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Climbing a Mental Block to the D2 Summit

Kristi Shaw, head coach and owner of Advanced Cheer Crew in Kansas, talking to Maggie Green

about her mental block.

Mental. Block.

Two of the most dreaded words in cheer.

My daughter, Maggie has been cheering for eight years at a D2 gym in Arkansas City, Kansas and for the last two years had a mental block that prevented her from doing her back handspring.

I know it’s not an advanced skill, everyone else on her team; Rockerz Junior Level 2, has had one for at least a year, but the mental block was tough and held her back.

Any parent who has had an athlete with a mental block has searched high and low for the key to break it. The key for my daughter, we finally found, was attitude and time.

When I say attitude, I mean everyone’s.

It starts with the cheerleader. She has to be willing to work and believe that she will conquer it. You can’t really do much about her willingness to work, she either is or isn’t. Luckily working hard has never been a problem for my daughter.

Just weeks before Summit, Maggie Green breaks

through her two-year long mental block.

You can, however, help her believe she will conquer it and the key to that is your attitude and the coach’s attitude.

We were so very lucky to have three great coaches.

When my cheerleader had already been trying for a year and had gotten the back handspring only to lose it again, she lost all hope and decided to quit. Kristi Shaw, our awesome gym owner told her to take a week off and then come talk to her. She took her aside after that week and said she didn’t care about the handspring right now, she just wanted her back on the team because she is a great back. She told her she knew she would get the handspring, so don’t worry about it right now just keep taking lessons and work on it and it will come. That was huge because it took all the pressure off and at the same time let her know her coaches believed in her and valued her.

Then both her coaches: team coach Chelsi Turner and tumbling coach Jay Grayson, said nothing else to her about the back handspring for the rest of the season.

I know they wanted it and I know it had to be hard to stay quiet and let her work on it, but their attitude was great. Coach Grayson was amazing. He always had a positive attitude. He made sure she made some type of progress every week.

They went from 40 spotted handsprings to 50 spotted handsprings, from spotting with two hands, to spotting with one hand and then spotting with one finger when she still couldn’t do it on her own. Then he inched back from standing beside her. Literally inches a week, but his attitude was always upbeat and he ignored any set back while pointing out any tiny progress and telling her what step was next. Always believing she would get it eventually.

Lastly, and probably most importantly, my attitude mattered.

Maggie was ready to quit last June because I was getting more and more frustrated. It is so hard when you KNOW they can do it, but then they don’t. It feels like they just won’t, even when you’ve researched the topic to death and read over and over that the athlete can’t control it. It doesn’t help when you’re paying for private tumbling and it seems like nothing is happening.

Her wanting to quit something that I know she loves was a wake-up call for me.

My attitude changed. I started congratulating her on the tiny steps she was taking and quit trying to put a deadline on her getting it fixed. That was last June and she finally took the last step in April, just weeks before this year's D2 Summit.

Guest blogger Dr. Green and daughter Maggie

As I said time is the other half of the key and there is no rushing it, even if it means staying on a team where you are a head taller than everyone else, instead of advancing like she did the first year of her block.

It is heartbreaking to watch sometimes, but the reward was the amazing feeling of watching her finally throw that back handspring the weekend of April 7. Her coaches and I screamed and cried when we watched her do a back handspring in that last competition. They won first place and grand champion, but I’d have been ecstatic even if they came in last, just for that back handspring.

And this weekend, we'll watch her do it again at D2.

Tumble coach Jay Grayson, team coach Chelsi Turner and Kristi Shaw, head coach and owner of Advanced Cheer Crew in Kansas, as Maggie receives the "Wow" Award.

I also have seen her confidence in her life outside of cheerleading grow in the last year and that is the best pay off. She learned that hard work and persistence pays off in the end. I learned that our athletes feed off our attitude and if we want theirs to change we have to change ours first.

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