DOUBTING YOUR SKILLS & ABILITIES
“Canadian figure skater Aurora Cotop has all the makings of a future star” according to PJ Kwong, writer for CBC Sports.
Aurora, like many young skaters across Canada dream of becoming Canadian Champion and competing at the World Championships and the Olympics.
“It’s one of the goals I’ve had since I was a little kid and saw the girls on TV,” “When they told me I was going to go I was so shocked. I can’t believe I’m going to skate with them” Aurora Cotop
Working through a painful injury prior to the competitive season is enough to make any great skater begin to doubt their abilities and success.
“I wasn’t sure because of my injury. I didn’t know if I could perform my best.” Aurora Cotop.
Injuries, lack of improvement and dealing with expectations not met create doubt, eroding self-confidence affecting performance.
Skaters and athletes alike often base their confidence on their performance.
If they have an injury, bad warm-up or practice their confidence level goes down.
Skaters often doubt their ability when they encounter difficult situations in which they feel out of control or do not have the skills to overcome the obstacle.
This could happen after a bad fall, mistakes in competition, missing a mandatory element in the program or not rising to the occasion during pressure situations.
When focus tends to be on the mistakes already made, worry about failing in future situations and the “what if’s” that creep, it feeds the doubt, fear, and anxiety in a skater.
Recently, I worked with an elite skater who, after a bad warm-up, would lose all confidence and would doubt her ability forgetting the months of training and past accomplishments. Her days of training were plagued with the highs and lows of an “emotional roller coaster”.
She forgot about all of her successes, she didn’t believe that she was going to be able to perform successfully and this produced anxiety and doubt. She failed to remember the many times she had successfully performed these skills in the past and that her self-doubt inevitably set her up for failure at her next competition.
There are other skaters who develop injuries and become uncertain if they will be able to recover and regain their skills. They are unsure of how they are going to perform when they do return to their training, they worry that they have lost ground on their competitors. How will they ever get back to where they were before the injury? And so, the spiral of doubt, worry and fear begins to invade and corrode the confidence of the skater.
Focusing on the “what if’’s” produces doubt and emotions that may become out of control creating fear and interfering with performance and creating a “roller coaster” of confidence, spiraling up and down on a daily basis.
Real confidence needs to be stable, based on the reality of a skater’s abilities, accomplishments based on facts not the fiction of the “what if’s”. If you doubt your ability to overcome an injury or obstacle or doubt how you are going to perform it is most likely that you will underperform.
Learning to look at a difficult situation free of emotion and with a positive frame is a valuable tool. Whether it be recovering from an injury or from a poor performance at a competition, being able to analyze the challenge or failure and gain beneficial feedback is necessary in order to plan for improvement.
Developing the confidence in one’s ability to overcome adversity, to think positively and use feedback from a failure or a difficult situation is a skill to be learned like any physical skill that a skater trains and conditions on the ice.
While dealing with her injury and unable to spend as much time on her jumps, Aurora Cotop explained in an interview, “I discovered there is more to skating than just jumping,” …“Sometimes I felt in the past that jumping was the only good quality I had. I had to stop for a second and reflect on the things I hadn’t been working on.”
“Right now, I’m transitioning my skating. The type of skater I am is changing from jumper to where now I can do more than that. I’m trying to present a wholeness to my program. So, I guess (the injury) was kind of a blessing in disguise.”
Confidence is one of the biggest indicators of performance level. In order to perform at your best, you need unwavering belief in your skills.
Confidence can be built and maintained in many ways:
- Awareness & Reframing of negative self-talk
- Positive self-talk, affirmations & recognition of personal past accomplishments
- Breathing exercises & meditation
- Imagery & visualization
- Goal planning and setting of weekly & daily process goals
Positive self-talk: A powerful tool!
- Focus on what you do well. At times it may seem like nothing is going well but that is usually not the case, but just feelings and emotions creating false beliefs.
- Even if it is just one area of your performance, there will always be something you are doing well.
- Remembering your strengths and how they still exist even if you are not skating your best at that moment.
- Positive self-talk is one of a number of very effective mental toughness tools and the pairing of multiple tools together will help skaters build unstoppable confidence.
MENTAL TOUGHNESS MIND GYM TRAINING
MENTAL MUSCLE EXERCISE:
To deal with difficult situations and perform to your potential, you need the confidence to believe you can overcome any obstacle.
This can come from remembering past performances or challenges where you dealt with tough situations and were able to perform at your best.
To begin to build confidence try this exercise:
- Write down 3 past performances where you overcame a difficult situation when you thought you might not and were still able to perform to your best or 3 times when you were able to learn and land a difficult jump you struggled to learn.
- Include how you were able to do this. Create images in your head of what you achieved, use visualization to replay these accomplishments to condition and strengthen your confidence in your skills and ability.
- It is great to have a list of these situations and accomplishments that you can focus on when you begin to doubt yourself.
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