Jul 14, 2012

Talking to yourself

Self talk--by which I mean tin-foil hat, pretend there's someone at the other end of the cell phone, outloud crazy person talking to yourself while you're practicing--is one of the most effective practice tools at your disposal, and if you don't mind the weird looks, it's free.

One thing at a time
Just as the trick to coaching is often finding the root problem, you need to find out what is that you want to remind yourself to do. Let's take beginning three turns-- there's a lot going on in a really short amount of time, so you can't say, at the start "okay I'm going to push and then up there at the top of the arc (wait, how will I know where that is?) I'm going to rotate and then when I'm backwards I'll check, and I know my arms belong somewhere and if they're wrong then the turn is a spin? or I'll fall? something? and then I'll glide."  Class is over by the time you get all the way through this. Think about the skill-- push, glide, rotate, check, glide. You have plenty of time to say, and do, each of these things in order.

Complex skills
Of course, if you're running a program, or jumping axels, or doing combination spins, you cannot possibly pick out each thing you need to think about. So you need to focus on one or two key items-- do you rush your jumps? Then your self-talk word might be "wait." Do you bobble the landing? Say "strong." This is where you need a pair of outside eyes to spot the point at which you need to talk to yourself. If you watch certain skaters you can actually see them talking to themselves.

Keep it Simple, Stupid works brilliantly here. Say one thing, say that same thing every time you are in the same situation. Your self-talk won't help you if what you end up saying is "what was I supposed to be telling myself here?"

Stay positive
Self talk can also be self-destructive. If you tell yourself, "crap I always fall on the double sal" then you will always fall on the double sal. Self talk helps you set up expectations-- it can be specific instructions related to the skill but it can also be a pep talk. What it can't be is a recitation of mistakes or fears.

Say it
Eventually, you'll train yourself to do the self-talk to yourself. But when you're teaching yourself this skill, do it out loud. You'll look a little weird, but on the other hand, if everyone is doing what they're supposed to be doing, no one will be paying attention to you. By saying it aloud you can keep it confined--your thoughts are much more likely to wander than a verbal command.

Have you used self-talk? Does your or your skater's coach teach this technique?

Jul 5, 2012

Do I have to test, aGAIN?

I never skated as a child.  In highschool, we used to "skate" on the cornfield across the street from our house, but this was less skating than it was picking your way between the corn stalks.

I skated in college through about Freestyle 3 or 4 (we didn't call it that then but I was working on loops and backspins, so I guess that's what it was).

And then I didn't skate for 17 years.

As have many of the people who write to me about returning to skating, I got back most of the old skills, and then some. (I'll never try a loop again. Lost my nerve.) When I started skating again I had weird deficits-- back crossovers were as strong as ever, but I couldn't do the forward ones to save my life. Those I had to relearn.

When I skated as a young woman, I never knew about USFSA (as it was then), there literally was no ISI, and I had no clue about tests whatsoever, because no one ever mentioned them to us. We just moved from skill to skill. So I started testing from scratch, as an adult.

Many skaters, however, come back to skating having racked up the tests, and want to know if those tests still "count."

Short answer-- yes.  It's like your college degree. Doesn't matter if you got a degree in art and are now a salesperson. You still get to brag about the art degree. But first you have to prove you have the credential.

If you have an old ISI test, and can prove it (i.e. you have the paperwork), you're good to go at that level. However, until a few years ago when they went digital, ISI was farily notorious for its poor record-keeping, and it was hard to get proof of older credentials. I know several people who had to retest because ISI did not have their records (or the rink had never processed it).

If you want to compete now at a lower level than what you tested as a child or teen, you're in luck with ISI. Adult skaters over 21 years old can fill out an "Affidavit for Test Level" review and once approved, their test level can be lowered for what they can now accomplish.  The skater or coach can request the form from the ISI office.

For USFS you always compete at your tested level, but they are Kind To Adults. There are several permutations that equal various levels of testing, and they divide by age where they have enough enrollment, as well as doing mixed levels. USFS is also less stringent on required elements than ISI for many events. See this post to learn more about adult competition levels.

Are you a returning adult skater? How close to your childhood level are you skating?