1. Focusing on their Mistakes
Most skaters are perfectionists so they already focus on their flaws. When you point them out this only emphasizes the obvious and makes them feel worse. It can be very easy to notice the mistakes on a jump or in a program. Model the kind of language you want your skater to use with her/himself. Instead of focusing on what “not” to do, focus on what “to” do to improve performance, ie. “don’t drop your right shoulder” can be changed to “keep your right shoulder up”. Simple language changes can make a great difference in the thoughts a skater uses.
2. Transferring your Nervous Energy
I can completely relate when skaters tell me their parents make them nervous. As much as I loved having my mom at competitions she always made me more nervous. Energy is contagious so whether you think your skater can tell or not, she/he feels your energy. Best practice is to arrive at a competition and hand your skater over to their coach to mentally and physically prepare for their skate. Then find a comfortable place to wait and watch, focus on calming your own nerves.
3. Commenting on Skater’s Size or Shape
As a culture we have developed the belief that it is ok to comment on other’s bodies. When we notice someone lose weight or gain weight we often comment without really thinking about it. Loss of weight is believed to be a good thing and while gaining weight is a sign that someone has “let themselves go”. From my experience this is not true. Often people report experience feeling at their lowest and having people remark that they look so good. Whether you have caught yourself engaging in this commenting practice or not, I encourage you to stop, change the subject if others begin or simply walk away….and never make this comment to your own skater.
4. Living Vicariously through your Skater
As a skater, I witnessed skaters who were miserable at the rink but their parents wanted so badly for them to want it that they pushed them. Unfortunately this never works. As parents our intentions come from a place of love, however we have to realize our children are not an extension of who we are. They have their own identity, with dreams and talents that may be very different from what ours are. It is important to guide them as they find their passion and voice without overpowering or muting it. If you listen closely you will hear joy in their voice when they speak about their real passions.
5. Asking Questions instead of Listening
As I have mentioned before, skaters are aware when practice or performance is not going well and often in this case they don’t want to be asked about how it went. Instead, being open to listening when they are ready to talk, being a shoulder to cry on or just giving them a hug can be the best reaction. Refrane from all the questions, especially on the way home from the rink. Leave skating at the rink unless they bring it up first.