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Gymnastics/Mental Blocking


My 10 year old daughter is a USAG level 4 gymnast. She does well overall and won 1st state champion on floor last year level 3.  Just yesterday she placed first at a meet on beam with a 9.425. She already has most skill for next year level 5 including her beam back walkover and her baby giant on bars. As I am sure you are aware the floor tumbling pass for level 4 is a round off with 2 back handsprings. She learned this skill last year and executed it well through the summer and then in Sept right before her first meet she started blocking on it. She seemed to not like the feeling of the power b/c she would do it with a hurdle but would not run into it.  She got through it at the first few meets in the Fall with her coach spotting.  Her coach kept telling me to stay calm and positive and that it happens and is normal. I did that. In Dec her coach asked her if she wanted her to keep being patient with her or push harder and my child said she wanted to be pushed harder. Very soon she started doing it on her own without the spot and we all celebrated and made a huge deal of how proud we were ,etc.  First few weeks of Jan were great.  She goes to a meet Jan 15 and runs and does it with no spot.  9.275 and tied for first! Awesome.  I assume its over and we are past it.  One week after the meet on a Monday practice she cries and wont do it at all.  I am stunned. Even with spotting and on mats and tumble track etc she could not do it.  Let me make clear she is not being oppositional in any way.  She wants so bad to do it but gets a mental block. She is very frustrated with herself.  The meet this weekend where she placed 1st on beam, her coach actually scratched her from floor b/c she wouldn't/couldn't tumble in warm up. So now I am at a total loss of what we can do next.  Through this whole things we have done positive self talk, visualizing (every night before bed).  Just a few more pieces of info...her coach is very experienced and wonderful, I know she is doing everything she knows how to help her.  We have analyzed it down to the arch back into the second connected back handspring is the spot of the tumbling pass she freezes on.  She will just pike and not arch back into the second one. (although she is perfectly physically capable of this skill).  Also we believe is started with "over thinking".  She has never gotten hurt or had a fall or bad experience with this skill.  But I clearly remember back over the summer when she would frequently say "I don't know how I doing my tumbling pass, I just do it, I don't think about it" and for some reason she started thinking about it.  Now its become such a huge issue, how can we get her to do it without thinking about it again?  We have 5 more meets including state and I know her floor routine is awesome if she can just do this pass. ( by the way, she is fine with the level 5 tumbling pass of back handspring back tuck- I believe because you don't arch back into the back tuck and for some reason that is what bothers her).
Thanks so much

Hi Kathryn,
I can tell that you are very much invested in your daughter's success and it means a lot to you.  I understand that it is frustrating to see your child get stuck on something they should be able to do (because they've done it before).  

In the case of your daughter over thinking something, however, the best way to help is to allow space for your daughter to relax into knowing her abilities herself.  That means not discussing the issue unless your daughter brings it up.  Also, if I were you I would discuss with your daughter's coach the options of continuing to scratch floor or simply replacing the second handspring with a back tuck and taking whatever deduction that brings for the rest of the season.



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Robert Davis


I can answer questions about technique, strength and endurance training, healing from injuries, and competitions. I can also answer questions from parents of gymnasts, as I have six children of my own now. I plan to write a freely downloadable ebook or guide soon, go to to tell me what you want help with!


I competed in gymnastics for 16 years, from age 8 to 24, the last six of those years on the Arizona State Men's Gymnastics Team ( After almost a 10 year hiatus I've returned to competition, see


I have a BSE and MS in Electrical Engineering from Arizona State University. During those 6 years I was a member of the Arizona State Men's Gymnastics Team as well.

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