Like duh! I've known about sports psychology for decades. I just never considered that it would ever EVER apply to me. Why would I need to know any of this? I have never considered myself an athlete even though I have spent many many hours in the pool, gym, weight room and ice rink. Now that I am seriously into figure skating and potentially facing my first season as a competitor I am recognizing that I am going to have to take a dive into the psychology end of this sport.
Currently in my training I am on the cusp of relearning the stunts I used to do as a kid and learning brand new things I have never tried before. I am currently and always have been afraid to fall. The ramifications of a serious fall as an adult are much more far reaching. As a kid I would inconvenience my parents (mostly only my mother) and end up doing my school work at the house for a while and maybe get to go to school with a cast on. As an adult I would scare my husband silly, halt all cooking and grocery shopping in the house, suspend taxi service for the kid and make a mess out of my work career. With this in mind I have taken up a sport that for every 1000 hours on the ice there is a serious injury (not necessarily from a fall). I have seen these injuries occur which is probably the basis of my fear. I have taken up a sport that is very very hard; you are trying to do stunts from the single edge of a blade while keeping most of your body rock still and in perfect alignment. It requires great balance, core strength, concentration and skill. This is probably why I like it so much. It is HARD! However, while relearning old stunts I do get frustrated but I know in my heart of hearts that I can do this. I've done it before and with enough practice I'll be able to do it again. But now I am crossing over into new territory, doing stunts that I have never done before. Can I really do this? My coach thinks so and I think she needs a reality check. In my mind's eye I see myself doing a belly flop on the ice. I am finding that when I start a learning a new stunt such as a back spin (I never learned these properly as a kid) I go through several weeks of mental anguish. Every time I start the entrance to the spin the little guy in my head starts a rant that goes something like this "We are going to DIE! Or at least fall on our ass. It is going to hurt. A lot! Did I mention we are going to die? You look like an ass." No matter how much I plead and yell he doesn't shut up. Now what this guy does is stop me from having any rational thoughts go on in my head at the same time such as "Bring you arm forward. Snap the free foot around to the front. Bend the skating knee." or all the directions that I need to follow in order to actually perform the spin. So what happens? The guy in my head wins; I look like an ass and come damn close to falling down if not cleaning the ice with my butt. So far I haven't actually died so he has been wrong on that count multiple times but it still doesn't shut him up. I have to go through this for 2-3 weeks every time I start something new; Salchows, Toe Loops, Back Spins, etc. Once the guy figures out that I'm not going to die every time I attempt one of these stunts I can start hearing the instructions. This is when I switch over to actually learning the element and improving on it. I have decided that it is absolutely no use having a coaching session while the guy is screaming in my head. I literally can't take instruction while he is yelling at me. Once he has quieted down it is another matter entirely and I can start fixing things.
I have also had face offs with him during test sessions. Luckily I did several years in Toastmasters and have managed to quiet him down to a dull roar. He can no longer tell me that I will make a total ass out of myself. He knows it won't happen. I do however need to keep him from talking prior to my taking the ice. I have to jump around, pace, stretch, do stuff so he can't take over my head. I need it empty so I can hear the instructions. As long as I can hear the instructions I know I'll be fine. So far I have passed thee tests on the first try with no reskates.
I find that tests aren't so bad since it is only the judges, my coach and me that are in the arena. No biggie for me. I am used to being judged (evaluated) in Toastmasters. I can handle it no problem. Now I am about to launch into a whole new area, competition. Skating to music in front of lots of people. Ugh! How am i going to shut him up this time? I'm not sure. I have to think about this for a while. In the meantime I'm off to the library to start researching sport psychology or "How Not to Choke During a Competition!" Wish me luck and if you see the little guy from my head running around stomp on him for me. Thanks!