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The challenging world of gymnastics Exploring setbacks and ‘mental blocks’ - Part 1

Are we sometimes too quick to label mental blocks or lost moves?

I am currently experiencing an increase in support requests for mental blocks in artistic gymnasts - as well as it being a term that is being used a lot more frequently in club environments that I am in.

Have you, (your child, or someone you are coaching) had an experience of not being able to do a skill that you could do before? We know that this is a common occurrence in sports like gymnastics, trampolining, and diving where we need many elements to come together to complete complex skills and difficult routines.

Doubts are creeping in, but is it a mental block?

Confidence can be undermined by doubts or uncertainty. If you are experiencing these things, then you may find that you are mentally and / or physically struggling to commit to your skills or routines. Understanding the reason why doubts creep in can help us to work through the challenge with more clarity on what we are trying to overcome.

What may trigger you to doubt a skill you could previously do?

Time off - we see an increase in doubts when an individual has had time away from the environment. When we return it can be helpful to focus on taking things back a few steps and slowly building up to where we were before the break.

Tiredness - when we are tired, we are not as effective at executing skills. Maybe we are physically aching because we have trained a lot, or we are tired because we have had to stay up late the night before and get some homework done.

Lack of focus / distractions - When we have been doing something for a long time we can go in to ‘autopilot’ and may need to think about what we are doing, and again take the skill back a few steps if we need to. Or we may find that we are distracted by what is going on around us so not focused on what we are doing which leads to doubts.

Pressure in another area of life

- doubts can creep in when we feel pressure in one area of life - e.g., exams in school. We can then find that we carry that pressure with us into our training environment if we don’t process it effectively.

We are not saying that individuals are not experiencing mental blocks or that mental blocks are not a thing. However, we suggest being mindful of the label and the effect of using it. By definition the word block means ‘a movement or flow is difficult or impossible’ which may then seem too overwhelming to overcome.


We will experience doubts and setbacks without it being a full mental block. So be mindful of the words and labels you use.

Take some time to listen and explore what may be causing your doubts or uncertainty.

This content has been developed as part of our #itsmyjourney project with Valleys Gymnastics Academy


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