how to deal with balking

Andy Thornton posted an article titled: How to deal with balking…

… If you’re a gymnastics coach, you immediately know what I mean when I use the word “balk.” It can be a coach’s worst nightmare.

A gymnast develops a fear of a skill – sometimes a completely irrational one – and one time becomes scared enough to actually abort the skill before even attempting it. Common examples include dismounts off of high bar/uneven bars, release moves, backward tumbling skills on floor, and just about any skill on beam.

Balking once or twice isn’t what drives the coach crazy…it’s the fact that balking becomes a habit that tends to get worse and worse if it’s allowed to continue. A gymnast may at first balk about 1 out of every 10 attempts, then soon this becomes 1 out of every 5, then 1 out of 4, 1 out of 3…and then half the time. Often this trend continues to the point where the gymnast simply has psyched himself or herself completely out and won’t go for the skill at all …

read and comment on his American Gymnast blog – How to deal with balking…

In over 30yrs coaching, here’s all I’ve learned about balking:

• it’s more common with females than males
• it’s more common with backward skills, than forward

On those skills where kids are most likely to learn to balk (e.g. flyaway), go slow.

You can hurry a forward handspring, but it’s best NOT to rush a backward handspring.

Finally, the main quality you need as a coach is patience. Every balking problem is different. Stay calm and the gymnast may resolve the mental block themselves. (Booking an extra practice dedicated only to e.g. Beam Series is a last, last resort.)

related post with good comments – gymnastics mental blocks


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Rick Mc

Career gymnastics coach who loves the outdoors, and the internet.

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