Today’s Topic: Why Jumps Get Inconsistent in Figure Skating
Hi guys, welcome to Q&A with coach Rebecca. I am Rebecca Smith, the founder and director of Complete Performance Coaching and I have decided today, to talk to figure skaters. Now, of course, if you’re not a figure skater, don’t worry, I’m basically going to be talking about inconsistency and what causes it, and specifically about that pesky double axel.
That’s something I hear a lot about, and so I’ve got a couple of questions from members of the Perform Happy community that I will address today. If anyone has questions on live, I’m always live on Facebook Tuesdays at 4:30 on the Complete Performance Coaching page, so feel free to chime in and let me know if you have questions that we can get to live, otherwise, let’s dig in.
Here’s the question that came through from one of the members. She says,
Q: My daughter’s struggling with staying consistent with her double axel, a jump she’s had consistent for two years now. Last Wednesday that jump was amazing, and she was banging them out like nothing, and now it’s been an entire week and she haven’t landed a single one. Any immediate words of wisdom I can offer her, I’d love for her to remain confident and not get discouraged, especially heading into this Friday’s competition.
Okay, first off, I’ll say, right before competition, less is usually more.
Less is More
It’s not a time that you want to be sneaking in new techniques or new strategies. Of course, I had had a question that came through that was similar right before, to add all these, here’s how you’re going to do it over time, and here is how you’re going to make sure you stay consistent, which I will go into in a minute, but if you have a competition on Friday, you’re better off to not throw a whole lot of extra stuff into the mix, because a lot of the times, this inconsistency is caused by overthinking.
For giving her more to think about, is probably not going to be super helpful. What I would say is the best thing you can do is talk her through the reality of the situation. Instead of trying to get her to relax or be confident or whatever, just say, “Hey, okay if you don’t land it in competition, how are you going to deal with that?”
Reassurance is Important
Let her know mom, that you’re going to love her, no matter what, because she’s going to go out there and try her best. Even if she wipes out, she’s going to get up, shake it off, finish her program strong, and learn something from it.
No matter what happens at competition, it’s a learning experience. She’s learning things to make her more confident in the future. If looking back she can find some clues as to why it happened, that would be very helpful. Today is Tuesday, she’s got three days.
Talk her through, hey if this is just an off week, and it doesn’t happen, we’re going to go to ice cream, we’re going to celebrate, we’re going to be so proud of you, don’t worry about it, your coaches might be a little miffed, they will get over it. By Wednesday of next week, no one will ever remember it happened.
What’s the Worst Thing That Can Happen?
Talk her through the worst case scenario. Often, that can take enough pressure off that she won’t feel like she has to be perfect, which is probably what’s causing the problem. That’s the immediate answer. Then I’m to go into next, how to get things happening consistently. Here’s another question I wanted to address that came through from another figure skater, a figure skating mom. “My daughter has had a lot of success competitively, has tremendous potential, but is struggling with a mental block on a particular jump, the double axel. She’s physically able to do the jump, but mental blocks prevent her from taking off a high percentage of the time, so she’s struggling to get the jump consistent.”
We’ve got one struggling on the landing, and one struggling with takeoff. I’ve heard a lot of skaters who start popping their jumps for various reasons. Both of these issues come from the same problem. What’s happening here that’s causing this well-learned skill from a high-level skater is that they’re starting to get physically tense in a way that they weren’t before.
Overthinking it All
They were skating free, they were doing it basically just under the conscious radar. They don’t have to think about it. They just think double axel, and off goes the double axel. Then they land it and they go about their business. They don’t have to think, and once you’ve gotten to that high level in any sport, you don’t actually want to be thinking, because those thoughts take too long.
You’ve only got a couple of seconds before the skill’s over. You don’t have time to think things like, oh pull in, don’t do that, you don’t have time to be thinking that. That’s all stuff you drill beforehand. Then you just go. Then when it stops working, that’s why these high-level athletes are like, “Wait. Why is it not working?”
They start to overthink, they start to tense up, they don’t trust themselves, they start to doubt themselves, and they have a hard time relaxing until they can make it again. What’s going on that creates that tension is that the brain is detecting a threat. A threat to safety.
The Fear of It
Now this could be physical safety, a fear of falling, it could be emotional safety, fear of disappointing people, fear of being upset, fear of frustration, fear of other people watching them when they make a mistake. That’s a huge one. I would say the majority of my clients I’ve worked with around popping specifically, they’re worried about other people watching them, or what they’re thinking, or who they’re going to let down if they make a mistake.
Which is so ironic, because then they make a lot more mistakes because they’re so worried about making mistakes in front of people. Or it might be any kind of threat, that the brain goes, ooh, this is dangerous. I’m going to let somebody down in a big way, or I’m going to get hurt, or there’s too much unknown, some kind of threat pops up.
