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
Performance sports are notorious for glorifying an ideal body type. Suggesting that you will not be able to land particular jumps if you are not a certain weight. Skaters see this on their screens while watching top level athletes. Coaches are creating jumping techniques that only work with pre-pubescent bodies. This is especially prevalent in the female discipline of our sport right now. It is discouraging how acceptable it has become to comment on someone’s body. Stop commenting on loss or gain of weight. This can be very damaging to an athlete. Encourage eating for health not for weight loss and seek support from a sport nutritionist or dietitian on how to approach this topic with your athlete.
4. Living Vicariously through your Skater
As a skater, coach and now a mental trainer, I have witnessed skaters who were miserable on the ice but their parents pushed them to skate. This is a real recipe for disaster! Although a parents’ intention for their child comes from a place of love, it is important to realize your child is not an extension of you. The child has her/his own identity, with dreams and talents that may be very different from yours. 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
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.
Until next time,
Keep your Brain in the Game