Life is a complex place; lots of stuff going on and sometimes when you’re faced with the big picture, it can be very overwhelming. The most effective means I have discovered to deal with this is to break things into pieces. When looking down the barrel of the wheel and faced with a trick that seems terrifying and impossible, break it down. Any element in German Wheel is composed of many smaller parts you can safely practice on your own. Look at the tricks that are stressing you out and try to pick out the basic elements inside that you can practice. Here are a few examples.
These are elements that require an understanding of how to move your body inside the wheel while keeping the wheel still. These are things like a foot hang or rolling up into a monkey roll. The best way to work these kinds of elements is to immobilize the wheel to a certain degree. Prop the wheel against a wall or have someone hold your wheel. As you become more confident with the balance, allow yourself to put the wheel a little further from the wall, thus giving yourself a larger “margin of error”. In this way, you can safely get more and more comfortable with how to make the balance work.
These are elements where you have to maintain a (relatively) static body position while the wheel is moving; for example, sitting on the bar, “Jane Fonda’s”, or rocking on the boards. These are elements that are easy to practice low and slow. The more comfortable you are at the low speeds, the more comfortable you will be when you’re zipping along. Before Wolfgang would let me even try to jump into a full twisting knee hang, I had to do thousands of rocks, just sitting on the bar and reaching forward to catch the handle. A bad habit learned while slow will only get worse as you add speed.
These are elements that require the wheel and yourself to be moving, and are the hardest to work alone. These are elements like high roll backwards, knee hang, and seat drop. For power/speed elements, it is most often appropriate to have a spotter there to catch the wheel in case you have too much or too little speed. All you need to do here is figure out exactly where the wheel is going to be while you are doing the element, then place your spotter there and tell them to grab the wheel when it is near them. As you and your spotter become more comfortable, you can increase the “margin of error” just like you would for a balance element. Listen up spotters, its okay to overspot, in fact I would prefer it. One bad fall undoes a lot of good work. That being said, try to never arrest the movement of the wheel. If you are too close and the wheel is going faster than normal, step back. Slamming the wheel to a halt/jerking the wheel can often be worse than not grabbing at all because it can shake the gymnast right off. Oh and as a general rule of thumb, you will be stronger pulling than pushing.
So when you find yourself stressing and feeling overwhelmed, take those big scary tricks apart. They wont looks so invincible when they are laying in pieces all around you. ☺