Media coverage of the Olympics always gives us a great insight into the support team an athlete has and how they develop into an independent athlete by progressing within that supportive network. The coaches, parents and fans can’t run the race or skate a programme for the athlete, but a great support team gives the athlete all the knowledge, skill and independence to make the best decisions possible within nanoseconds during a race or an on-ice programme.
When an athlete can decide independently with the wisdom gained from that support network, the team has done its job well. Whatever your chosen sport, there comes a time when you need to have a little independence about your goals.
Younger skaters will of course need a combination of their mum or dad and their coach to make the bigger decisions over everything from which competitions to enter, whether or not to take test passes, what type of skates to get and even what music you’ll skate to (although I hope you have a little say in this so that you at least LOVE your music!).
And I’ve been there as a mum when at a certain age the skaters just keep hopping on and off the ice with “my boots are too tight/too loose” or “I don’t know what to practice” or “can we go home now?”. And I see that as the skater grows, this phase changes to one where the skater won’t get off the ice and wants to spend the entire day gliding around and making up routines for imaginary galas with their skating buddies to imaginary music.
But there comes a time when a skater who is taking his or her skating career quite seriously, needs to learn a little independence in the management of their progress. Do you know why your coach wants you to do this or that competition? Do you know what you need to add in to or practice in your programme to make sure you get higher GOEs? What do you need to achieve and by when if you want to skate “In the British” or whatever national championships you are aiming at?
Organising your time to gain the most out of your skating is crucial. When the coach isn’t on the ice or is taking another lesson, what do YOU do? Are you showing yourself to be a “high level, dedicated skater”? Or are you just messing around? What do you need to work on in between your lessons? And Mum – it’s no good shouting from the side-lines – the coaches won’t like it and your skater will positively hate it, let alone actually act on it! Leave the side-line coaching to the football field. Or ideally just leave it.
It’s a really good idea to get your coach to give you some particular moves to practice in between your lessons. Some coaches don’t like you to practice the hard jumps alone – this will be partly for safety reasons but also because you might ‘embed’ the mistakes you’re making and end up practising things wrong and reinforcing those mistakes which are harder to undo when it comes to your lessons. Take your Skater Planner to your lesson and get the coach to write down a few things that they want you to practice. And be sure to do them!
Finally – make sure you have plenty of techniques to quell the gremlins. Staying motivated is a great way to combat the negativity which the gremlins bring with them. Motivation can drop for lots of reasons – meeting new and harder challenges when it seemed so much easier to progress in the early stages; seeing those who started with you overtake you; no longer feeling that special bond with your coach now that more and more people are battling for his or her attention. And that’s without stuff going on at home or at school which could be bringing you down. Having great mental techniques to combat this and enable you to stay resilient without relying on others is one of the most powerful tools for independence which you can have in your life.