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PerformHappy with Rebecca Smith

Aug 5, 2023

Balking, also known as a mental block or a dip in confidence, occurs when an athlete struggles with a skill they’re fully capable of performing. Today Coach Rebecca responds to a coach's question about how to handle a student grappling with balking.  

She shares her current philosophy and two-balk rule, which includes a private discussion follows the first balk, and then the athlete is done for the day after the second balk. She also discusses the reasons why athletes balk. 

When balking happens, it reveals a fixed mindset, creating a black-and-white perspective. The brain perceives risk in the situation, triggering a fight, flight, or freeze response. It shows that the brain lacks confidence in the athlete's abilities, leading to a fear-based reaction rather than a rational one. 

When you freeze up on a skill, you hesitate. That’s your brain sending a loud and clear message, “I’m not ready yet. I need to build more confidence first.” -Coach Rebecca Smith 

Here’s a three-step process for addressing this: 

  • Build Awareness: Help the athlete become conscious of their balking tendencies and understand what could lead to this response. 

  • Build Confidence: Work on enhancing the athlete's self-belief and trust in their abilities. Encourage them to take incremental steps toward conquering the skill. 

  • Build Self-Trust: Foster an environment where the athlete can safely work through their fear and gain confidence in their abilities. 

Taking a step back is not getting off the path to success. It is the path to success.” -Coach Rebecca Smith 

Creating a flexible and collaborative environment is necessary in nurturing athletes who are happy and trusting. When athletes have confidence in themselves and trust in their coaches, they feel secure in expressing their needs and concerns.  

Building confidence is a journey, and with the right support and mindset, athletes can navigate through balking and emerge stronger and more resilient than ever.