I recently had the privilege of running two Motivational Masterclasses in mindset skills and self belief, for some dedicated skaters who are working hard to improve and progress all the time. Although I was familiar with most of the names that had booked in for the classes, having seen them around the competition circuit, this was the first time for most of them to work with me.
I decided to arrive a little early and see if I could just watch a little of their body language on the ice. To see their ‘chosen response’ after falling – did they get up quickly, move on and try again? Or did they beat themselves up and hunch their shoulders? Were there any ‘Ice Kickers’ out there – getting upset and digging their picks into the ice in frustration? I was pleased to see they were already pretty positive.
As I moved into the cafe to look over my notes before setting up, I overheard one of my soon-to-be students asking someone else “are you going to that psych thing?”. That Psych Thing. There you have it. An athlete, nay, a Skate-athlete will do everything on ice to learn a new jump or get more flexibility. Use the weirdest of implements to get it – the harness, bum pads, flexi-bands, weights. They will do everything to improve strength and conditioning and body fitness – week after week. But… That Psych Thing? ‘Noooooo. Let’s not go there. There’s nothing wrong with me. That’s for crazy people right?’ Our teenagers are growing up to believe that mental fitness is taboo. Yet what exercise is to our physical health, mental fitness is to our mental health. If only more of this was taught in schools.
Doing a sport you love can be great for lifting the mood. And it is frequently cited that competitive sports are 90% mental and 10% physical. And yet so many coaches focus 100% on the physical – so where are you supposed to get the mental training to go with it? This is just as much about fitness as your strength and conditioning training; as much about performance as ballet for skaters – but one huge benefit with this is that once you have learned how to train your mind and got yourself a mental toolbox to access whenever and wherever, you don’t have to carry on seeing the trainer! You certainly have to carry on using the skills, tools and techniques, but once you know them, on a basic level, it’s usually a case of practicing them regularly. And in the event of a particular occasion coming up or a stressful or negative experience happening outside of your control, it’s a case of choosing the right tool or technique for the moment, to manage your emotions and sharpen your focus.
“The main challenge for me is myself. If I manage to control my emotions, if I will be able to abstract my mind away and focus on the way I’m skating, then everything is going to be ok. The point is to do all I have to do…” – Evgeni Plushenko”
So many hours of lessons and practice (not to mention pounds and dollars) are wasted because a skater has a mental block or lack of self belief which is crippling them, making them pop jumps and preventing them from progressing and reaching their potential. As one skater put it after the session:
“It showed me that I have the ability to decide how my skating will improve, and I now know that my mind is the key to improving my skating physically.”
How much sweeter then, to have taken a few short sessions in mindset skills, armed yourself with your own virtual toolbox for the mind, and be able to progress faster and get great results. Why on earth wouldn’t you?