How often do you get frustrated during your practice sessions? Be honest. There’s a good chance that it’s a little more often than you would like. Which is completely normal, so don’t beat yourself up if it is.
Figure skaters are often perfectionists. When for whatever reason you can’t land the jump that is almost never a problem, it can be completely infuriating! Say your takeoff is lifting off its edge too soon and you can’t correct it no matter how many ways you walk through it, refocus and visualize it. You just want to fix this one component. Maybe it’s one of those “off days”. Regardless of the issue, no matter how much we love the sport itself, we will experience times when we feel defeated.
Unfortunately, having off days or moments is something that we can’t totally escape from when we are passionately working towards our goals and when sometimes things just don’t go as planned. Fortunately, there are ways that we can work with those moments instead of against them to ease some of the tension. And a shift in perspective is all it takes.
Remember when you first started skating? What was it about being on the ice that made you keep wanting to come back?
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been bringing some young school students from where I teach out to the local rink once a week and I teach them how to skate as an after school activity. The experience has been super fun and rewarding. And also, I’m seeing that these children who are learning to skate for the first time carry wisdom that is so often lost when we have been practicing something for a long time.
Here are a few key mental elements that beginners have that well-trained athletes often forget:
A sense of wonderment and curiosity:
Everything is new when you’re trying something for the first time. You’re stepping into a space filled with possibility, so your sense of curiosity guides your learning. You are excited at the thought of discovering what you can do, instead focusing on what you can’t do.
The next time you’re experiencing frustration in your practice, try asking yourself how you can be curious about your skating during this time on the ice. Rather than fueling the fury, allow it to cool while you explore different ways to evolve your skating. Use this time for discovery and exploration in other skills. You might end up realizing that you can actually do a beautiful split jump or you might perfect your change-edge spiral. Then you can choose to either come back to the element with a renewed sense of calm or you can leave it for the day without feeling beaten because you’ve given productive time to another area improving your craft.
Trust in the process:
Although the children that I’m coaching do get upset when they can’t do something that they want to do, they easily let it go when I explain that it will come on its own if they keep practicing.
There is a saying “a smooth sea never made a skillful sailor” which pretty well sums up the process of mastering a skill and achieving any goal. Just because we passionately want to accomplish something doesn’t mean it’s going to happen without any roadblocks. We can’t bypass the learning curve; we have to ride it. Remembering this can help us relax in the midst those difficult practice sessions and trust that we need to experience these moments in order to get to where we want to go.
A clear focus on the task at hand:
This one is arguably not more beginner-oriented. Veteran athletes certainly develop the ability to stay focused, however, it’s in those instants’ of exasperation that the ability to stay present can actually disappear. We become so fixated on the end result rather than on the actual technique that will get us there and we lose the ability to slow down, breathe, and stay with it.
At first the kids I’m coaching just wanted to be able to go fast “like the big kids” but when I explained that to become really good at skating they first have to practice doing small marching steps and keeping their arms out, they took on the concept fully and continued marching, taking baby steps. And then they fell, got back up in the way they had learned, and kept going. Before long they were skating backwards and continually building on each learned skill.
Of course shaking off your frustration is easier said than done. Dealing well with difficult situations takes practice too.
Remembering how we were when we were beginners can often help us handle those “off” days more effectively, bringing back some of the joy and enchantment of why we started in the first place.