MENTAL MISTAKE #3:
FOCUSING ON WHAT OTHERS ARE THINKING
The 2019 World Figure Skating Championships are now in the history books with all of the highs and lows, triumphs and heartbreaks.
The competitors undoubtedly endured the pressure to perform as they represented their respective countries at the competition. These skaters that triumphed have demonstrated they not only have the physical strength to succeed, but also the mental strength to accomplish what they put their minds to.
As I watched Yuzuru Hanyu finish his skate, the cheering of the crowd and the shower of stuffed animals thrown to the ice for the hometown favourite, I immediately thought of Nathen Chen, next to skate. The pressure could not have been higher for Chen, nor the environment more tense.
What was he thinking, what was going through his mind? Was he staying focused on the task ahead of him, or was his focused pulled to the applause and adulation of Hanyu’s adoring fans, did he wonder if the crowd would give his skate the same applause? Did he wonder “Would the judges be swayed by the cheers?”. “What will my fans think if I don’t skate well?” “What are my coaches thinking?”
As Chen stepped on the ice and executed his first quad of the program it was plain to see that his focus was fully on his task and nothing more.
As Rachel Lutz from NBC Sports wrote about Nathen’s performance: “His floaty quad Lutz to open his free skate set the tone for the rest of the program, which was unparalleled in its marriage of artistic and technical content.”
Photo from Olympic Channel
In his interview with NBC Sports, Nathen Chen, explained how instead of letting the roar of the crowd for Yuzuru’s performance make him nervous and question his ability, he used the energy of the crowd to fuel his skate, and that he was grateful for Yuzuru’s ability and how Yuzuru motivated him to push himself to greater heights. He explained how his focus was not on the other skaters he was competing against but on enjoying the moment and performing his best.
Competing can be an exciting and highly enjoyable experience, but for some, it can be a time that is filled with fear, worry, and self-doubt. It’s easy to get distracted by what’s going on around you, like what others are thinking, whether it be other competitors, judges, coaches or even family and friends.
By focusing on other people’s thoughts, a skater is likely to become anxious, unfocused and afraid to fail when performing.
Athletes often want to perform well for their coaches; they worry about what will happen if they perform poorly if their coach will become disappointed or will stop training them. Parents, as well, are a very important part of a skater’s life and it can be hard for a skater to keep their expectations out of their heads, especially during tough times such as after mistakes or during pressure situations.
It is very common for skaters to worry about their competitors, what they are thinking, saying, whether they are judging you if a skater fails to skater perfectly maybe others think you’re not a good skater.
KEEP YOUR FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL
Because you can’t control what others are thinking you are wasting mental energy and will be unable to completely focus on your performance. This can lead to under-performing and unwanted emotions such as excess nerves, performance anxiety or negative self-thought or emotions that swirl out of control.
Out of control emotions and performance anxiety can often happen automatically, so you need to work on being very aware of when you do this. It’s important to identify and acknowledge negative thoughts. Recognize the false nature of those thoughts and replace them with truthful positive thoughts creating powerful beliefs. Stay focused in the moment, on the task immediately ahead of you, on what you need to be and do for success. Stick to your game plan, the plan that you created for training and competition, what has been worked on and conditioned all those months getting ready for the competition.
Remember to stay focused on what you can control, your own thoughts, training, and performance.
You could skate your best and other people may still have a negative opinion. Don’t try to please or impress others, skate for yourself and remember why you compete. Enjoy the moment, soak up all the positive energy and you will perform to your ability!
MENTAL TOUGHNESS MIND GYM TRAINING
MENTAL MUSCLE EXERCISE:
An exercise you can do to avoid this mental mistake is to write 2 lists
- On the left include everything you can control when training and competing
- On the right, include everything you can’t control.
Hint: You can really only control yourself.
Be specific with your list and include 5-10 points on each side.
Here is an example I developed with one of my skaters who wanted to perform better at their next competition. He would often get stuck worrying about who he was skating against and what his competition was doing.
- My training each day both on and off the ice
- The energy and focus I bring to every training session
- Training and performing the elements that are in “my” program
- My self-talk and confidence
- Practicing and executing my technique
- My attitude, commitment and desire to do the best I am capable of
- Making sure I am warmed up and ready to practice or compete both physically and mentally
- Effort and commitment to my mental toughness training tools, like visualizations, meditation and other tools I’ve learned
- If I stick to my training plan or not during practice and competition
- What my coach thinks
- What my competitors are thinking of me
- What elements my competitors have in their programs
- What I may have done in previous competitions
- Where I might rank in this competition
- If I don’t do well will my parents be disappointed in me
- What will my friends at the club think of me if I fall
When you recognize that you are focusing on things that are out of your control or on the “uncontrollable list”, don’t waste the mental energy, refocus on an element on your “controllables list”.
Do what is on your mental and technical plan, focusing your energies toward what you can change and improve will create more success for you and help you to reach your goals, oh…and it will certainly bring you more joy and enjoyment on the journey!
Don’t miss my Fearless Tip #4 next week!
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Christine Reeves Beleznay, CMTT, CL
Certified Mental Toughness Trainer, Certified Life Coach
SKATERS!! If you have applied this tip in your skating practices & have found it helpful please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
I would love to hear how it has helped you on your journey to becoming a fearless
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