This blog is a collection of my thoughts and experiences from ten years as a skate dad. For those of you sitting with your jackets in the bleachers, first I salute you, but second I want to give you an honest sense of what you are in for and what to expect. Ice skating is both a trying and a glorious sport, but it doesn't happen without the special group of folks who cheer, support, and console the participants. This is dedicated to you.
Sunday, May 18, 2014
Nothing in skating bothers me much more than seeing a gal pop a jump in a competition. It's hard to put a finger on why this is so upsetting. I full well realize that a skater may be on the learning edge of a particular jump and hence only be hitting it seventy per cent of the time or so. She'll add it to her program as a somewhat unessential element -- an extra bonus -- and then she'll see how it feels.
As soon as she lifts off she can pretty much sense if she launched her jump with the correct posture and balance, and then react accordingly. No good? Pop.
I suppose my discomfort has to do with a behavioral expectation for a competitor. I know you run through your entire program four times every day in practice, and I am perfectly fine with your popping a jump then, during the practice session.
You should treat a competition however as much more than just another repeat of your practice with a bit more audience. It's supposed to be a different "standard." You'll earn far more respect from me if you try and fall (safely) in a competitive jump than if you pop it.
It's kind of like picking your nose: okay in private or discreetly in your car, but not in front of an audience, okay?
I also recognize of course that this behavior mostly results from a force of habit. When you're on practice ice it's natural to experiment at your limits; popping is a safe way out during that long ramp up the learning process. So after a while it may become a second nature way to escape.
Now I am no expert on sports psychology (my skating daughter studied it quite a bit so maybe she can comment) but I am guessing that one way to fix this is to create two "modes" of practicing your program for yourself, "poppable" and not. When you queue up your music for practice think ahead of time, what mode will I be skating in? If you choose poppable, okay fine you may pop an uncomfortable jump.
But if you choose "competition" mode then when you initiate a jump and it's floundering you have to decide either how to two-foot, fall safely, short, or otherwise recover it.
Becoming habituated to the rigors of competition imply occasionally practicing with a competitive mindset. Some of this mindset is to always complete the jumps that you start. If you can't complete it when you're in "competitive" mode, you shouldn't start it when in that mode in the first place. Well, that's my theory anyhow.
I agree that popped jumps are quite a disappointment, but the fact remains that they will always be a part of the amateur ranks. A couple of things:
Although I've never been a coach, it's evident from their style that there are two types of coaches:
Some coaches agree with your view that students should only perform skills that they can routinely complete within competition. Students of these coaches will usually be the top places of their level, and seem to be living dual lives in practice, dividing their time between polishing their program and learning new jumps and other skills.
Other coaches disagree with your view, and believe that students will be most driven to practice that difficult jump if it's included in the program (hence why the difficult jump is often choreographed to be directly in front of the judges: added pressure). This definitely raises the stakes for the student and may change the way he or she practices.
The competitor who wins an event with the difficult jump in the program experiences a different kind of joy than the competitor who plays it safe. Ultimately, competition is about being able to pull through under pressure; there is nothing safe about it. _____________
In my opinion, it's nearly impossible to predetermine two different "modes" of practicing. Due to the extremely risky nature of jumping, each jumping pass is a unique combination of physics, psychics, and muscle movements that can only be controlled in a very limited way. If a skater takes-off and doesn't feel right, there's a chance to fall and break an arm or fracture a tail-bone. Of course skaters always try to fall "safely" when the only choice is to fall, but there's only a limited amount of control that you have over the situation. It's better to not fall at all and pop a jump which gives the skater more control over the landing and a better chance to avoid injury.
Hope this helps!!