Cheer’s Jada Wooten has a message for athletes struggling with mental blocks
ApplaudThe second season of Us introduces Jada Wooten, leader of the Trinity Valley Community College (TVCC) cheer squad. She’s a world championship-level flier and tumbler who revealed in an early episode that she struggled with mental blocks, which caused her to fall on her head or neck from rear springs or whips. (translation: basically a rear spring with no hands). Cheerleading is about confidence, and she’s lost confidence in herself.
Wooten, now 20 and cheering for Sam Houston State University, tells POPSUGAR that her mental block started in the freshman year of high school and lasted for three years. It also, she says, impacted simple skills she had practiced all her life. She walked into the gym and was afraid to “do anything intense”. Instead, she would “bail out” her skills.
“Bailing is basically pulling yourself out of a skill that you’re doing, only you’re not doing it,” Wooten explains. If this sounds familiar, you might remember Simone Biles citing this phenomenon when she withdrew from most of her Tokyo Olympic finals over the summer. She “bailed” out of a safe in the tag team finals because of what’s called “twisties,” where you lose the mind-body connection in the middle of the twist. Many different athletes – gymnasts, cheerleaders and divers, for example – experience this dangerous unconsciousness of air.
Navarro alumni Gabi Butler and Lexi Brumback tell POPSUGAR that they, too, struggled with mental blocks at some point in their careers (think of it as “brain busting,” Brumback notes). It’s extremely common and, as you can imagine, dangerous.
Related: Lexi Brumback Explains Her Leaving Navarro In Cheer Season 2
Wooten says she was never seriously hurt due to her mental block. “It was definitely more of a mental thing than a physical one, but I had some pretty hard falls,” she notes. She gradually gained confidence and shook off that fear of tipping over, but when she got angry she thought of a single sentence that Craft she does a skill no matter how scary it seems. In Trinity Valley, it was “On CCFC, I’m going to do this.” Like Navarro’s FIOFMU, it’s an acronym only TVCC cheerleaders know — so for her, it was basically like swearing on the Bible.
“It took me three years to completely get back to where I was, and that may seem like a long time to most, but it was just in time for me to get into college,” Wooten says, adding that there are many ways people can motivate themselves through similar struggles. “You can rely on the coaches and your family all you want, but they can’t do it for you. So at the end of the day, the mentality is the hardest thing to beat and overcome, but… it’s the most rewarding thing to actually cast that skill after being as scared as you are.”
Wooten wants other cheerleaders with mental blocks to remember that muscle memory is real – it “confuses” her how real it is. “I think I don’t know how to do something or I ask questions like, ‘What should I do to fix this or that?’ But really, your body already knows the movement of it all, so trusting your skills…it will get you somewhere.”
Wooten will return to Daytona, Fla. for the Nationals with the Sam Houston State University Cheer Team. Hoping they reach zero! (And if you don’t know what that means, go watch Applaud.)