So many mums struggle with watching their skaters performing in a competition. Why is it so hard to watch?

Because you have so much invested in it!

  • You’ve driven your skater backwards and forwards to the rink at all hours and to competitions…
  • You’ve paid lots of money for lessons, boots, competitions and all the accompanying paraphernalia
  • You feel deeply the emotion which your skater has invested into his or her skating. The effort, the sheer hard work and perseverance.
  • You feel every single fall. So much so that you have ‘empathy bruises’!
  • The connection.

Now that’s the thing. There’s too much connection.  What the skater does, the skater does. Win, lose, skate great or fall, it’s the skater’s job (not mum’s!) to go out there and do what they do. We mums can’t do it for them and even if we could, we wouldn’t be doing them any favours.

So mums – were you the ones at the nursery gates giving the teachers a long list of instructions on Day 1 at school?

What are you teaching your skaters by this behaviour? I have already written about the NLP technique “Act as If” (act as if you’re confident) in an earlier blog aimed at parents, and the message that you are sending your skater if you’re acting nervous around them (see the blog for more). Remember always that your behaviour impacts on your skater – and you are the one who’s meant to be setting an example!

Like anything in life, skaters need to ride all the waves whether rough or smooth. And you can’t prepare for the rough waves if you spend all the time on the smooth ones. The only way to learn is to go out there and experience what it’s like when things don’t go well.

So here are my top tips for keeping YOUR nerve when your skater is competing and in doing so, you are also helping your skater.  I’ve kept them brief (I could probably write a full blog about each and every one!):

1.   On arrival at the rink, don’t hang around your skater. Help your skater get his or her stuff to the changing room and hand them over to coach – then GO AWAY.  If you HAVE to do hair and make-up – do it then, before they go off to do the warm up with the coach.

If your skater is very young and unable to tie their own skates and rely on you to do them, arrange with the coach to come and find you when this is needed and then just tie the skates, give them a hug and leave.

2.   Keep your thoughts and your language positive. DO NOT ENGAGE in conversation – and especially avoid any “Don’t” phrases – like “Don’t worry” – or talking about any of the other skaters you’ve been watching – comparisons are not helpful!

3.   At least three weeks before the competition, sit down with your skater (when you’re both in the mood for a chat – don’t force them!) and ask them how they would like you to be, and what they would like you to say/do or not say/do…
a) Best case scenario
b) Worst case scenario
And stick to it!
4.   Generally, it’s best to leave your skater to deal with the emotions straight after the skate and not jump in with questions or comments.  Just give them a hug and wait until they are ready to talk about it.
5.   Don’t say “it doesn’t matter.” It does to them.  What you really mean is “I love you no matter what the results and I know that you tried your hardest out there”. So say so.
6.   Breathe.  In for 7 and out for 11. It’s called “seven/eleven breathing” and it calms you down. Yes it’s fine to teach your skater this technique as well.
7.   After the event – it is what it is. If as a loving parent, you are feeling as if your skater was “robbed” of marks – resist the temptation to talk about this or to search through other skaters’ PDFs for comparisons. It doesn’t help your skater to feel as if the marks weren’t a true reflection of the outcome. This is the domain of the Skating Coach – ask their advice, but NOT IN FRONT OF YOUR SKATER! Trust is hugely important for skaters – they need to be allowed and enabled to fully trust their coach, and to trust that the judges will be fair. To sow doubt is to do them a huge disservice in the long run and will likely cause major confidence issues further down the line, damaging their progress and having a lifelong distrust of those in authority.
8.   Remember that while your skater may have picked up trophies left right and centre in their earlier days, it doesn’t mean they will continue as a matter of course while they are training for bigger things. So don’t be disappointed if there isn’t always a podium place. Trophies are the icing on the cake. It’s far more important to aim for personal bests, because if they are stretching and developing and achieving personal bests, the podium places will come in time.

9.  To truly improve and progress, skaters need to have the courage to try new and more challenging elements – in competition – rather than play it safe to collect silverware. Again, trust the coach to know when to put the new stuff in and when to stick to the tried and tested. If the skater doesn’t get enough opportunities to try out the more challenging moves in competition, when it comes to the crunch at a really big competition, and they simply have to put them in, they will feel more nervous and doubt their abilities to succeed at those moves (which will obviously mean a greater chance of it not succeeding and being a self-fulfilling prophecy!).

10.   If you have been a successful athlete – even a skater – in your time, resist the temptation to “be the coach”. Your role right now is as supportive parent.  However much you think you know about how your skater should be training, each of us is very different and responds to different coaching needs. Leave the ‘coaching’ to the coach and just be Mum or Dad. They need you much more than they will admit, and having a parent who tries to ‘coach’ them all the time (especially when that parent doesn’t skate) is much more frustrating than it is helpful to the long term aims.