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“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail”
All successful elite athletes know that preparation and a strong mental game are key for a great competitive performance. In Figure Skating, there are few competitions relative to other sports. A skater may participate in approximately 3-7 competitions all year, spread across a seven-month period depending upon their skating level.
Feedback from Officials in a competitive setting can be very helpful to a Coach and Athlete, allowing weak areas in programs or skills to be improved before the Qualifying Season starts.
Feedback via judging is most valuable if you prepare ahead of time. Serious competitive skaters know that they must prepare more than just their body to skate their best.
Successful athletes prepare themselves in three major areas.
- Technical Skill and Knowledge
- Physical Body
- Mental Game
Technical Skills and Knowledge
Many skaters take lessons with qualified coaches and diligently practice to improve their skills on the ice. From the very beginning, skaters are taught important technical knowledge and skills needed for edges, jumps and spins. It is never a challenge to “sell” the importance of ice time to a skater and their parents.
Fewer skaters and their parents understand the importance of preparing the physical body through off-ice training. Skating is a very “one-sided” sport. Jumps and spins, even stroking are usually practiced primarily in one direction.
Off ice strength conditioning classes, stretching or dynamic stretching classes (GYROTONIC® or Pilates) help to improve strength, balance, body symmetry and prevent injuries. Dance or movement classes supplement presentations skills and improve strength and flexibility.
If you ask an elite skater, or any elite athlete, “How much of your sport is mental?”
Many will reply somewhere around 90%. Yet how many young skaters today work with a specialist in the Mental Game as they do with a Jump specialist?
At the elite levels, many of the sport specific skills have been mastered. The difference between the competitors on any given day is so small that the person who wins is the one who is more mentally tough than the others on that day.
Mental Game skills, like technical or physical skills get better with training and practice. Preparation and practice off the ice, then simultaneous practice of mental skills in partnership with on ice skills create future mastery. In this way, the mental game becomes a habit and is reliable a part of the skater’s arsenal for competition just like the triple axel or quad when it counts.
“It takes time to create excellence. If it could be done quickly more people would do it.”
~Coach John Wooden
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