Regionals is right around the corner and with that comes preparation. More often than not, I see skaters around the rink training their programs like crazy a day or two before traveling to the big competition. Every time I see them doing a program run or drilling their jumps without doing exercises I scream inside “WHY!?” Doing your program over and over breaking down every little step the week before Regionals is NOT going to help. When in preparation for a big competition the only thing that can help the week of is to prepare yourself mentally.
In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, habits can take on average up to 2 months to form. This means that if you haven’t been landing your jumps consistently or running through your program to fix certain habits for more than 2 months before you compete, running it 200 times the week of the competition will not help. Running the program over and over may help your endurance, but it won’t keep you on your feet any better than sitting on the couch would. Instead, try doing program runs to focus more on you’re breathing or the key words you use before the jumps. The week of the competition should almost feel relaxed and at ease. You want to slow everything down in you’re skating because once the adrenaline hits you will be in overdrive and rushing into everything.
Adrenaline not only makes us rush going into our jumps and spins but it also makes us do things we are not used to doing. All of the sudden there are people watching and you feel like you have to perform. Your smile and expression gets a little bigger and your presentation gets a little stronger. That is all fine and dandy until you are about to set up into a jump or a spin. How often do you go into your jumps with your head held high in the air and a huge grin on your face during practice? If you do, all the power to you! For most people; however, they are intensely focused going into jumps and they are not smiling. It is important to be aware of your presentation, facial expression and where your focuses points are during the program runs. Most skaters hate to perform with facial expression during practice because they feel “stupid.” Having great expression during practice not only looks better but it will prepare you much more for the competition.
Practicing breathing is another very important act that needs to be trained before Regionals. The week before the competition is a great time to run the program with single jumps and primarily focus and practice where you are going to take breathes during the program. We are all guilty of holding our breathes when we compete. I never remember breathing during my earlier competitive days! Adding choreographed breathes into the program can make a world of a difference. Those deep breathes not only help our endurance but it assists us in slowing down and relaxing. Try taking a deep breathe and saying your key words before going into a jump. This helps us take our time going into the jump and gives us the highly needed moment of focus prior to take off.
Months and years are spent training for your 1:30-4:30 minutes to prove it all. With that one short chance, the stress can be high and shatter all of your hard work. Too many times I see coaches or parents stressing the skater out the week of the competition. Some parents think it is helpful to have tough love to motivate the skater and remind them how much money and time they put into the sport. It may seem like a form of motivation, but it just adds more stress the skater. The skater starts performing for other people instead of themselves. Coaches also tend to get stressed because their skaters are representing them and they have also dedicated many hours to the skater. Many coaches let their stress out by yelling at their students and pushing them intensely in their training the week before or week of the competition. For parents and coaches, this is the time to sit back and be calm and supportive. If the coach or the parent is stressed, the skater will probably get stressed which will then effect their performance. I am sure you have all seen the skaters who are phenomenal in practice and then right before the competition the stress gets to them and they can’t land or do anything. Those skaters are the perfect examples that skating is equally a mental sport as it is a physical sport.
Months prior to Regionals you want to be training your program both mentally and physically. The week of the competition you especially want to be training your mind and your focus to be positive. Running your program over and over, drilling all of your jumps, breaking down each step of the program will only put stress on you. You know you are capable of performing your program or you would not be signed up to compete. So breathe, relax. You know you can do it, so go out and perform your program just like have you been in practice.