This morning I had an absolute blast (literally) at the local rifle range. You may not know this, but my sport, half a lifetime ago was target rifle shooting. And believe it or not, there are so many similarities between that and skating – or any other sport for that matter.
Just like when you are preparing for that crucial jump in your programme, with every shot at the target, there are several things you can get wrong, which will affect the outcome and make a big difference to your marks.
Our default setting tends to be a negative one. There’s a good reason for this as it’s a kind of ‘protection mechanism’. We think all the time of what we shouldn’t do, what we mustn’t let happen, what we don’t want. This morning I found myself firstly thinking “Don’t press your cheek too hard on the rifle, don’t grip it, don’t move your shoulder and don’t hold your breath too long”. Wow! So many don’ts! And because of what I do when I’m working with skaters, I was quickly able to notice this happening and immediately sweep away the negatives – imagining sweeping away a gremlin that was whispering them into my ear.
It made me smile because it reminded me so much of what skaters have to deal with when you are going into a jump. Don’t pop it. Don’t forget to keep it tight. Don’t pull round too hard. Don’t leave your arms out. Don’t, don’t, don’t.
Think instead of what you need to do – jump high, keep tight as you rotate, use your arms, hold that exit…
If you have tried my ‘Lemons’ exercise (imagining biting into a lemon that isn’t there and noticing how your body shudders anyway) you will know that when you use your imagination to visualise, the mind sends signals to your body to prepare it for whatever you are focusing on.
It makes a world of difference to your game by thinking about what you want instead of what you don’t want. It helps you focus on what you should be doing for the successful execution of that jump, instead of thinking about what will turn it into a disaster.
So if you are focusing on failure and what might go wrong, that’s what your mind is preparing you for. Prepare yourself instead for success, by pulling that ‘negative self-talk’ lever over to the positive track.