You’re Worried About Everyone Else
The main causes for those are these fears of what people are thinking, even though you can’t read minds. I can’t. I like to think I can, and this was pointed out to me years ago that I was always like, “She thinks this, and she’s worried about that, and they think I this and they think I …” You know what guys, here’s a secret.
People don’t care that much. People don’t actually pay that much attention to you. They don’t actually care what you’re doing that much, because they’re all wrapped up in their own selves, just like we are. If I’m like, “Oh my gosh, what does she think?” She’s probably thinking about herself like I’m thinking about myself.
For any of you who are 12, 13, 14 out there, you probably feel like everybody’s thinking about you, everybody’s talking about you, all day, every day. The good news is they are not, because they are just as worried about how they’re looking and seeming. If you can let that go, and even better, get to the point of ultimate confidence, which is not just I feel like I can do it, it’s I don’t care what they think. I am myself, I’m good enough, let’s go. If I wipe out, I will get up.
If I land it, that will be awesome. If they don’t like me, that is their loss. That’s the point where if you can get to that, then this no longer becomes an issue and you can be free.
You’re Worried About Disappointing Everyone
Another main cause of that tension is again mentioned, that fear of disappointing other people. This is another one to get real on. Will your parents be disappointed in you if you make a mistake? If so, chat with your parents, because that’s not the point. Perfection is not the point. I know I’m talking to an audience primarily of Type A perfectionist athletes, gymnasts, swimmers, figure skaters.
These are people who mistakes are not an option. You go out and you want to be perfect. But guess what? We are human and we’re not perfect. I hate that just as much as the next person. I wish I could be perfect. I wish I could take every course and have every class and do every workshop until I get perfect, but guess what? It’s not possible. The more that I can navigate that fact gracefully, and let it go when I make a mistake, the happier I will be.
True Champions Make Mistakes
You guys, who are competitors, same deal. Everybody makes mistakes, and the people, those true champions, are the ones who keep getting up, and keep getting up, and keep getting up. Then there’s the fear of injury. If that’s real for you, then do what you’ve got to do. Even if you feel ridiculous.
Crash pads and helmets and I know, those are not things that everybody likes to do, and there’s stigma, but if that’s what’s preventing you from having a strong takeoff is the fear of falling, do what you need to do, to make sure that that risk is mitigated, that risk is taken down, so that your brain can relax a little bit and let your body relax and do what it knows how to do.
If you’re like, “Um, I’ve been doing this for two years, I’m not going to put a helmet on,” give it a shot. Maybe don’t do it in the heat of the session where everybody is that you compete against, but consider it. If the fear of injury is real, maybe you’ve been falling on that same hip and it keeps hurting, you’re just like sick of feeling that pain, then do what you’ve got to do to take it down a notch and see if that can help.
When You Have High Expectations
A lot of the time, going into competition, if you expect perfection, then you start to melt down in the week or month before. Again, you focus your energy into practice, putting in the best you can and then at competition you just show up a do what’s in there. Do what’s been automatically installed in your body and then be ready to let it go if there’s mistakes.
Negative thinking is a huge one, especially after Wednesday. She’s knocking it out. She’s doing great, and then Thursday, wait, where’s my landing? What’s going on here? Well, think about the thinking, like, oh my gosh, what happened? Am I going to be able to make it this weekend? What if I don’t? You go into that what if thinking as soon as that mistake happens, which then builds, and then the next day, am I going to make them today? What if I don’t? That’s the type of thinking you want to become really aware of, is what is it that happens in my mind when this starts to go south. That’s the first thing that I want to tell you.
How to Create More Consistency in Your Life in 5 Steps
1. Get Aware
I’m going to give you basically a five-step process of how to create more consistency in your life. The first one is get aware. You have to figure out what it is that causes it. What are the things that get it started? What was she doing on Wednesday that was allowing her to thrive? Then, what was she focusing on, who was she training with, what was going on in the environment, what was school like, what was happening Wednesday that was working?
Afterward, what was going on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, that was not allowing her to thrive? What was she thinking about?. What was she paying attention to or focused on? What was she worried about? What was going on in school, with friends? Dig in and figure out what are the clues about what’s not working? Because there’s obviously something that’s not working, and I say this all the time that there’s no … it’s not random. It’s never random. You can always track it back and find the clues and that’s where you get your power.
You go, oh, as soon as I started focusing on that, things went south, and then I got negative, and then I was tense, and then I was worried, and then I was bummed, and I wasn’t sleeping, et cetera, et cetera. Then you want to just check in. What was the extra stress? Was there a weird fall, was there a break in concentration? Figure out what gets it started, get your awareness up. That’s the first part.
