Let me ask you a personal question: Have you ever wished for a tumbling pass?

You know what I’m talking about – the thought of having a magic lamp where a genie pops out, grants you any three tumbling skills you want, and POOF… you walk into practice the next day, and throw passes that leaves everyone’s jaw on the floor.

It’s ok, you don’t have to admit it out loud. But just know that you are not alone.

We’ve all been there.

Hell, to this day I still look at tumbling videos of some insanely talented individuals, and find myself going back into “wish” mode.

But the problem with the wish mode, as you can probably guess, is that it doesn’t help us at all.

In fact, it can actually hurt us.

Wishing Is For Victims

When you wish for something, you basically tell your brain that you aren’t good enough, or “talented” enough and what ends up happening is that you aren’t even willing to try and work for it.

Instead, you want it to fall on your lap by magic because obviously there is no other way. Right?

Wrong! There is a better way, and today you’re going to learn about it.

But first things first, you need to accept that tumbling is 70% mental and 30% physical. [Tweet this]

In fact, when you start to approach elite levels of tumbling (or in cheer lingo, skills that go beyond level 5), I would say the balance tips towards mentality even more, and it becomes 90% mental and 10% physical.

Anyone that tells you otherwise either hasn’t tumbled at a high level, has no clue what they’re talking about, or is outright lying to you.

Unfortunately, not many athletes or coaches know this fact and instead flip the script to work on the physical aspects only. Look… drills, progressions, corrections and conditioning is all great, but it will only get you so far.

If you want to be great, you also need to know how to train your mind – because that’s what controls your body. And if you’ve never trained your mind before,  you first need to understand how your mind works.

You need to know how you learn and retain information. Basically, you need to learn how to learn.

Only then, will the magic formula will make any sense to you.

So how do you “learn how to learn”? Well there are 4 steps that your brain goes through in order to master a skill – any skill. Let’s go through these.

Step 1: Unconscious Incompetence

Another way to put this is when you don’ t know, that you don’t know. So for example, if you’ve never done tumbling in your life, you don’t even know what tumbling is (unconscious), or that if you tried it, you would be horrible at it (incompetence).

My friend likes to call this stage, “you don’t even know that you suck.”

Fortunately, this is not where most cheerleaders start, but I had to include this step for completeness.

Step 2: Conscious Incompetence

Again, let’s simplify the big words. “Conscious” means you are aware, and “incompetence” means that you aren’t good at something. So basically, you know that you suck.

As you can guess, this is the usual starting point for all athletes – not just cheerleaders. I’ve been there, my students have been there, hell even Shawn Phelps was consciously incompetent at one point in his life, so don’t let it bring you down.

But keep in mind that this is the initial training stages where you learn your basics, try new things, and generally realize that you need more practice – which is good, because until you realize that you need to work, you’ll never get anywhere and just quit.

Step 3: Conscious Competence

Let me ask you something, if I told you to tie the shoe laces on your Nfinities, how much brain power would that require? In fact, would you even have to think about it, or would you just do it?

Unless you’re 10 and reading this (in which case, please go to bed) chances are that you wouldn’t have to think at all.

Now try and recall a tumbling skill you’ve just gotten recently – it could be anything. How much thinking do you do, before you do this new skill on the floor? Chances are quite a bit.

At the time of this writing, I’m working on landing my triple twist, and I can tell you that it requires are lot more brain power than a regular ‘ol full twist or layout.

This is why it’s called “conscious competence”. It means you’re good at something, but only if you concentrate. The problem with this learning step, is that most athletes think it’s the end of the line.

They think once they are consciously good at something, they can move on.


If you truly want to reach mastery and become a world-level cheerleader with tumbling lines that amazes even the toughest of judges, there’s one last step that you need to reach…

Step 4: Unconscious Competence

You should probably be able to guess by now, that this step basically means “being good at something without thinking about it.”

Again, it’s like tying your shoe laces – a complex skill that you don’t really have to think about. Or how about giving someone your name? That’s another skill that you’re unconsciously competent at.

The key question is this: How do we reach Unconscious Competence?

Well, how did you learn to tie your shoe? Or do round offs?

The answer is repetition.

Repetition is the mother of all skill. [Tweet this]

But, there’s a catch. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong. So if you practice a back handspring with bent arms, and perform hundreds or thousands of those repetitions over many years, you’re going to become unconsciously competent at bent-arm back handsprings.

So the key thing to remember is that only perfect practice, makes perfect.

But we all know that practice and repetition takes time. Is there a way we can cheat the system? After all, I did say tumbling was 70% mental, right?

Well, of course there is. It’s called visualization. (Don’t worry, we’ll get to the magic formula soon)

The Power Of The Mind

mental visualization

There was a study done where they took three groups of basketball players, and trained them all differently for a few weeks to see if they could improve their free throw shots.

The first group wasn’t allowed to actually touch the balls and were just given verbal cues on how to perform a perfect shot. Basically a quick lecture and that was it.

The second group were allowed to actually practice doing the free throws but weren’t given any specific corrections. They just kept shooting for the sake of shooting.

The third group, just like the first, were also not allowed to touch the basketballs, but instead sat down, closed their eyes and visualized themselves making the perfect free throw shot, each and every time. They were never to visualize a miss – only perfection.

At the end of the few weeks they brought the groups in, and decided to see which had improved the most. Now what do you think happened?

Well the first group didn’t improve at all, obviously. But what’s interesting is that even though the second group got to actually practice with the equipment, they were beat out by the third group.


Because when you visualize perfection, your brain can’t tell the difference between reality and imagination – it makes the mental connections it needs to get good at whatever repetitions you threw at it. The guys that were actually practicing weren’t getting corrections, so if they missed more shots than they made, they got good at missing. But the third group imagined only one thing – the ball going in the hoop.

And so whatever their mind believed, their body followed. So how can we apply this to tumbling? By using something I’ve been promising all along…

The Magic Formula

Visualization + Repetition + Corrections = Rapid Learning [Tweet This]

If you want to become good at tumbling (or any other skill) as fast as humanly possible, you can’t just go around throwing stuff. You need to train your mind, and your body and train it correctly.

I promise you that if you use this magic formula, there is not a skill in the world that you won’t be able to learn, and learn it quickly without making too many mistakes!

Now here’s what I’d like you to do: Go in the comment section below and tell me how you’re going to apply this formula to a tumbling skill that you’re having trouble with! Go ahead, don’t be shy. I’ll read every single one.

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