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. 🙂

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29 Comments on “Flyer’s Mental Blocks – Solution #1”


  1. How do you suggest overcoming a standing back tuck mental block?

  2. Courtney Says:

    That exactly describes me when I first started flying in prep libs my coach was annoyed which is understandable but you’re right, no one understands how it feels but visualization helped me as well as learning to trust my bases and myself and now I can go up in extended libs and pull stretches but I’m gona take help from your being solid article. Thank you for understanding. 🙂

  3. toriilynn_99 Says:

    i feel like this may work except the fact that my coaches are so ignorant. I used to fly all the time; then i fell and got a concussion. Now i’ve been stretching and i think im ready to go back into the air. Im just afraid that i’ll chicken out when the time comes. I did talk to my coaches and they said theyd start from really low(ground,knee,thigh stand, sponge etc.) any tips to help me not be so scared ? {this goes for one legged stunts, showngos, anything in a full, NOT halfs;cradling;baskettoss’s}


    • If I were you, I would want to analyze whatever caused you to fall and hit the ground when you were injured. Remember, falling is a part of stunting. It is unavoidable. However, hitting the ground should NEVER happen. So, when you fell, why weren’t you caught? It could have been something you did, like jumping off the bases, bending your knees, looking down, reaching back with your arms (which pushes your spotters out of the way). It could have been something your bases did, like not letting go of your feet, not keeping an eye on you, backing out, etc. Or it could have been a combination. Whatever the case, you can probably get your confidence back if you ALL figure out what went wrong so that your group can fix the problem. That way you’ll know it won’t happen again. I hope that helps. Good luck!

  4. Alyson Says:

    I am super scared to cradle down! I dont know what to do to overcome my fear!

  5. Courtney Says:

    I have a mental block on my back handspring due to technique difficulties please can you write an article on that? Thanks. x 🙂

  6. Courtney Says:

    I generally freeze when it comes to back tumbling, I’m great with front, I’ve had numerous mental blocks on twist cradles and baskets.

  7. Cheerleaders Says:

    KICK FULL BASKET TOSS!

  8. nina o Says:

    I have an amazing top girl. A gymnast who has great body control. Not a barbie at all.
    Were working on liberties, and for some reason, it eithet doesnt go up, or she bails out of it. She suddenly becomes the girl who has never flown before. I try to encourage her, and she has the best bases on the squad.

    I dont know what to do about it

  9. Lisa Says:

    I am coaching a new top girl. She is a gymnast so she has great body control, but sometimes we just hit a block with her. She could full down within the first month of stunting and then suddenly, she was too afraid to try it anymore. She has never been dropped or hurt and she can’t explain why she is afraid. It took weeks to get her to go for it again and we started by having her do only 1/2 turns (landing on tummy)..she automatically started doing fulls again. Now, we want her to try full downs from extensions and we are going to through another phase where she is too paralyzed to try it. The trick with going halfway around, doesn’t work anymore either. Her mom told me that she has had these kinds of blocks in gymnastics too. Any ideas on how to help her and the situation? Her stunt team is incredibly patient but the rest of the squad is moving forward and they keep getting stuck every time we try something new, especially twists and anything that flips. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!


    • I’m a big fan of using video tape for mental blocks. If an athlete can see themselves performing a skill, they sometimes become less afraid of it. Have her watch tape of herself fulling down from halves. Also have her watch tape of people fulling down from extensions. Point out to her that the technique is the same. That might click.

      I’ve always found gymnasts to be tricky. They are perfectionists when it comes to technique, which is great. However, they usually aren’t good at learning by trial and error because they want to break things down to very specific technique. That doesn’t always fly in cheerleading.

      You might also try putting her on your strongest bases (if she isn’t already there) to let her work on her technique and confidence.

      • Lisa Says:

        Thanks for your ideas. I will try filming her and see if that helps. She already has one of my experienced base teams and she says she trusts them. We end up spending a lot of time trying to “talk her into” trying things…it’s exhausting! Anyway, thanks a lot!


      • You’re welcome. In terms of reasoning with the flyer, make sure to ask her to articulate exactly what she is afraid will happen. Sometimes that can help th overcome fear. It can also help you and the bases come up with ideas and tweaks you can make to help her. Feel free to check back if you come across any more issues.

  10. Lydia Says:

    I am new to this. Its so scary. It is also fun. How do i over come my fear.

  11. Lydia Says:

    I was wondering what are someways to tighten ur body.

    • Haliey Says:

      Try to squeeze your butt or try to hollow yourself out by flexing to practice try to balance your self on a chair of the cushion and hold tighten your body and squeeze your tummy to hold yourself up.

  12. Cassidy Brisson Says:

    I have a mental block when it comes to twist cradling. I absolutely cannot do it. I have neck issues as it is but I have to do one twist in a cradle and I drop my shoulder like I am told, but it just doesn’t work out to fully twist. I end up flailing out and hitting the ground. How do I fix this issue to get around and hit it right?


    • Hey Cassidy,
      That is one of the toughest tricks to figure out. I could definitely write a few articles just on twist cradles. As for your specific technique issues, it is very hard to diagnose the problem without more. However, I will give you some general pointers that will hopefully help you out.

