It’s always an amazing week at Ice Sheffield when the British Championships are on – and I look forward every year to chatting with mums, dads, coaches and skaters about their challenges and their achievements. I especially love to catch up with ‘my’ skaters – whose challenges brought them to me months or even years ago, and who are now putting all they have learned to good use in the competition that is for many the highlight of their year.
This year NINE of my one-to-one skaters qualified for the nationals. And when you take into account that they all started with me because they were at an all-time low with their skating, just the very fact that they managed to qualify is a huge achievement.
What they learn from working with me is something they will keep with them for good – a virtual tool box of ways to squish their gremlins (that negative self-talk!) and the knowledge that whatever challenges they may meet in the future, they will be able to create their own tools to overcome those challenges and come out the other side confidently.
Miesha Cooke Smith first worked with me four years ago and she became Advanced Novice Ladies Champion this year. You can read more below about how she put what she learned from me to use when she noticed the gremlins lining up. Miesha has built on the work we did together and adapted it so that it works perfectly for her. Each of my skaters will have different ways of dealing with the same challenges which are customised to their own needs.
Josh Brown won the Free Programme in the Junior Men’s category this year, and only narrowly missed out on becoming champion again by a tiny margin with an error in the short programme. So he’s a British Silver Medallist for 2017/8. And over in sunny Brazil… Debbie Bell became the Brazilian National Champion a few weeks ago!
Huge congratulations to all of them in getting the recognition their hard work deserves. But it’s not all about the podium. Not everyone will be able to ‘place’ but most importantly, after working with me they have the confidence to go out there and shine – perform at their best without being held back by those gremlins.
Wherever a skater places, future success is down to their attitude – whether the skate went well, or not quite according to plan. I teach skaters the resilience to “keep calm and carry on” if they make a mistake early on. To think about one element at a time as they approach it so that a ‘hard’ jump or spin near the end isn’t taking their attention away from what they need to be doing in the middle of the programme. I help them to master the elements without overthinking, and teach them how to focus so that they stop ‘popping’ jumps. And above all, I teach them how to analyse every performance, work out what they would do differently next time and learn what they need to do to achieve their goals. So I was delighted to see Lilly Williams-Howell’s comment on her performance:
“The British championships was a hard one for me this year I skated the best I could without a double axel and a triple in my programme. I made a mistake in my short that cost me but I pulled back a couple of positions on my free with a clean skate – still a few things to work on to get that technical mark up. This year I have achieved more than I thought I ever could after my confidence was at an all-time low, with 6 podium positions and an international, I have had a brilliant season for my first year at advanced novice. I would like to thank my Coach Hayley Pardo, I could never do any of it without you and you are the best coach ever. To Elizabeth Ryan at Ice Cool Confidence for helping me smash my gremlins and to all my skating family that have supported me thru this whole year and thank you to my Mum Dad and Nanny for everything Lilly xxx”
So instead of comparing themselves unfavourably with the other skaters, those who work with me know that after every event it is important to look at what went well and what they need to work on next time for an even better result. What I teach complements what the skater’s own on-ice coach does, and it makes for a fantastic team.
I’m incredibly proud of every single one of my skaters and how quickly they move on after working with me (they don’t need me anymore – sob!) because they start to understand that the responsibility for a great performance lies with them and the way they use the mental toolbox they build up.