In dealing with real fear – fear real enough and strong to interfere with a gymnast doing what they want to do and have done many times before, too many parents and coaches fail to understand either the root of the problem or where to look for solutions. They look to conscious mind solutions, appeal to logic, or even make threats, when the problem lies in the subconscious, beyond the reach of conscious mind solutions.
Learning Gymnastics Skills and Movements
As when babies are learning to walk, initial learning of physical skills starts with the conscious mind deciding to learn it and trying to control doing it. When you first are learning a skill, you really have to think about it. The conscious mind is unfamiliar with controlling body movements, so the learning process is slow and awkward.
The Subconscious Controls All Learned Physical Actions and Movements
As the body repeats skills, they become habits and are taken over by the subconscious, and are done without conscious thought. You can see and understand this because you now walk normally, without thinking about it at all, completely from habit. You might think about where you want to go, but you rely on your now well established subconscious walking habits to get you there. All gymnastics skills, routines and combinations are first consciously learned, but then performed under the control of the subconscious, without any conscious thought. In fact at this point, conscious thought is almost certain to interfere negatively with performance.
Fear Can Interfere
But there can be another interference in the gymnastic skill performance process – fear. Part of the job of the subconscious mind is to protect the individual from any harm. So if for whatever reason, the subconscious mind has decided or linked danger to a particular gymnastics skill or set of gymnastics skills, it will do whatever is necessary to “protect” the gymnast, which usually translates to stopping them from doing it. To the subconscious mind, fear, it imagines, is just as real actual danger. The subconscious mind can’t tell the difference. And it must protect the individual from all danger, so even if the coaches, teammates and parents know, and even if the gymnast truly knows, they can do a skill, their subconscious does whatever it has to do to stop them and “protect” them.
The Subconscious Dominates
And since the subconscious rules physical movement, there is a limit to what the conscious mind, and conscious mind tactics, can do to change the situation. Both in size and tasks accomplished, the subconscious mind dwarfs the conscious mind. The subconscious multi-tasks and performs an infinite amount of body functions, including beating the heart, circulation, digestion, physical movements, etc., etc.
Don’t Blame the Gymnast for Not Fixing the Problem
Gymnasts, coaches and parents must realize that this fear is most often beyond the control of a gymnast’s conscious efforts. They are not lazy, wimps, undisciplined, “not trying” or any other label coaches and parents put to this situation, and threats and deadlines, most often, make the situations worse. They are at the mercy of their subconscious mind, and any and every conscious tactic, is doomed to almost certain failure. Almost all conscious mind techniques will be ineffective.
Solutions Must Come From the Subconscious
So when strong fear interferes with a gymnast doing skills they have previously done, any solution must effectively deal with the subconscious mind. Since the subconscious mind is more powerful than the conscious mind, especially in this situation, only those tactics and strategies dealing with what is going on in the subconscious will have any positive effect. Smart parents and coaches, who want to change the fear situation in a timely manner will make the choice to work on the subconscious.