Today’s Topic: New Confidence on the Ice – A #PerformHappy Testimonial
Hello everyone! I’m Rebecca Smith, director and founder of Complete Performance Coaching and the PerformHappy Community. Today I want to share with you a testimonial I received from one of our PerformHappy parents:
Q: What was your main concern about hiring your coach?
I think that the most important thing, in the beginning, was finding someone that Emily would relate to and open up to. Emily had just left an emotionally abusive coaching situation, and, though she had been accepted by a new coaching team, she was floundering with self-doubt and a lack of confidence. The abuse had really taken its toll! Even more significantly, the previous coach was still in the rink every day, so she was seeing him daily and feeling intimidated and scrutinized by him even though he had no power over her anymore.
She was questioning everything, she was unable to do skills she had done for years, and she was filled with a sense that she “didn’t belong” with the new team. But Emily is not a very open person–she tends to keep her struggles inside–so I was very much concerned with finding someone she could feel comfortable talking about what had happened and the aftermath.
Q: What did you find as a result of working with your coach?
I was very encouraged after our initial meeting that I was a part of. I could tell Rebecca was very warm and knowledgable, and I thought she had a good chance of getting Em to open up. It did take a little time! Em took a while to see how talking about her experiences and her worries could be helpful, and even today she barely mentions the source of those worries or exactly what happened to her for that year, but Rebecca has encouraged her to focus on what’s happening NOW, and I think that has let Em feel more comfortable and willing to think about taking risks, stepping outside her comfort zone, and thinking about letting go of some of the negative thoughts that had almost consumed her.
We live in CT, so being able to connect with Rebecca in CA is amazing. Also, her flexibility and availability of time slots works so well for us. I think the number one best thing that makes Rebecca so good for Em is her understanding and knowledge about the sport of figure skating. That knowledge is critical because it helps create trust. Though Rebecca’s athletic background is gymnastics, she has educated herself about figure skating; she knows the terminology, she knows the difficulties… she even knows some of the rules. Emily says she often forgets that Rebecca wasn’t a skater because she is able to understand what Em is saying and that enables her to support Em in important ways.
Q: What are three benefits you’ve noticed since working with a CPC coach?
1. Change in self-talk
In the past 7 months, Emily has almost entirely stopped talking about herself as “bad” or “not deserving to be here”. It had been heartbreaking to hear her speak like that! Rebecca has been able to get Em to notice that kind of talk, and to recognize how that manner of speaking and thinking impacts her performance. Emily has gone on to pass on that knowledge to her friends at the rink! She has become very adept at lifting up her friends when they’re down and helping them stay positive!
Her attitude in practice is excellent; she’s positive, happy, and coachable. Bad days are no longer catastrophes and reasons to berate herself for being terrible; bad days are now… just bad days. The pain and tension on her face has evaporated.
I can’t tell you how distressing it was as a parent to see the anxiety and the doubt/tears in her eyes every day without respite. It’s similarly difficult to convey the agony of watching her work with her new coaches and know just by watching the sag in her shoulders that she was losing the internal psychological battle to keep trying due to her fear of disappointing them or failing. She would fail once and the visible signs of defeat would flood over her, and she would just stop trying in order to protect herself. But I haven’t seen her shoulders go down and her face tense up in literally months.
After working with Rebecca for a few months, she started thinking about failure and attempts in different ways, and that has enabled her to absorb a fall (dumb looking stumble) without initiating the internal “you are bad, you are stupid, everyone is laughing at you” mantra. She has been able to change her thinking about missing. She understands now that misses are a part of improvement, and because of that she is trying harder and risking more. Her coaches say consistently how responsive she’s become and how pleasurable she is is to work with.
2. New Skills
It has been almost a year, but Em has begun moving forward technically! Rebecca’s way of being both supportive and challenging has enabled her to start to take risks again. Because of this, she has started working on double axels and triple jumps again. Rebecca confronted her unwillingness to push through a few stumbling blocks by suggesting a two-week challenge: her task was to just go for it for two weeks. If she failed she failed… but she was not to back off for two weeks, no matter what. I KNOW this pushed Em way out of her comfort zone–she definitely voiced her reservations to both Rebecca and to me!–but it proved to be the dynamite that finally got her moving.
Embracing the Challenge
To Em’s credit, after her initial skepticism she embraced the challenge, and (unsurprisingly) the results were dramatic. Her speed has come up, her willingness to fail has improved, and with that willingness to take risks and possibly fail on the rise, the pace of her improvement has accelerated. She has learned that confidence breeds confidence; the more she tries, the more she succeeds, the more she’s willing to try again.
