Photo Credit: Stephan Potopnyk
For better or worse, no matter how much you dream, plan, and set goals, sometimes things just don’t go the way you want them to. Sometimes we are forced out of our plans - out of an entire competitive season, for example, due to unforeseen circumstances, like an injury, or skates that just aren't working for you. When this happens we can either keep fighting and stressing over it or we can accept the situation for what it is. And although it can be difficult, even heartbreaking, accepting what is out of your control can also be very liberating and empowering.
Recently I met Senior Ladies competitor, Cassandra Bilsborough who is in the midst of dealing with an experience that put a major roadblock in her training for the competitive season. Frustration might be an understatement in the process it has been for Cassandra to switch from her warn down pair of skates to a new pair. Since this is a transition that is normally pretty standard and straightforward for competitive skaters on a yearly basis, Cassandra did not expect to find herself in the mess that she did.
I asked Cassandra to share a bit about what the current season has brought her in hopes of helping other skaters see that there are so many different obstacles that we can run into along the path toward our goals. But it's how you choose to deal with those obstacles that will bring you ahead.
Here’s my interview with Cassandra:
K: Your skating year has thus far not turned out the way you expected, could you share a little about it?
C: It all started back in May when I had to get new skates. The pair of skates I got weren’t breaking [in] no matter what we did (softened them, heated them, punched them out) and when they did start to break [in] it wasn’t in the ankle like it should be but it was further down the boot which caused them to expand. This happened [to two different pairs of skates] in the matter of 2 months. Due to the skate issues I couldn’t train properly, my confidence in myself and my skating went completely downhill, I felt like I was regressing in the progress I was making before getting new skates. By having these issues with my skates it messed with me mentally. After summer training had ended I made the decision to switch brands. When I first skated with them I hated them and everyone from coaches to other skaters told me to wait it out and not to worry, as I just had to adjust to the skates. After a very long month and a half in the skates I still could not do things that are considered easy to me and made the decision yet again to go back into the original brand I was using but in a different size.
K: Can you describe the moment that made you decide you weren’t going to compete for the rest of the season?
C: The moment I decided I wasn’t going to compete this season was probably one of the hardest decisions I had to make and definitely a heart breaking one. It was a typical training day and the Sectionals registration deadline was coming up in a few days. I was in the middle of a lesson with my coach when I finally said, “I can’t do it”. Having to take a step back and realizing I lost practically 4 months of training, I was in a pair of skates I still couldn’t figure out after being in them for over a month, and I knew that it wasn’t possible. After talking it through with my coach we came to the conclusion that it was best to take a step back.
K: Are you still planning on training for the rest of the year?
C: Currently I am still planning on training for the rest of the year.
K: Where do you find inspiration and what keeps you motivated?
C: If I’m being 100% honest, I’m still at a point where I’m trying to find that inspiration and motivation. I love skating but I’ve been having a very difficult time going into the rink and skating knowing that I have nothing coming up and nothing to look forward to. There are a lot of days where I don’t want to go into the rink and spend the hours skating and training, especially if I don’t have a lesson that day.
K: What are some positive things that this experience has brought into your life?
C: I would say this experience although still new to me has made me take a step back and realize that I skate because I love it and I don’t just skate for the sole purpose of competing. Even though currently it is hard for me to go in everyday, when I am at the rink I love every second of it.
K: If you could give advice to another skater going through a similar situation, what would it be?
C: If I could give advice to someone going through a similar situation I would tell them to be more proactive in trying to solve the solution. Ask questions as to whether anything has changed with the company, ask if a different size of boot would help, but most importantly I would tell them that even though the situation isn’t ideal there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Photo courtesy of Cassandra Bilsborough
There is always light if you are willing to look for it. It will most likely not be very easy for Cassandra to train while the upcoming competitions are happening and to hear about how her friends perform at them, or even continue going to the rink without competition goals in mind. But all of these experiences have the potential to build a deep desire to come back twice as strong next year. Her time on the ice right now can be spent perfecting her elements without the pressure of an upcoming competition. Or perhaps she will skate and practice for the pure joy of it and nothing else, as she said above “when I am at the rink, I love every second of it”. No matter what Cassandra finds in her skating this year, this experience will build a mental toughness that can be carried with her as she moves forward.
And a skater’s mental game, their ability to see the light when things are dark is what is going to give them the winning edge.