Mental blocks, phenomena in which athletes lose the ability to perform previously automatic skills, are well known but poorly understood. Study 1 was designed to assess mental blocks in gymnastics and determine if such blocks are distinct from related conditions, such as slumps, choking, and fear of injury. Mental blocks were reported to have unique characteristics and to affect backward moving skills. Study 2 was a qualitative analysis of the experiences of 5 gymnasts currently experiencing mental blocks on backward moving skills. Such block is called flikikammo and was described as cycling on and off, spreading to other events and skills, affecting visualization, and worsening when performance of the affected skills was forced by coaches. The findings are the first to detail the experience of gymnasts currently experiencing the condition. Additional research may help identify ways to alleviate and/or prevent flikikammo.
Maaranen, Beachy, Van Raalte, Brewer, and Petitpas are with the Dept. of Psychology, Springfield College, Springfield, MA. Thaddeus J. France is with the Dept. of Physical Education, Springfield College, Springfield, MA.