      First, since you mention dropping the shoulder, I’d like to point out that “dropping the shoulder,” is one of the misinterpreted techniques there is. Some people think dropping the shoulder means tucking their elbow into their waste and doing a side crunch. The shoulder is dropped straight DOWN, however, the shoulder should really be dropped BACK. Your shoulders should stay level. Your left shoulder should not go down and your right shoulder up. I’m probably not describing this perfectly. I hope you can visualize what I’m talking about.

      Another common pointer is to keep your eyes open. It’s a hard thing to do when you’re scared of the trick, but you have to do it. Also, make sure you are not looking down at the ground. You should look straight to the side, over your shoulder. Your chin should not go down to your shoulder. That will make you do the side crunch I talked about previously. If you start correctly, you will eventually see you bases. Now you’re halfway around. You might feel tempted to keep staring at your bases because that makes you feel safe. Don’t do it. Keep looking until you are all the way around to the front again.

      I believe the best way to practice twist cradles is to practice them from double base thigh stands. This way, you are not so high in the air so you can think about technique more than about falling. Most people have never cradled from thigh stands. Give it a try. I think you’ll find it helpful.

      That’s all I can come up with for now. I hope some of this help.

  13. daisy Says:

    I have a fear of doing a kick full baket, ive done them before but ive got into a accident a year ago with something different then cheer and ive been scared of twisting. I got hit by a car but anyways I cant over come this fear. I know deep inside I can do it but im so scared . I do trust my bases but idk why im so scared. I need your help.

  14. Fearful Flyer Says:

    I have a mental block right now just all around with stunting and I want to know what you would suggest.

    Last year I was point flyer and I would pretty much be fearless/ try anything. However, this year my stunt group is no longer with the team and I am a “veteran” with a group of “rookies” (or whatever you would call it).

    Within the first week of practice I was dropped nearly every day with my new group (and I mean dropped as in get-the-wind-knocked-out-of-you dropped). We can’t even do a modified full-up (last year at this time, I was doing 1 and 1/2 ups with my group, even trying double ups and doing group rewinds). The other day I was even dropped directly on my head! (My feet/legs were still in the air, they didn’t let go of them, they just didn’t catch my body). It is to the point now where I am afraid to do almost anything! Even if it is with other groups who have not dropped me.

    I have always had a fear of heights, however being a flyer has helped me somewhat overcome this. But now I feel like I am back at square one. I am top girl on the pyramid (college level, so 2 and 1/2 high) and I am TERRIFIED. To the point of crying when it is time to do the stunt because I am so scared of being dropped (last year the 2 and 1/2 high was the only stunt I was ever dropped from, doing an inverted dismount and I landed straight on my back. I feel this is also a factor in this fear, although last year I was able to overcome it because it was a one-time thing.)

    I used to be tight and confident in the air, but now I find myself hesitating every single stunt. To top it off, this new ‘mental block’ doesn’t stop with group stunting, or stunting at all!

    I am now afraid to even toss hands (I am afraid of going too far back and falling head first over my partner), even though I have tried partner stunts rewinds, tick tocks, ball ups, full ups, etc.

    And I am afraid to do any tumbling other than a standing BHS, because I am afraid to land on my head (I am even afraid to do a round-off BHS, as stupid as that sounds).

    I do not know what to do, and I am seriously considering retiring from cheer because of this. I feel like my coach is just either a) blatantly ignoring the fact that my group keeps dropping me because I am the only veteran flyer and he thinks our group can “figure it out” or b) is just completely oblivious to the fact that I am dropped. Every. Single. Day. We are leaving to camp tomorrow and I am absolutely terrified that I have to stunt with them for 3 days straight, and even do inverted baskets. I haven’t had time to go to the doctor and get checked after being dropped on my head, which I feel is only adding to my paranoia.

    Please help! ):

  15. Elizabeth Says:

    Hi, there. I used to be a school cheerleader but I stopped after last season because I didn’t want to cheer with those who I was cheering with. So, instead, I want to try all-star cheerleading. I know that most all-star cheer teams need a cheerleader to know how to full down from a prep level.
    The problem is, I have tried doing a full down from a prep level and I just can’t seem to get the hang of it- it actually terrifies me. This is probably because when I first tried it, the first two times were great and then I tried again and got a concussion. How do you suggest getting over this crippling fear?

  16. Riley Says:

    Okay. So in my pyramid I have to do one leg fills and I am petrified of it. Anything that can help me be better all around especially in one legs my hips pop out and i can’t control it. HELP!!!!!!

  17. Piper Says:

    I am having trouble doing a cradle, I’m a new flyer and we have a pep rally at my school soon. I have to do a cradle for the routine but every time I try I can’t. I Go up and freak out, everyone says “just go” and “if you dont do this you can’t be a flyer”. I’m afraid of heights but I Go up in a prep fine. When we go into a cradle I slap and pull my bases. After I dont feel scared and I think I can do it but when we go up it starts over again. I am considering it might be a mental block.


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