Regionals Is Upon Us…

October 9, 2007

Good luck to all coaches and skaters around the country as they make final preparations for Regionals.  (I know, some events have already happened.)

I coach in the Upper Great Lakes Region and the festivities get underway this week.  It’s obvious, as most of the Regional-bound skaters at our rink are more stressed and more emotional than usual.  Which brings up an important point.

It seems in the days leading up to a major event, the psychological aspects of coaching become the most important.  Those coaches that can help their skaters be confident and remain loose give their skaters a big advantage.  But mental training isn’t something you do a few days before a major event.  And it isn’t just a few words of encouragement right before your skater takes the ice.

Skaters that consistently compete well fall into two categories.  In the first are those lucky skaters that just love to compete.  They thrive on the attention.  They naturally react with better posture and a more awareness.  They jump higher and skate faster.  These skaters are a joy to put on at competitions because you’re likely to get a better performance than their very best practice run through.

In the second category are those skaters that simply feel prepared, even though they’re not natural performers.  Feeling prepared is obviously different for every skater.  And that’s a major challenge for us coaches.  The stress our skaters feel as a major competition approaches suggests that they are not mentally prepared.  Even though they may have flawless technique and the stamina to easily get through their programs, they may not really believe they can do it or they worry about potential distractions and failures.

Mindset plays an important role.  If a skater prepares mentally for all the things that can go wrong and has the mental toughness or discipline to refocus immediately when something does go wrong, they are truly prepared.  Even more prepared are those skaters that can control their mind and body so that nothing does go wrong.

And of course, there are those skaters that really aren’t prepared physically.  They may be trying elements that are too difficult or they know they’ll be outclassed by their competition.  But even these skaters can pull off amazing performances with the right mindset.  At the very least, they are realistic about their situation and understand that stressing out has no value.

So, it always surprises me how little help we give our skaters in the areas of mental training.  But I guess it makes sense when you consider that most coaches have no formal training in this area.

Still, it can be liberating for a skater to take full responsibility for how they skate, as long as they have accepted the consequences.  But most of the time, skaters and coaches are unwilling to really address the consequences.  They are        lurking there, but generally remain unnamed.  The consequences aren’t just whether they make final round or advance to the next event.  The real consequences for our young skaters are usually related to how they think others will think of them, from their parents and friends and families, to their coaches and fellow skaters.  Their personal self-worth is on the line.

There are some great resources out there regarding this important side of skating.  Whether you’re trying to create a champion or just a happy, well-adjusted kid, and energy you spend on this will be worth the effort.



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