As an NCCP certified figure skating coach, I receive regular emails from the Coaching Association of Canada. Here are some excerpts from a recent interview with Canadian figure skating coach Michelle Leigh on pre-competition preparation. As adult ice skaters there may be times when we are competing without our coach so it’s good to know how to think like a coach.
Less is More
“Inexperienced coaches have a tendency to share everything – every nugget of knowledge, every tried-and-tested solution. It’s way too much. Experience teaches you to make sure you keep to the key points and reveals the importance of trying to get an athlete used to being out of their comfort zone.” Great coaches share the right information at the right time. Keeping your coaching plan and feedback simple, particularly in preparation for competition, is important.”
“This is common for athletes at all levels; the distractions are just different at various stages of the game. Less experienced athletes will worry about judges and how cold the rink is, while the elite must manage extensive travel, responsibilities to sponsors and the media, and the pressure of representing their country. The key is to give them the tools to take control, stay focused, and be confident. Keywords and cues are a great tool to bring back focus: “Elvis (Stojko) taught me that and he used to look at his left hand as his cue coming into his first jump and had a key word for every component of his routine,” explains Leigh. She often has athletes share their competition plans and has a conversation with them to maintain focus. “Treat every athlete as they need to be treated – there is no one blueprint. Everyone is different and you need to tailor the approach.”
Find a Quiet Space
“The designated warm-up area isn’t always the best. Find an area you can use for the duration of the event to meet with the athlete, discuss the program, and rehearse. A safe, comfortable, and preferably familiar space will help with 1-on-1 conversations and keep the athlete’s attention on preparation. The space should be close enough to the competition area so that the athlete knows what’s going on, but removed enough to keep them focused on their preparation. A good space helps athletes open up to coaches. Difficult conversations are sometimes the most important ones over the course of an event and a good space contributes to a positive outcome.“
Next week, I’ll post the remainder of the article, plus some personal reflections.