2. Have a Plan
Number two, have a plan. You want to get rid of the unknown. If you make a mistake, what will you do? If you fall in practice again, how will you reset? Have a bounce-back routine. What’s the worst that can happen? How will you cope? If you’ve got all of those things organized, then you just go, okay, I fell, now it’s time to do my bounce-back routine.
Let’s reset and try again. If your brain has got this unknown of, oh my gosh, what if? What if I fail, it will be worse than ever. Then it creates all this tension, whereas if you just go, okay, let’s look at reality. If I make a mistake, I’ll respond this way, then I will do this next and then I will do this next, and then we’ll all get over it. That doesn’t seem so terrifying, right?
3. Break it Down
I actually like to have people write out bullet points. Basically teach me a double axel. Write out, skate backwards on your right foot. Glide backwards, step forward onto your left foot, kick through, air position, landing, blah, blah, blah. You write out all the little steps, and then go back through and look at it and go, okay, where is the weakest link?
What’s the point where my confidence is not high? Is my head in the wrong place? Is it my rotation? What is it that’s missing here? Then you might need your coach to get some input on this, what’s the place where it looks like I’m losing confidence? Where can your coach tell if you’re going to go for it or not? If you’re going to land it or not.
Break it down.
Then figure out what is going to be that one focus you’re going to have. You’re going to zero in on the solution of making that skill better. That one correction.
You’re not in the future, you’re not in the what if I fall or what if I don’t take off. You’re not in the surrounding area of who’s watching me and what are they thinking, you’re just in whatever it is, that edge or that position, or that axis. You are just doing the one thing and you focus all your attention on that one moment and that one correction, and that can pull you in, and get you so that you’re not overthinking, you’re just doing one thing. Then you get that thing sorted out, and you pick the next one. If there’s a couple of kinks that didn’t get worked out, you just take then one at a time, focus in, stay present, stay calm, breathing is wonderful. Then also, something that goes hand in hand with this is imagery. That’s the next one.
4. Use Your Bullet Pointed List
Add confidence to it. Then start seeing it in your mind. You see yourself doing every detail of this skill perfectly, feeling confident, feeling free, feeling like Wednesday in your mind. Boom, hitting them, landing them, solid, smiling, coach is happy. Everybody’s happy. People are cheering. Or nobody’s watching, or whatever works best for you. But you just keep landing them in your mind. Breathing, getting into that confident place that you really need to be in, over and over in your mind, which will remind you that you’ve actually done them over and over, and it will get your brain to go, oh yeah, we don’t have to think so much.
I look at it like studying. You’re basically thinking so much about this skill, that when it comes time to actually do it, you’re like, I don’t have to think about all the pieces, I just can go. I’ve crammed, over and over, I’ve thought about every single thing. I do this with swimmers. We’ve thought about every single stroke for every single lap, so when you get in the pool, you do not have to think about it. You just get in and swim.
If you’ve broken your skill down and you’ve really dissected it and looked at it, and your confidence, and you felt it and you’ve seen it from every angle, and inside your own mind, and you felt the cold and the landing and the confidence, then you can just go try it.
Then we address negative thinking. You’ve got to get a handle on what is it. Keep a thought log. Visualize negativity. For those of you guys who are in the Perform Happy community, I have both of these exercises in there. Neutralizing negativity. And then also a detailed thought log that can help you lock it in, figure out what is it that you’re thinking that’s sending you sideways? Then, what is it that you’re thinking that’s helping you? Making sure that you turn those thoughts around and getting the right ones in place that are actually going to be helping you, and then repeat. Then you go back to the beginning and increase your awareness.
You figure out. I tried one, it didn’t work, let’s look at why. This piece wasn’t confident. Great, let’s fix it. Then we’re going to do imagery, and we’re going to check your thoughts and make sure that any of those extra stressors, have a plan, and you can handle it.
5. Let Go of That Need to be Perfect
et go of that need to be perfect, and just go and have a little fun. Really, competitions, everybody puts so much emphasis on the competition, but really, the way I look at it, is it’s just a check-in. It’s how is my training going? Good, we got more information, now go train again. Then we do a check-in. How’s my training going? Okay, good information, back to training. And if you can look at it that way, like it’s not this big end-of-the world thing, but it’s just a check-in that will guide your training, it takes a lot of the pressure off, which gets rid of that tension and allows your body to do what it knows how to do and knows how to do it.
Hopefully that helps some of our figure skating friends out there. If you guys have questions, you can always reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to join us in the community and have access to me for questions like this, all the time through our Facebook group, our private Facebook group, or through the online forms, you can join us at performhappy.com and we also have unending live trainings and courses on everything from anxiety to building confidence, mental toughness, boot camp, everything you’ll need to get from where you are to where you want to be. All right guys, I’ll see you again next week. Thanks for joining me.