Mental blocks are one of the leading struggles I see athletes face that keep them from performing their best. A mental block is a belief about your ability to do something that literally keeps you from doing it. If you have ever worked with me, you know the first thing I teach is the triangle that explains how thoughts create behaviour.


Basically, your thoughts create your feeling, your feelings create your behaviour, and your behaviour reinforces your thoughts. For example, the thought “I can’t land my loop in competition”, leads to feelings of fear and frustration, which lead to the behaviour of tightening your muscles when you go to attempt the jump and you pop. Popping the jump further reinforces the thought that you can’t do it and the mental block is strengthened. 

Examples at Worlds

Athletes of every level struggle with mental blocks. I noticed a few examples of this at the World Championships in the Men’s and Women’s singles events. Karen Chen has had problems with her triple loop in competition all season. She popped it here in the short program. To be honest, I was surprised to see it still in the program after so many failed attempts. If you watch her short at Worlds, you see her tense up and reduce speed going into the jump before she pops it. In my opinion, this could have been prevented by either working with a mental trainer on the block or by replacing it with a different triple jump.

Roman Sadovsky has struggled all season with consistency in both the short and long programs. He had a particularly difficult time at the Olympics and did not qualify for the long program in the individual event. I was pleased to see him skate well at Worlds in the short program. The biggest change was going back to his old Muse short program. That was a smart move! Sometimes a change or reset can make all the difference when there are too many negative emotions attached to a routine that block you from performing it successfully.

Overcoming Mental Blocks

As you can see by the examples I shared, mental blocks are a part of sport. The good thing is you don’t have to live with them forever. Bringing awareness to them and understanding how they form is a big part of overcoming them. Once you notice a block try to identify the feelings and the thoughts that contribute to the development. Reach out to myself or another mental trainer who can help you work through this. 

Until next time,

Keep your Brain in the Game

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