It’s that beautiful autumn season with high blue skies and crisp crunchy leaves underfoot. Not that skaters, coaches or parents see much of the outdoors when they are spending so much time at the rink! And by now I’m guessing you’re leaving for the rink when it’s still dark…

At this time of year I know that lots of you will be skating new programmes which you’ve been working on over the summer. And that’s often a trigger for one or two nerves in the autumn competitions. Will I forget my programme? What if I can’t land that jump? I keep forgetting my steps… I can’t hold on to that spin for long enough…  and out comes the “What If..?” Gremlin.

Add into the mix the sense of urgency, desperation even, at chasing after those elusive scores to qualify for the nationals…  And with all of that comes a properly tricky time at home as nerves make you snappy, Mum or Dad say the wrong thing… and Bam! We have meltdown!

Sometimes when it all gets on top of you like this, the best course of action is to stop, take a deep breath and an imaginary step back so that you can look at what’s going on. When you’re too close to it all, it’s hard to see solutions. Stepping back you can put things into context.

It may be that this is your last opportunity to try for that qualifying score. Realistically (and be honest with yourself, not unkind) am I at the level where I could get that score with ease?  If you know that you will only likely get the qualification score by the skin of your teeth then is it really the right thing to be aiming for?  Let’s just go down that road for a minute and see where it leads:

You just squeak into the nationals. Great. Now you’ve qualified and all is fine and dandy. But is it? If it was a struggle to get that score, how will it feel when you are actually there, among a large group of skaters, many of whom qualified easily early in the year and have been polishing their programme ever since in preparation. Will you feel confident enough to skate your best programme? Wouldn’t you rather be in the much stronger position of knowing you have consistency, polish and confidence on your side? Allowing you to concentrate on bringing out a cracking performance instead of skating through your programme worrying about every upcoming element?

There are some occasions when it’s good to scrape in by the skin of the teeth – catching a train, being the last person allowed onto a theme park ride when everyone else is left behind the rope, getting onto a plane just as they’re shutting the doors…   But these are occasions when your skill isn’t required and your success in ‘getting in’ was down more to luck than judgement.

Every skater should have in mind their ‘big goal’. The one which everything should be leading towards. And taking a step back you can just check in and see if you are ready yet to take the next step towards that goal.  As you work hard towards the ultimate prize, make sure that you are maintaining quality along the way and not just ‘winging it’ and scraping in. Because it’s going to be the confident, quality skate which wins the day.

What do you need to work on to get the points you would need? What can you practice and polish until it gleams?

Instead of focusing on getting a particular score, focus instead on the things you need to improve. Work hard at improving them until you forget about points, and marks, and GOEs. Raise the bar on your own programme until it really is the best it can be. Because in this way, when your skating is ready, you will get those marks and GOEs anyway, without even thinking about them.

And remember – another thing about chasing scores – things that are chased will run in the opposite direction!