Competition mental preparation notes
Attitude is EVERYTHING!
Do not think about other skaters or be concerned about winning/places or competing against other skaters, this sport is mostly about competing against your self to achieve your best performance, we have no control over how other skaters will skate or who else enters. At the Aussie skate level it is up to the coaches to set the level that the skater enters (for example Level II/novice), however coaches from other rinks may enter skaters in this division who are qualified to skate at a higher level, perhaps even several levels higher.
The rule is that if a skater has passed a skate school/Aussie skate test of a higher level then they cannot compete at the previous lower level, for example if you passed level 3/Intermediate before the closing date, then you would not be able to skate in level 2/novice. Some skaters at other rinks do not get tested, so it is up to there coach to place them in the correct level.
Is this fair – no, but after you graduate from the Aussie skate program all skaters are properly tested by NSWISA qualified judges to ensure they are qualified to compete at a level of their competence.
It is important not to have any prior expectations over places before a competition, there are various reasons for this as I will cover. 1st of all it is impossible to control “who” enters the competitions, many skaters will have more experience, for example have been skating a lot longer, they also may skate more sessions per week, have done years of ballet, jazz ballet or Gymnastics. In one case I know that a certain student of mine with only 7 months experience has been competing against skaters that have 2 or 3 years experience.
So there is no point in having any expectations prior to a competition, you just don’t know what will happen.
Expectations create disappointment if the desired result is not achieved, sometime these expectations contribute to a less than perfect performance because they create “Pressure” on the skater. At this level any pressure at all can diminish enjoyment, enjoyment is vital for learning, it has been scientifically proven that enjoyment enhances learning, we all knew that but now the scientific proof is available. The more a skater enjoys the sport the faster they will learn it, an example of this is Tara Lipinski who won the Winter Olympic gold medal some years ago, she skated with such joy it was just overflowing, she landed a triple loop – triple loop combo jump.
My opinion is that good improvement/progress adds to enjoyment and enjoyment adds to good improvement/progress.
So what should you aim for when entering a competition?
You should be skating against yourself to produce a personal best performance, a best ever performance is what makes us as coaches and parents happy, so it makes no difference how many other skaters enter the same division, you could be skating alone in a division and still be trying for a personal best. Some skaters skate mostly for the audience to entertain, some skaters skate for the judges, or a mix of both, you have to chose what is right for you.
What should you expect as far as your performance?
Should you expect to land a jump in competition that you have never landed in training? To do so is to have unrealistic expectations. For major competitions a conservative coach (such as I), will only encourage you to attempt a jump if you can land it at least 3 out of 4 attempts in training.
Should you expect to skate a clean program (no errors) in competition?
If you take 3 run throughs of your program, done the week before a competition, in training and average the errors, this should be your expectation for the competition. For example on 3 run throughs if you made 3 serious errors such as missed jumps, falls, missed spins or failed spirals and 5 minor errors such as slight stumbles, not holding a landing etc, then the average run through would be 1 major error and 2 minor errors. This is what you should expect to occur in competition.
If you do a clean run through in competition and your average run through is not clean then you should be happy with your performance, the placing on or off the podium (top 3 places) is irrelevant and less emphasis needs to be placed on medals/trophies.
It is important to have realistic competition expectations otherwise disappointment can follow.
May occur on our children without our noticing it, for example if family members talk about lofty goals, ie championships, Olympics, winning etc. It then creates pressure on the skaters to perform perfectly. Michelle Kwan has entered and competed in the Winter Olympics twice already, although she has won the world championships many times she has not taken the Olympic gold medal yet, the American public have such high expectations for her and she is constantly asked about her gold medal prospects before the competition. The result is disappointment when she does not win. Perhaps a self fulfilling prophesy.
My role as a coach is to prepare skaters to be competitive, most other coaches will also, This is perhaps a contradiction from what I am telling you but my role as coach is different from your role as parent.
The advantages of competitions are many, they include added motivation to train hard, skating extra sessions and striving to perfect many skating elements.
This attention to detail and striving for perfection is a valuable life skill that can be applied to many other things during a lifetime – school – work and play.
The fact that this may be a beginners competition does not mean it has to be taken any less seriously as far as preparation as a senior level competition, proper competition preparation needs to become a habit.