The “Off Season” in skating is a misnomer.
After the last competition of the season, a new season starts. What “Off Season” really means for skaters is that it is time to “Work Smarter and Harder” to prepare for the next competition season.
When we think about the concept of off season, we probably relate it to familiar concepts. In this case we are most familiar with sports like soccer, football or baseball.
In the football or baseball off season, there are no games. We think of the athletes as going home and sitting on the couch and having time to do all the things they couldn’t do during the season when they were busy practicing and playing games. A month or two before the season starts, the athletes start to get back in shape, dust off their gear just in time for spring training or two-a-day-practices.
What we don’t usually hear in the media is that the most successful elite athletes will use the off season to hit the gym and build themselves up, to improve their conditioning, strength and flexibility, and practice mental game strategies that will set them apart from the rest of the field during the next season.
Skating is a technical sport. That means that unlike soccer, baseball or football, the athletes cannot take extended breaks between competitive seasons and continue to be competitive at the higher levels of the sport. In order to build and maintain skill, they must practice year round (with appropriate short breaks).
In reality, There is no “off season” as most of us think of it, so let redefine it as it relates to skating
Old “off season” mindset:
- Great time to save some money, cut down on coaching and ice time
- Spend less time at the rink and have more time to do other things.
- Time to relax and “have fun” with friends at the rink
- Time to stop skating for 3 months so to play a different sport
New “off season”mindset:
- The best time for skaters to develop their skills
- Uninterrupted quality practice time
- No time pressure due to upcoming competition
- Less stress means better mental focus and physical abilities
- Time to increase off ice or dryland conditioning, dance, flexibility
- Best time to start or continue working on Mental game
- Best time to get the edge over the competition by continuing to work smarter.
Coaches tear their hair out because right after the last competition of the season, they look forward to working intensely with their skaters, building skills for next season.
But without any competitions in the near future, and the holidays coming up, many skaters and parents feel that this is a great time to decrease lessons and practice time and take some time off.
I challenge you to take a look around your rink. Are there skaters who have qualified to move on to the next qualifying competition Sectionals (US) or Challenge (Canada)?
Observe the way they are practicing, then observe the way most of the other skaters are practicing. If you are not at a training center, you might see many skaters running their Holiday Show programs over and over, laughing and socializing at the boards or on the ice or practicing without a clear plan for improvement.
If your goal as a skater is to improve your skills so that you can skate at a Sectional, National or International level, then your training during the “off season” should look the same as the skaters who are moving on to the next qualifying competition.
You will not be doing the same things, like running programs or increasing endurance, but your intensity and focus should be comparable no matter what skill development you are working on.
Yes, absolutely, skaters need to take short breaks during the year to maintain physical and mental health. But they must maintain the intensity and focus of their practice year round if they have goals of being a National or International skater in the future.
- Get organized.
- Form a strong game plan based on motivating goals that the skater creates with the help of coaches and parents.
- Find out what pieces you are missing in your training based on your performance last year.
- Fill those gaps by researching or working with a expert (Mental Game training, dance, conditioning, flexibility).
- Continue to practice with intensity and focus all year long.
Your new season starts now!
Get a jumpstart on the competition with a Comprehensive Season Plan that will have you smiling at the end of the next season?
Contact ICE Mental Game Coaching now for the season of your dreams!
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