Flyer’s Mental Blocks – Solution #1
(I plan to do several articles on mental blocks. I will probably include the first 2 paragraphs of this article in each and every one of them. Once you’ve read them, you will understand why.)
All mental blocks are different. They have different triggers. They have varying consequences. They surround different tricks. That being the case, they also have different remedies.
First, you have to try to understand the mental block. This is hard to do if you have never had one. A cheerleader with a mental block is not JUST scared. If that was all it is, you could overcome a mental block with bribes, threats, or just taking a deep breath and “going for it.” A mental block is paralyzing. It is not logical or rational. And they can happen to anyone, at any time. Trying to understand them is like trying to understand a migraine headache. If you’ve never had one, you really can’t comprehend what they are like. The best thing you can do is be supportive and patient and help the student work through it.
Having said all of that, let’s look at a type of stunting mental blocks. This one is when a student’s uncertainty causes them to use poor execution. They will still attempt a stunt, but they won’t really go for it. You’ll see this frequently when flyers are starting to learn 1-legged stunts like liberties (libs). They won’t quite lock out their leg. They will hold their breath. They will look down. eventually, they will just sort of fall out of the stunt into the bases cradle. Worse than that, they might just “step down” onto their back leg, which really means, they’ll collapse and kick their back spot in the face on the way down.
For this kind of situation,one solution is to remove the flyer’s fear of falling. You can do this simply by having the stunt group cradle the flyer IMMEDIATELY, upon hitting the trick. This way, the flyer knows they don’t have to worry about holding the stunt. All they have to do is get up into the stunt (which is the hardest part of most stunts), and then the bases will cradle immediately. Pretty soon, the flyers will start being more aggressive locking out their legs. They will start to think about hollowing out. They will start to concentrate on how they are pulling their lib leg. They will do these things because they are no longer worrying about staying in the air.
After a little while, start having the group hold the stunt, but only for a defined amount of time. I usually start with 2 seconds. If you tell the flyer they only have to hold it for 2 seconds, it is amazing how they will suddenly start to use good technique in the air. You can add time as you go, but do not rush it. In fact, I think it is better to let the flyer ask to hold it longer. Most flyers start to get pretty competitive with themselves, wanting to hold it longer and longer before cradling. I usually find myself telling them, “No, let’s just hold it for 5 seconds, not 8.” Before long, the flyer is begging you to let them stay in the stunt that they were just too scared of to even attempt correctly a few practices ago.
If you are going to try this approach to fixing a mental block, it is important that the group is very confident with cradling. That is because the cradle is the “security blanket” for the flyer that allows them to overcome their fear. If the group is not solid with their cradles, you probably have a progression issue and need to back off of one-legged stunts anyway.
One more important point for this approach. Make sure that you emphasise using proper cradle technique. It is okay to use a sweep cradle here instead of a pop cradle (in fact I usually do). But it is not okay to let the group be lazy in the actual cradle. Make sure the bases are still catching high and absorbing with their legs. Make sure the flyer is piking her legs and catching her bases’ shoulders, and supporting her weight in the cradle. If you are using this approach, you will probably be executing a lot of cradles. That is a lot of opportunity for you to reinforce good technique (or bad), so take advantage of it.
As I mentioned at the top of this article, I plan to do more. If anyone has a specific example of a mental block they would like to see addressed, please feel free to post it. 🙂