Gymnastics: Fear

January 16, 2008
By Julie Bickel, Culver, IN

Back-hand-spring back-layout step-out on a four-inch wide, wooden, high balance beam, four feet in the air-quickly suspended fears that you never thought could enter your sane mentality. Performing skills, essentially without thinking, was the only way to accomplish a skill or trick your mind into thinking that what you are about to attempt is neither dangerous nor scary. Fear can break you down and release emotions over something you want so badly, in this case- I wanted gymnastics skills.

What causes fear? Fear has four categories: intensity, novelty, natural reflexes, and human social interaction. In relation to gymnastics, all apply. Intensity, such as pain can cause one to fear about hurting themselves and novelty, or familiarity’s, for example, could have something to do with the height of the balance beam, or how short it is in width compared to a beam with padding. Also, fear can be caused by natural reflexes tell you “you can’t.” Therefore lead you to ask the questions, “Why am I flinging and flipping my body on a four inch-wide high beam?” or “I could possibly fall and break something, or die, I shouldn’t do this skill.” Lastly, human social interaction would be you in relation to your team and coaches. My interaction was very strong, but did struggle when the coaches reacted angrily at the repetition of doing something wrong. Therefore, you would lose confidence in yourself, and gain fear of the skill.

The gymnastics skill that I wanted to achieve was required in the next level, the level I was training for: level nine. Out of ten levels, level nine is highly competitive, and very risky. From experience, fear hindered me from success in the long-run. I had huge mental blocks that were not easily overcome and would go through school all day dreading my gymnastics practices; four hours a practice, sixteen hours a week. The hard part wasn’t doing or throwing the skill, it was maintaining enough mental stability in order to perform well, and not thinking of the consequences or actions if I did it wrong. To convince yourself “you can” is harder then performing. I constantly had to visualize myself performing correctly, mentally talk myself into the skill, and prepare myself for all possibilities. I learned the ‘key’ to mastering fear: don’t think about it. Have an awareness of your surroundings and your background of knowledge, trust yourself, and go for it.

Tears, sobbing, late practices, yelling coaches, stress; break you down. When tension run high, emotion takes over- and then you are gone for. One practice I remember vividly because I was having trouble with my balance beam series (back-hand spring back-hand spring connected) and would not throw the skill. I analyzed the skill so much that it literally made me freeze up and not perform, I was scared. By the time you do not do something you know you are supposed to do, you are already angry and emotional. Then comes the stress from the coaches and how there is no reason that you shouldn’t be able to do the skill. And they are right. You should be able to perform, but does your mind always agree with what your body wants to do? No. Finally, you get punishment for not completing your assignment, creating more fear for your next practice. This cycle continues until you change your thinking, until you realize that you can do it and take action.
You never know fear until you’re faced with a challenge; an obstacle that is hard to overcome and easily failed. In the sport Gymnastics, you encounter many fears that you strive to demolish. Whether you have fear of a cartwheel or a Back-hand-spring back-layout step-out, no matter what difficulty level, you must disregard all previous knowledge of thinking before acting, and in this case, act before you think.

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This article has 1 comment.

on Oct. 15 2010 at 9:28 pm
guinea_pig_girl BRONZE, Centennial, Colorado
3 articles 0 photos 23 comments
I know exactly what you mean.  You are much better than me though- occasinally I freeze up when doing a simple front walkover on beam from over- analyzing it.  Anyway, maybe you could add more emotion, dialogue, or imagery to make your writing come alive.  Overall, good job!


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