An interview with British Advanced Novice Ladies Champion Miesha Cooke Smith

After the British Championships in Sheffield last week, I caught up with Miesha Cooke Smith and her mum, Laura, to get some insight on how Miesha uses the tools she has learned from working with Ice Cool Confidence and some of her thinking processes during the freeskate.  Miesha was lying in first place after the short programme, and sometimes that can put extra pressure on a skater…

ICC: Miesha, without going into detail, I can definitely say that you started out with some of the most difficult challenges of any skater I’ve known. And when we started working together you were experiencing some pretty tough situations which were beyond your control so we worked hard to help you achieve the resilience and mindset to enable you to deal with it and move forward. What’s one big thing you learned which has helped you to get through?

Miesha: Well, I think the biggest thing I learnt is just how powerful the mind is. Before working with you I always thought that if I had a bad day it was because my body was off and there was not a lot I could do about it, however after working with you I realise just how much the mind can influence my skating and now if I have a bad day I push through and always end up having a good session.

ICC: You had a fabulous skate in the short programme and ended up with a pretty good lead, but at that point the final result is not always a foregone conclusion. Often that sort of pressure can bring about the kind of nerves that leads to mistakes and then a poor skate full of errors. What was going through your mind just before you skated the Free?

Miesha: All of Wednesday I was just on a high from the short and really enjoyed the rest of the day. I celebrated from having a good short but Thursday morning I was back into competition mode and completely shut yesterday out of my mind. All morning and even during the skate I just kept telling myself to relax and stay calm. I knew people would be watching me closely but that didn’t really bother me, it was more me putting pressure on myself which I tend to do quite often. I know that if I just relax and enjoy it everything will be fine so that’s exactly what I concentrated on and was the only thing running through my mind up to my skate.

ICC: What were you thinking/telling yourself during the free to keep it all together?

Miesha: I literally just repeatedly told myself to calm down and relax. I also had to move some elements around in my program as the first triple salchow was a bit dodgy and I missed the combination but I think that also helped to keep me calm as I was concentrating on where I can put the combination instead of stressing about unnecessary things.

ICC: What techniques that you’ve learned did you draw on during the skate?

Miesha: Normally in competition I flick the auto pilot switch and just shut down my thoughts. I know my body can do it so I don’t really need my mind running around and overthinking everything. However, in this competition I had to come out of autopilot to think about where to put the combination. I then called on my tuning technique where I just tap into the part of the brain that I need to make quick decisions. Working with you has really helped me develop that skill to tap into really specific parts of my mind. At the beginning of working with you when trying to tap into this section of my mind I would also get an overflow of gremlins stressing me out telling me all the “what ifs” that could happen but now I can channel into the specific part of my mind and just get the straight forward answer I need. This played a major role in my free program as I had to flick out of autopilot in the beginning of my program so having that tuning technique at the ready is super handy.

ICC: If someone was experiencing challenges with their skating that was holding them back from their potential, what would you say to them?

Miesha: Your mind is the most powerful thing in your body so if you can learn to control it you’ll find everything much easier. Ice Cool Confidence is great because not only does it work, but it’s fun too! The course is great and if you find something doesn’t work, then there’s always an alternative. I think everyone has their own way of dealing with their mind but it’s great to have some resources straight away. I tend to mix and match some of the exercises I did and I’ve found specific ways to do them that helps me as an individual. Definitely look into Ice Cool Confidence because if you can learn to control you’re mind, that’s the hardest part of the sport sorted.

Miesha with her mum, Laura

ICC: Laura, as Miesha’s mum you know that Miesha had some extraordinarily difficult challenges to overcome when you first decided to ask me to work with her. I know that it hasn’t always been easy to be a skater Mum! What were your biggest challenges (including as a family) and how have you managed to deal with them?

Laura: I think there have been loads of major challenges along the way but we’ve dealt with them all as a unit. Our family is a team so everytime we come across a problem we’ll sit down and discuss our options together. I think that’s the most important thing for the family to do. You must keep good communication and be open to each others opinions and views. This comfortable, supportive relationship not only removes tension which often occurs within skating families, but it also helps the skater to feel more secure and happy when skating. The family has a huge impact on the skater so it’s really important to make sure all pressure on the skater is removed and the best way to do that is to be a team.

ICC: If another parent was thinking of getting their skater to work with me, what would you advise them?

Laura: It has to come completely from the skater. There is no point in the parent forcing the skater into things as it will have no effect or possibly a negative one. Make sure the skater is the one to say they want to work with Ice Cool Confidence and they are 100% ready to try anything. Then you can support them completely. I think it’s important for the parents to take a back seat and let the skater take complete control over what they do. This way the skater will feel happier as they feel less pressured into things and feel independent. It comes back to the family being a team really. Be supportive to the skater but don’t push them too far. Let them really enjoy the sport how they want to enjoy it.