When giving advice for tumblers, 99% of the focus is on the physical skills needed to perform better, jump higher
, move faster, and stick those landings. But one thing is missing from many of these conversations: how to overcome the fear of attempting a new stunt or returning to one after an injury.
Regardless of how long you've been tumbling, for many, there is always some amount of fear when performing passes and intricate moves. This is largely because no one is perfect at any stunt. There's always a chance you'll do something slightly different to mess up the result.
Before I continue, I want to point out that being afraid or nervous isn't a bad thing. In fact, over-confidence can result in more injuries than timidity. That small hint of fear is what reminds you to practice and perform safely and to know when something is too difficult to do. Think of it as intuition; your body and mind is telling you to be careful because what you're about to do isn't easy and can result in an injury
While it's okay to be nervous, you can't let fear dominate your thoughts. You'll never be able to perform an entire cheer routine if you're too afraid to take a little risk and attempt new stunts. Here are five steps for overcoming fear:
- Check yourself. Put your fear into perspective. What are you afraid of? Is it the landing? The takeoff? Are you afraid of falling or not completing enough revolutions? You can't beat your fear until you recognize the reason behind it. In some cases, just understanding why you're afraid can banish that fear. And even if it doesn't, it at least gives you the power to move on to the next step.
- Get your facts straight. Fear often goes hand-in-hand with self-doubt. When you're afraid or nervous, the truth often becomes hazy or uncertain. For example, you've performed an aerial five dozen times. But what if you mess it up this time? Push aside that fear by reminding yourself that you've done an aerial before and you'll do it again. If you've performed an aerial five dozen times but have messed up half the time, remind yourself that you're still here, cheering and performing. You recovered from the mess up and, if you mess up again, you'll recover again. Don't let the possibilities of failure ruin your tumbling skills.
- Evaluate your skills. Are you having trouble sticking a landing? Do you feel as though you'll never do a correct back handspring? If you're having trouble with a stunt (or are afraid to do it), evaluate what your current skills are. What level are you? What stunts are your peers at the same level doing? You may discover that you're just not ready for something; you may need to perfect other stunts or skills beforehand. This can help you determine whether fear is running your life or if it's your intuition telling you that you're not yet ready.
- Open up to your coach. There's no reason to handle your fear on your own. Your coach isn't just there to teach you a routine; he or she is also there to guide and help you. If you explain to your coach your fears, he or she can help you overcome them. Together, your coach can spot you, work individually with you before or after practice, or give you a motivational pep talk.
- Get back in the saddle. What's the worst thing you can do when you're afraid to do something? Avoid it. When you avoid your fears, the fear is in control and it will start affecting the skills you normally were confident about. Suddenly, you're having trouble with easier stunts and soon you're wobbly on the basics. The best way to overcome fear is to face it head on. If that aerial scares you, practice it. And then do it again. And again. Practice makes perfect and soon you'll look back and laugh about your fear.
Remember, it's okay to be nervous and it's even okay to have a little fear. If you stay in control of your fear and nerves, it won't take over and build. As long as you practice in a safe environment with the proper training, you can beat that fear!