A few days ago I wandered into the rink to check out what she was doing and I saw a girl doing a beautiful jump with huge speed at the far end. I thought as I looked for Em, “Oh…nice jump…who’s that?” Punchline is.. .it was Emily. I actually didn’t recognize my own kid jumping because she has changed so much.
3. Returning to Competition
For the first time in almost a year, Emily will compete again in a few weeks. Last summer, desperate to get her out of her downward spiral, her coaches pulled her from competing entirely. It made sense because she was spiraling downward technically and was struggling to keep her head above the water emotionally. Rebecca came into the picture at that time and she has been critical to getting Em moving forward again.
Emily is so very excited to compete… she is ready to show her improvement and she’s ready to begin the process of moving up the ranks again. She has always LOVED competing and so the fact that she is registered, she’s running programs, getting yelled at for her footwork, and is exhausted by her long program–like any other skater everywhere–is a major triumph for her and for all of us who support her.
Processing Feedback Positively
Em came off the ice the other day and mentioned a tough and critical comment by one of her coaches, one that absolutely would have ruined her week six months ago. She said, “Oh…it’s just pushing. I’ve got it. I know what she means. I can fix it.” It’s an offhand comment to her maybe, but to me, that represents a lot of work on hers and Rebecca’s part. I just drove with tears in my eyes because… Right… Exactly… you’ve got this, and you can get better.
Q: Is there anything you’d like to add?
I’m not sure how to word this. As a parent, watching what happened to my beautiful daughter at the hands of an emotionally abusive coach has been devastating. I have been caught up in my own circle of self-blame, anger, frustration, and fear. By last fall it felt unfixable. I felt that I had tried to give my daughter a beautiful gift but that gift had turned out to be a cobra in a box. The driving, the money, the time, the support… it felt like all of it had been wasted because I was watching my daughter having been broken by it and defeated.
The joy and love of the sport were all but gone and all that was left was some sort of weird stubborn refusal to leave. She was clinging to her skating life, but the lights were being turned out one by one, and I knew it was a matter of time before one of us would say it was over. I thought that person would likely be me because she was just so determined to stay, and I thought when that time came it would destroy our relationship. I could imagine 20 years in the future, at Thanksgiving, the topic of skating might come up and then she’d say, “Oh that was such a terrible time”. Thinking this, imagining this, would make me feel so awful and hopeless because my intention had always been to give her what she wanted!
I was angry… at so many people! I was angry at the man who taught her to hate what she was, but I was also angry at her for letting him do that! I was angry that I was driving up and down the highway four hours a day for a kid who looked like she was cringing and fearful. I would say, “Why can’t you just…”… fill in the blank with a variety of terms (try, smile, work harder, let yourself fall, skate faster) daily. And she’d say, “Ok I’ll change” but then the next day it would happen all over again. I knew why it was happening but…somehow that didn’t help my frustration and anger.
If you’re a parent who’s where I was–there have to be others, right?– I can tell you that Rebecca is officially Emily’s coach but truly, she has helped me too. When Emily finishes her sessions she tells me things she and Rebecca talked about (as much as she wants to, I don’t push), and she tells me things she needs to think about. Having Rebecca there–whenever we need her–means that I can relax; I can be the supportive parent, I can say, “Hey remember to be positive, kid!” I can remind myself that a miss is sometimes just a miss and a bad day is just a bad day.
“I get to be a mom.”
Because Emily no longer looks tearful and anxious on the ice, I feel my own emotions shift as well. Because Em now responds differently to criticism, I respond differently to her getting it as well. It sounds silly I guess but it’s true: because she’s happy… I’m happy . I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m saying that because Em’s improving I am now fine with everything and all that matters to me was that she skates better. That’s not what I mean. I mean: When your kid is suffering it impacts you too–in very complicated and sticky ways sometimes–and Rebecca’s assistance to Em has helped me as well. I get to be Mom. I get to be encouraging. I get to be sympathetic. I get to enjoy this process again. When I see her smile or laugh with her coaches I get a tightness in my throat–even now–because my gratitude…it’s profound.
Continuing to Work and Progress
We are not done. Em’s season is about to start, and that means I’m sure that she will have lots of things to talk about in the coming months. But we’re starting the season–:-)–and we are moving forward in a manner that is completely different from how things were a year ago. We are taking pleasure in this sport…together. Emily and I are a team again and for that, I personally thank Rebecca. We hired a performance coach to help Emily get her confidence back and we got that. But we gained much much more than that because we got our relationship back as well. I know I know…I sound very dramatic. But the thing was, it WAS dramatic. It WAS emotional. And we both are very very genuinely grateful for how things have improved both technically and between us.