Friday, February 19, 2010

Figure Skating Competition Nerves: How Do You Prepare?

It's Winter Olympic season and Evan Lysacek just won the gold medal in mens figure skating. We watch his performance on the ice, but how did he keep it all together? How did he have the mental toughness to skate so flawlessly during the biggest moment of his life?

Lysacek told New York Magazine:
“When I'm getting ready in my room, I drink the same thing, I light the same good-luck candle I have — it's a brand from England called Cire Trudon — I listen to the same playlist, with songs from Jay-Z to the Virgins or the Killers, happy music that will keep my emotions even and not get my heart wildly pumping. I'm engaging all my senses, telling my body, 'Okay, it's time to go to that place.' When I get to the rink, I go through pretty much the same warm-up off the ice every time, so my body is continuing to get into that super-focused mentality. About twenty minutes before I go on, I put my suit and my skates on — that's my alone time — and I talk to myself. Self-talk is very important to me…I try to conjure really difficult days, days when I was sick or jet-lagged and felt horrible, and then think, If I can get through that, I can get through anything."

Aromatherapy is popular among top-level skaters. Instead of an imported candle, though, figure skater Johnny Weir uses Lemon Pledge for his calming ritual.

"I was nervous last night. So I Pledged [as in Lemon Pledge] everything in my room," Weir told People Magazine. "Some people eat, some people drink – but I Pledge everything."
Skater Jeremy Abbott had a disappointing Olympics, but his off-ice mental preparation is positive self-talk. Abbott told The Associated Press:

"Everyone has doubt in themselves, but I used to believe it," Abbott said. "That little nagging voice in the back of my head that told me I couldn't do it, I'd believe it. I'm learning I can quiet that voice and tell it to shut up."
As for Ice Girl, I have no idea how she prepares to skate at a figure skating competition. I tell her I love her, leave her with Ice Coach, and head for the stands. Believe me, my presence would only make her nerves worse.

What preparation tips from the champions can we pass on to our own figure skating sons and daughters?

  1. Aromatherapy. I prefer the Lemon Pledge myself, especially the whole Pledging process.
  2. Nervous energy. Worried about tomorrow? Clean your room, Ice Girl! That's what the champions do.
  3. Happy music
  4. Positive thoughts
  5. Comforting rituals
I've always said that the difference between practice and competition isn't in the crowds, the pressure, or the drama. The difference is in the mind.

This should be fun! How do you prepare yourself or your figure skater for a competition?


pairsmom said...

Each skater has a different method for mental preparation and it is the coaches job to figure out what works and what doesn't. I also feel that it can take years of competing for the skater to actually figure out what works for them and then it may only be temporary. All of this is part of the competition and many lessons are learned in this process, life lessons. For my skater I can see him stare into the coaches eyes for last minute words of advice but he does not speak, only listens. Then when he leaves the boards he begins to talk to himself and make very small head nods while taking the starting position. When skating with his partner they do their own "thing" but he still uses that "self talk" and it seems to be working so I fully understand what Evan is talking about when he mentions "erase the negative thoughts from your head and repeat positive self talk over and over"

DramaQueen said...

Of course, every skater is different, but personally, self talk works best for me. I tell myself that everything is ok, and that there's no pressure to do anything but skate my best. Then I take a deep, drop my shoulders if they crept upwards in the stress of things, and skate my heart out.

Vlad said...

Lysacek is the great example of it.He show us how need to be prepared.Very strong skater.

Ice Mom said...

Thanks for the comment, Pairsmom! I think that positive self-talk is very important, too!

Ice Mom said...

Drama Queen: great point about loosening up your shoulders!

Ice Mom