problem to ensure it doesn’t happen again. This process will contribute to your feeling a bit more secure about future attempts at doing a 360 elevator/extension.
Fourth – once all of these steps are taken, you can begin the psychological recuperation.
You have experienced a physical and a psychological trauma and the reality of that needs to be acknowledged and honored. Of course you are frightened…that is natural. You will need to rebuild your trust in yourself and in your team-mates and perhaps in your coach, too. This is a process and will take some time. Ultimately, only you can decide if you wish to return to cheerleading or not. Do not allow anyone to force you into doing something that you do not want to do. It is your decision.
If you want to stay in the game, here are some things to consider: After a serious injury, we tend to get stuck on replaying the incident. This prolongs the fear and it also engraves the incident in our brains. The body does what the brain thinks so you will definitely want to stop this process. To do this, you can try some visualization. (Many pro athletes use this to help them recover from injuries.)
Here’s how to do it:
This visualization accomplishes several things. It helps you ease back into the idea of cheerleading while minimizing your anxiety and it also engraves successful execution of stunts in your brain. You will be training your brain to feel and think in the way you want. You will also be learning how to control your thoughts and feelings rather than have them control you!
Good luck with this. I’m so glad you wrote to me about this. Please keep me posted.
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Cheerleading is a complex sport requiring physical dexterity, athletic competence, and superb mental skills. It isn’t unusual for a cheerleader to experience a mental block about a particular stunt or routine.
This is Part III in my response to a cheerleader’s plea for help in eliminating a mental block.
You are right in calling your problem a “mental block.” Your biggest problem is the way you are thinking about your routine. You’ve got it in your head that you cannot do something and your body is complying.
I’ve said it before and I will repeat it many times on this blog site: Your body does what your mind thinks. So, let’s change the way you think!
First, write down the story you are creating about the situation. In your case, it may be – “I’ll never be able to throw a full except when I do it alone.”
Is this thought helpful or harmful to you? Is it positive or negative? We can see it doesn’t help you and it’s negative.
And now ask where your time focus is. Well, it is in the future since you are predicting what will happen. Your job then is to first change that negative thought to a neutral or a positive one and then to move your time focus to the present – to the here and now.
You can do this by challenging the veracity of your thoughts. Is it true that you will NEVER be able to throw a full except when you are alone? How can you be so sure? Are you always right in predicting the future? Become like a detective, searching for the truth.
To revise your thinking, you might say, “Well, it is true that I am having a hard time throwing a full NOW when I’m with others but that doesn’t mean that will always be true.”
What do you think needs to happen for you to be able to throw a full during the group routine? We know you are capable of executing the move under some conditions. This mode of thinking shifts your perspective from that of a helpless victim to a problem solver.
What might be contributing to this problem? List all possible causes. My guess is it’s a focus problem. Your focus is on what others are doing or you are afraid you will bump into someone but whatever it is, your focus is not where it should be – if it were, you would be able to execute your move!
So, where should your focus be? Exactly where it is when you do it alone!
So what do you need to do to improve your focus? First thing is to calm down. As I’ve said before, anxiety leads to fuzzy focus. And what’s a quick way to calm down? Exhale slowly several times. Then say, “focus” to yourself. The only thing you need to focus on is executing your move cleanly.
So, by identifying how and what you are thinking, you can uncover any distortions in your thinking. You can challenge your thinking and become detective-like in figuring out what the problem is and then you can generate some solutions.
For you (as it usually is) the issue is focus! Please re-read these 3 posts and take a peek at past ones for other helpful hints.
Good luck to you!
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Cheerleaders are not immune to experiencing mental blocks which can interfere with cheerleading performance. In my last post, I responded to a question I saw in the forum on Allaboutcheerleading.com in which a cheerleader asked for help in overcoming her mental block about throwing a full during a practice routine.
I encouraged this cheerleader to become more objective in her assessment and to embrace mistakes as opportunities for learning and not something to be avoided. I then reminded her that she clearly is capable of throwing a full under some circumstances so she needs to determine what factors are interfering with her execution some of the time.
Here is more of what I would say to this cheerleader: Good execution follows good thinking, clear thinking. Emotional upset creates fuzzy thinking so it’s important to step back and assume an objective stance – as if you are evaluating someone else who is seeking your help.
Take a few moments and clear your head. Close your eyes and exhale slowly 3 times. This will calm you down and when you are calmer your thinking will be more focused and clearer.
Now, with your eyes closed, think about the times you really hit it with throwing your full. With your mind’s eye, see yourself executing this move and nailing it. Allow yourself to see yourself doing this successfully over and over. Now, recall how you felt when you threw your full successfully. Notice every detail – how you focused just prior to execution; how you held your head, your arms, your stance; how you moved; how you were breathing; where your focus was – everything!
