Too Scared to Jump. Should I Quit Figure Skating?
Todays problem comes from L.A., a junior-level figure skater who injured herself on a jump.
Basically what happened was I got injured over the summer I was just starting to get confident with my double Axel, so I got over excited and somehow landed one too hard and the majority of the bones in my foot shattered. Everybody was confused as to exactly how it happened, but it did and I was off of the ice until the beginning of December.
Physically I recovered really well but I think Im messed up mentally now as far as jumps are concerned. On my first day back, I skated around a little bit, and started doing spins and spirals like Id never been away, so my coach suggested I try a jump and I couldnt do it. Its like the second she mentioned it, I froze up. It sounds dramatic and kinda like a bad pun but I couldnt help thinking of the last time Id jumped and I just couldnt move. I tried a few times that lesson but nothing improved, I kept popping and psyching myself out of the jumps if you will, so my coach and my parents (who were watching from the stands) decided it was better for me to take it one step at a time.
But after a couple of days when I still couldnt even try any jumps, even the easier ones, my parents started getting frustrated with me. They asked why I wasnt trying, and they said I was letting them and myself down. They kept saying that Id waited so long to skate again so why couldnt I be satisfied now I could. What they dont get is how much I want to jump again, its just that I have this crazy fear now. My parents asked my coach the other day if Id ever be able to jump again, and she said it was a psychological thing and that it was up to me to get my thoughts straight, so right now Im thinking its virtually impossible that I ever will. I said this, and my dad said he and my mom might pull me out of skating, since they obviously pay the coaching bills, competition fees, costumes etc. as well as supporting me and being there for me in practice and at competitions, and theres no point in them wasting their time and money, so I was thinking, are they right to want me to quit? I just dont want to let anybody down.
L.A., youre not letting anyone down. Whatever decision you make needs to be right for you. Dont accept pressure from anyone around you to skate or not skate.
That said, it sounds like you really want to skate and jump. You need a mental reset. L.A., youre not alone. Ice Girl has been working on the mental reset since September. She still hasnt worked on the jump that earned her eight stitches on her face. Every time she tries, she replays the whole falling thing again and cant do it. Thats fine with me. She has other jumps to work on. If she never lands that jump, Im totally fine with it. Shes a good human being and Im proud of her.
Shes frustrated, though. She knows that people at the rink look at her and wonder why shes stuck. The stitches are gone and no one understands that she deals with this enormous fear.
Heres whats helped her:
- Start jumping as soon as possible. She was back on the ice the day after the fall and jumping the following day. Sure, she wasnt doing that scary jump, but she was working on other things.
- Off-ice jumps. Bring back the old muscle memory. When confidence fails you, maybe your muscles wont. Perhaps going into the jump isnt feeling natural anymore. Work it until it does.
- Visualization. Couple the off-ice jumps with a visualization of you jumping on the ice and succeeding. Then tell yourself Good job or something similar. Visualize yourself jumping and landing the jump when youre in practice and when you have some downtime. Make your mind believe that it can do the jumps. If youre replaying the jump-and-fall footage over and over, consciously turn off the movie projector and reload the film to a time when you landed the jump.
- Soundtrack. Sometimes our heads arent helping our bodies succeed. If youre going into the jump and your mind is freaking out, give it something very dull to focus on. Im not a coach, so I cant give you the words, but you could narrate the parts of the jump in your head. Up-pull in-rotate-out-landing-hold it.Thats probably not exactly what you would say to yourself, but you get the idea.
- Positive thinking. When you catch yourself saying a cant message or having a fear message, consciously replace it with a can message. For example, when your coach asks you to work on a jump, shut down the fear and cant messages with an inner pep talk. Figure out what the pep talk will be in advance of your practice, so youll have it ready.
- Ask for more positive talk. All of the positive self talk wont do any good if you think its all a lie. Tell your coach what you need and dont feel ashamed to ask for it. Im betting you need someone else to be the positive, confident voice you used to have in your head. Ever potty trained a dog or a kid? Let me tell you, every tinkle in the right spot is cause for a potty party. Its a big celebration and pretty over-the-top. The thing is, it works. The kid or dog actually looks forward to going potty. Thats what you need your coach to do. If your coach isnt there, have Mom or Dad be the positive voice for you.
- No time to bleed. Negative messages, from yourself, your parents, or your coach, dont move you forward. They just magnify the doubt and fear in your own head and add to that negative soundtrack. Dont focus on what went wrong in a lesson or practice. Focus on whats right, even if its just small stuff. On the ride home, make a list of five things that went well and put it in your skating binder. Even if its a baby step toward your goal, write it down.
- Subcontract the message. This really isnt something you can do, L.A., but Ive totally done it with Ice Girl. She brought The Boyfriend to practice and I sat with him in the stands to tell him what he was looking at on the ice and to manipulate him. I told him that Ice Girls jumps are really high and rotated, but her landings are awful. Its a confidence thing, I told him. And then, as I had hoped, he trotted off to repeat my message. Yes, its manipulative, but boy, did it work. Ice Girl had some really confident practices. I asked her what had made the difference and she told me that The Boyfriend had said some positive things to her. Of course, they were my positive things, but I didnt let her know that.
L.A., this isnt an exhaustive list, but its a start. Im sure that its a matter of time and confidence until you are skating like you had skated last summer. Its just January. Get the feel of the ice under your blades and tell yourself you can do it. After all, youve done it before, right? Good luck. Im rooting for you.
Do you have any advice for L.A.? Is she letting anyone down if she doesnt work on that Double Axel? Should she quit or should she stick with it? What might help her conquer her fear of jumping? What advice would you give L.A.s parents or coach?
Thanks, L.A., for sharing this question. If you have a question for Ice Mom or a dilemma for the Advisory Board, let me know. If you have a suggestion for a blog post youd like to read, e-mail me that, too! Im going through my e-mails, but Im behind. Ill get to them all, though, I promise! IceMom.Diane@gmail.com