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, October 11, 2015

- first jump

There's so much to say about choreography, a half dozen blog posts at least, but to begin I'd like to chat about something near the start of your routine: your first jump. I tend to witness two philosophical approaches to the first jump: either hit 'em with a big bang, or ease in easy. I guess each has its pros and cons.

If you've got some tough jumps to land it might make sense to tackle them first for a couple of reasons. One being that you are fresh and full of energy at the beginning, so you'll likely get more height on your jumps earlier rather than later in your program. The second is emotionally strategic: if you miss your tough jump early then you know immediately where you stand with respect to a chance for a high score. In other words planning your worst elements topmost takes the pressure off, as you get to find out bright and early how your program is faring.

The ease in easy approach also has its rationale though. By starting out with a less stressful jump you can get a general impression of how you feel, how your balance, blades, muscles, and energy are all gelling together. After that you can determine whether you'll go full tilt and attack the rest of your program at maximum or perhaps ease off a bit. If you plan the complexity of your jumps more like the shape of a mountain -- with the peak difficulty toward the middle of your program -- you can gradually reappraise and adjust to match your capabilities for today.

Both of these thought trains make imminent logical sense. In the hot reality of an actual competition though both of them prove dead wrong. When you step on the ice in front of the audience and judges loaded with jitters and energy, you are overcharged. Almost all the skaters I watch who choose big bang are so psyched about landing their toughest move that they put too much energy into it and overrotate.

The skaters who are easing in easy seem to have a more commodious beginning, but then you can watch them overthink each successive jump as they spend too much time repeatedly assessing their capabilities. The problem was that the easy jump, although relaxing and smooth enough to take some of the nerves off, was too easy to get a fair appraisal.

I'm wondering therefore if a blended hybrid approach might work better psychologically under pressure. It seems to me the most successful programs do a 50% jump first (something that is around your halfway most difficult), followed by an easy jump to relax and regroup, and then going full out with your big bang on your third jump. This way you get both the benefits of a fair judgement under pressure along with the relief, after you land your third jump (or not) whether you'll have a chance of setting foot on the podium. Comments welcome.

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