Next, still with your eyes closed, combine the whole thing – see yourself with your mind’s eye and experience yourself kinesthetically (your felt sense) executing the move over and over. Good.
Now assign a label or cue word or phrase for this successful execution. It can be anything. For example, you could simply call it “success” or “good move.” Once you have your label, visualize and feel the whole successful routine again only this time say your cue word to yourself. Repeat over and over. Each time you do this, you will be creating brain and muscle memory so that the next time you actually throw a full, you will be able to reconnect with this positive experience and success will be more likely!
More on this topic in my next post!
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While exploring the forum on the site – All About Cheerleading, I came across a question written by a cheerleader who has a “mental block” throwing her full. She wrote that she found her fulls easy to do when her team is warming up in the corners but then “blocks” when they do their whole routine. She has to do a pass through 3 other girls which is “scary” for her.
This cheerleader said that this is “taking a lot of mental energy” as it is “all I think about” and it’s frustrating for her. She gets mad at herself because she is a “perfectionist.”
Well, as a psychologist and peak performance coach, this caught my interest and I thought I would use her concern as the basis of a blog post – maybe a few!
Where to begin? I think I’ll focus on the perfectionist problem today.
Perfectionism in itself is not necessarily a problem. On a positive note, perfectionism can drive a cheerleader (or anyone) to work hard and persevere in the face of discouragement. So, perfectionism can be the fuel that motivates a cheerleader to succeed especially when it is accompanied by commitment, persistence, and attention to detail.
A healthy perfectionist can take pleasure in the effort taken to achieve success.
But sometimes, perfectionism isn’t so good for you! This is true if you are unable to feel satisfaction because you can never believe what you do is good enough or if you are striving towards unrealistic goals.
There is an important distinction between striving towards excellence versus perfection. The former is realistic and possible; the latter is rarely possible and more likely to lead to frustration and heartache and in some instances – depression.
In cheerleading, the road to perfecting a stunt or routine is riddled with bumps and potholes. Mistakes are inevitable and, as I’ve mentioned in this forum many times, the best attitude to have towards mistakes is to view them as opportunities to learn and grow.
So here is how I would advise this cheerleader: You are missing out on an opportunity to learn something about yourself that can be valuable to you. A true champion sees a mistake as information, as data that can be used to learn and to improve!
I would invite you to step back and practice saying this phrase over and over – “Isn’t it interesting that…” and fill in the blank. So, for example, you could say, “Isn’t it interesting that I can successfully throw a full alone but not with my team mates during our routine. I wonder why that is?”
If you do this, you will be creating some distance and objectivity to your situation which will help you see the situation more clearly and with less negative emotion. You become a scientist, filled with curiosity about this problem. Your goal becomes searching for a solution to the problem which is now more clearly defined which is – there is a difference in your ability to throw a full during a routine versus during a solo practice.
The next question becomes: what is the difference or what are the different variables between the 2 conditions? You are the same cheerleader in both situations, right? It isn’t that you are not physically capable of throwing a full since you are able to do so when practicing alone.
So what is it about executing this move with your squad that interferes with your ability to nail it?
To help you figure it out, here are some possibilities: you are allowing yourself to get distracted by the movements of your team mates; you have “spooked yourself” into believing that you cannot do it in these circumstances; you are more focused on your negative internal conversation than on executing the move. Do any of these ring true?
This is a beginning. Tomorrow I will pick up here and continue.
By the way – are you on Facebook? If so, please be my friend and join my Facebook group – Confident Cheerleading!
Success in cheerleading depends on more than executing all the right moves; it also relies on thinking in the right way.
I have been examining some common cognitive distortions cheerleaders (and all people) use which impede progress and undermine cheerleading performance. Today I will talk about Fortune Telling.
In this form of jumping to conclusions, you “predict” what is going to happen in the future before it happens. “Oh, I know I’m not going to get on the squad.” “We’ll never make it to Nationals.”
Fortune telling can be an especially dangerous cognitive distortion because it can become a self fulfilling prophecy. If you expect to do poorly, what do you think will happen?
Another way of explaining this is to say that fortune telling is a process of setting negative goals for yourself and living down to them!
Why set up negative goals for yourself? Instead try saying, “I’m going to work hard in preparing for tryouts so I can feel confident and perform well.” Or – “We’re going to do our best to make progress this year with the hope that we’ll be able to go to Nationals.”
See the difference? Think this would make a difference in how you perform? You betcha!