For some of you, this time of year is a bit of a nail biter as you make your last minute preparations for the national championships – and all those little gremlins are sitting in the wings, just waiting for a crack in your mindset armoury, a glimpse of daylight to be let into your head so they can play around with your thinking.  For others – parents – it can be just as fraught as you walk on eggshells at home and at the rink forever saying and doing ‘The Wrong Thing’ in your quest to be supportive and encouraging. And coaches are on edge, wondering if your skaters are actually listening to you when you fill their heads full of lists of don’t do this, don’t forget that and so on.

And all that preparation and practice will mean nothing if the skater can’t manage to keep those dastardly gremlins at bay.

Well just for you skaters, I’ve put together a quick shopping list of tips and tricks to resist those gremlin ‘charms’ and get  your mental preparation for a fabulous skating experience on track.

  1. Use affirmations – every night before you go to sleep, listen to affirmations and repeat them. Out loud if possible, but at the very least, repeat them in your head. Make sure they are positive, personal and present – use the present tense. For example “I skate with good, clean edges”, or “I perform with confidence and elegance”.  Click this link for help on how to create your own affirmations.
  1. Train every day as if you were competing. Make every minute of your lessons and patch sessions count. If you make a mistake when you’re running through your programme, just carry on as you would in a competition. Don’t stop and look at your coach wondering what to do next. Keep going! Otherwise if you have one tricky bit in the routine, you will keep stopping at the same place and the rest of the programme won’t get as much attention as you won’t be practicing it as much.
  1. Don’t make excuses or allow those Gremlins to give you reasons why things won’t go well. Once you start telling yourself ‘it probably won’t go well because…(of my injury/I haven’t practiced enough/I always do badly at this competition)” your unconscious mind will be serving you up with lots of evidence as to why that is true (that’s its job). Tell it the opposite instead – ask yourself “What is going to make my programme go really well today/next week…?” and your mind will come up with all sorts of answers about what is working. This keeps you motivated and confident and more open to practicing the tricky stuff.
  1. Focus on what you want and how you want to be skating, not on what you don’t want. If you are focusing on NOT doing something (“I don’t want to fall/forget my programme/mess up my spin”/etc) then your mind will be looking for that evidence to make it come true. You get what you focus on!
  1. Set yourself a really SMART goal. Aiming to beat your personal best is a really good goal, but put a little more thought into it to make sure you can achieve it. In order to get a better score than at your last competition, what do you need to do?  What needs to change? What do you need to polish so that you can get better GOEs? Break the goal down into bite-sized chunks and work towards it.

Mums and Dads – find out how your skater wants you to behave on the day and what they find helpful or unhelpful about what you do. Reassure them that you only want to help and see them reach their goal and ask them if there is anything they’d like your help or input on. And when they tell you… STICK TO IT! Take the Skater Parents’ Masterclass for a whole range of ideas on how to support them effectively.

Coaches – it might seem like your hitherto well-behaved skater has turned into some monstrous Diva, but it is really the nerves kicking in which is making them do this. It’s quite possible that they are worried about letting YOU down, so reassure them – give them your tips and advice in a positive way – if you don’t want them to do ‘X’ then what do you want them to do instead? Tell them what you want them to do, not what you don’t want them to do. If you don’t want them to have their arms all over the place in a jump then tell them to pull in tight. If you don’t want them to drop their shoulder as they approach a jump, tell them what you want them to do instead.

It remains only for me to say have a great skate, and remember that you have worked hard to get to this point. Skate like you do in your best practice and focus on the outcome. Today is merely the icing on the cake. The hard work was getting that score so you could qualify to be here.

Parents and Coaches – just reassure your skater/s that no matter what happens, you are proud of them and praise them for the hard work and effort (not for talent!). Don’t be tempted to unpick the faults – look for what went well and focus on that. There will be plenty of time at the next training session to look at what needs improving!