I am no longer a beginner figure skater. This is my favorite thing to say since about three weeks ago when my coach "tested" me on my basic skills and declared I had received a passing grade. It's a really big deal for me because I am new to figure skating itself, not just to lessons. And because up until a little over a year ago, I was deathly afraid of the ice and everything about it. Cold, hard, slippery, unforgiving--what's to like? But when my young son declared he wanted to be a hockey player and take lessons, I pulled out the mom martyr card and decided to make the big sacrifice. I would learn to skate too, so I could help him achieve his Alexander Ovechkin board-crashing celebration dreams.
I tried on my own at first, and thought I was making great strides. I was falling much less frequently--bonus! I befriended a woman who was much more advanced than I, and who kindly took me under her wing. She very directly declared I was not doing very well, and should take lessons from a coach like she was doing. I appreciated the honesty and got a coach. He and his coaching partner have been skater and coach, respectively, at the Olympic level. Naturally, I was a bit intimidated at my first lesson!
Fast forward to today, and now my coach (I switched coaches to the partner back in September) actually says I'm doing "very well" once in a while. (He is not one to give positive feedback unless it is earned. I guess you could say he is the Simon Cowell of the rink. I do appreciate that, actually!) How I got from Day 1 to today was a study itself in sport psychology, and an inspiration for me to go "official" so I could help others achieve the same success.
My main tool of choice was, and continues to be, mental practice. After learning the physical requirements of a movement at the rink, and practicing it (usually badly, with less than stellar results at first), I go home and relax and practice it all in my head. I try to experience as many senses as I can, recalling the feel of my muscles during the move, the placement of my skates and my arms. Even just imagining these, I can sense my muscles actually tensing, receiving the message my brain is "sending," but without the order to actually move. In my mind, I am always successful with the movement. Over and over, getting it perfect each time.
By the time I get back to the rink, my mind feels a sense of confidence, that I have already mastered the new moves (albeit in my mind). My body responds as if it had all been in "real life." While not perfect, there can be huge improvement even the next day. And I don't have the fear and trepidation I had upon first learning the skill.
I have set goals for myself, continue to use mental practice, and have such a blast at the rink! Look out Disney Princesses on Ice, here I come!
"Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there."
Personal Best Sports
The sports world is filled with stories of perseverance, failure and success, personal struggles and public triumph. Each story provides insight into the mental side of sport and activity.