It has been 2.5 weeks since the Olympics finished and I am still revelling in how it all turned out! As a viewer and lover of figure skating, I couldn’t have asked for a more satisfying event. As a mental trainer, there were so many nuggets of wisdom and take aways that I have been sharing with my skaters since the events finished. Where do I begin! Well, I believe one of the biggest mental game lessons was learned by our Canadian, Gabrielle Daleman.
Lesson 1: Getting in the Zone
A great Long in the team event was the start of Gabby’s Olympic experience. This was very reminiscent of her success at Nationals just a month earlier, and of course, her incredible performances at Worlds last season. It seemed clear to me that her mental game was strong and I wondered what she was doing to develop this. Then came the individual event and it unfortunately began to unravel. A mistake on her signature triple toe/triple toe combo in the short seemed to plant a seed of doubt that derailed her confidence and possibly developed into a negative story on the jump. The rest of the short went well but the ghost of the mistake on the combo obviously haunted her going into the free. Making a similar mistake on the combo in the free program left her visibly shaken, culminating in a disastrous program.
So what happened?
My belief is that it was 100% mental! Her body knew how to do those jumps, eyes closed, hands tied behind her back, so it wasn’t a matter of physical fitness or training. But, how can the body seem to “forget” how to jump in a high pressure situation? A mistake on its own cannot break a performance…but if you choose to focus on it it can sure make it close to impossible to regain composure. The mind, when left to its own free will, will default to that critical place and bounce around from future to past to present thinking and back again.
When the mind is focused in the future, you are thinking “what if?” and creating feelings of anxiety in your body. When the mind is focused on the past, you are thinking “remember when?” and your body will experience feelings of worry.
Both these thoughts and feelings are counter-productive to your mission to skate a personal best and create an epic performance! To make this happen you want to be focused IN THE PRESENT! To be in the present during a performance is to GET IN THE ZONE. I have created a system that teaches skaters how to do just that, GET AND STAY IN THE ZONE!
Getting in the Zone
Break your program down into each of its individual elements; spins, jumps, and step sequence. Come up with 1-3 keywords for each element. Flood the mind with the keywords of the element you are doing. Once the element is complete, detach from the outcome and let it go. Flood the mind with the keywords on the next element and repeat the series of completing the element, detaching from the outcome and letting it go. Whether it was the best, the worst or just an o.k. attempt, it is in the past and choosing to focus on it will distract from what you are currently doing. You can think about it, fret over it or celebrate your success AFTER the skate is complete! With practice, this system will allow you to make a mistake and let it go instantly to complete the rest of the program brilliantly. It will also allow you to create a magical, flawless performance, one element at a time.
Meagan Duhamel and Kaetlyn Osmond both displayed examples of this during their Free programs. For Meagan, an uncharacteristic touchdown on the side-by-side triple lutz was quickly forgotten when, not 10 seconds later, she landed the throw quad salchow cleanly. Kaetlyn also had a small step out on her triple lutz, a mistake that had no bearing on the rest of the program which she seemed to float through. I applaud these women for showing their mental fortitude at the biggest competition of their careers.
I believe learning how to get and stay IN THE ZONE would have been very beneficial to Gabby during the Olympics. This is not only for elite athletes. You and your skaters can use this system to train for the next competition.
Message me to find out more information about Getting in the Zone!
Until Next Time,
Keep your Brain in the Game!