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Thread: Jenny Kirk: The Invisible Opponent.

  1. #1
    Down With It
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    Jenny Kirk: The Invisible Opponent.

    Great insight by Jenny here:

    http://trueslant.com/jenniferkirk/20...nent/#more-264

    Last March, a friend and I went to the Staples Center to watch the ladies’ long program at worlds. I hadn’t attended a skating competition since quitting the sport in 2005, and I was stunned by the emotions that immediately hit me when I entered the building. Instantly my stomach started to tense up. As we sat down in our seats, my palms got sweaty. Sitting in the nose bleed section, overlooking thousands of skating fans with their eyes glued to the sole skater in the middle of the ice, I suddenly felt like I was going to pass out. The beating of my heart became so rapid that I had to shakily ask my friend if we could leave the action momentarily to take a breather. Although no eyes were on me that day, and my skates were safely tucked away in a hall closet at home, somewhere deep in my subconscious my body was preparing itself to compete.

    The sensations that I felt that day in March used to be the norm for me, and the majority of skaters competing today experience feelings of intense anxiety prior to every competition. Although these physical sensations can be tough to deal with, nothing is worse than the thoughts of self-doubt that can plague a competitor on the day of a big event.
    Not too surprising I guess, but still very interesting to read from a skater's perspective.

  2. #2
    Tripping on the Podium
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    I was a serious flute player in high school and college, and I found that the two things that helped the most were 1) take every opportunity to compete/perform, because the more you do it, the easier it gets; and 2) the more prepared you are, the less nervous you are.

  3. #3
    Custom Title dwiggin3's Avatar
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    I was that skater who felt like I was a passive audience member and had no control over my skating. I was also that skater who had no recollection of the skate and actually needed someone to tell me how I skated. I hated it.

    Personally, I think this kind of struggle is the worst kind to have in any competitive sport. You know you can do it, you do it every day but something just happens and you feel so out of control.

  4. #4
    At the rink. Again. mskater93's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dewey View Post
    I was a serious flute player in high school and college, and I found that the two things that helped the most were 1) take every opportunity to compete/perform, because the more you do it, the easier it gets; and 2) the more prepared you are, the less nervous you are.
    I am a competitive (adult) skater and I find #1 to be very important. Almost from the minute my program is choreographed I look for every opportunity to compete.

    #2 isn't necessarily true for me. For me, it is most important to get my head in the right place and be focused on the moment as opposed to preparedness. When I am so focused on what's next, what's next, what's next, I skate badly but when I am focused (or not really conciously thinking) of what's happening NOW, I skate my best.

    Skaters also tend to be perfectionists and want to be people pleasers. To that end, when we make a mistake (especially an unexpected one), we can get down on ourselves and it can create a meltdown situation as the error snowballs into 2-3-4 and so on. I know I struggle with not wanting to "let people down"

  5. #5
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    Mskater, you are so right about staying in the moment and not caring about those who are watching! I did a new stupid skater thing at Sectionals last season: I started reading the audience's minds, LOL! I had competed with the same program the previous day and had a fluke incident where I hit the wall on my back spiral, but immediately recovered and landed the jump that came right after it. As soon as I came out of that spiral during my competition the next day, I thought to myself, "I bet everyone was thinking about what happened yesterday and wondering if I was going to hit the wall on that spiral." It was this thought that distracted me so much that I messed up on the next jump! I can't even imagine how distracting it would be knowing thousands of people had their eyes glued on you (not to mention those watching at home)!

  6. #6
    Rinkside
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    When I was a beginning skater I was always slightly nervous before tests or competitions, but because I had few expectations I was just thankful if I was successful enough and didn't look like an idiot. I competed as often as I could and worked hard to prepare for tests. As I advanced, I felt that I had a reputation to live up to. Judges and audiences looked at me more carefully and critically.

    Although I became used to being out there alone, at the same time it was harder because of my own self imposed pressure. My coaches and family were reasonable; I was my own worst critic, much more so than any judge or audience would ever be.The anticipation was worse than the actual performance. I remember getting out on the ice and feeling like I was enveloped in silence because I would block out everything around me. Sometimes this was almost paralyzing and I had nightmares about hearing the music begin and not being able to move.

    I wasn't alone because I knew of kids who threw up before competition or who retreated into an almost catatonic state. I can't think of anyone who was not nervous before a test or program. BUT when I did well, the rush from that was tremendous and that's a big part of what kept me in it. Getting the nerves under control was a huge part of doing well and I knew it, but it was hard to make the invisible opponent to go sit quietly in the corner.

    Now I am the mother of a competitive swimmer and it is the same story. She loves what she does but she also gets very nervous before a big race. Often she can't eat before an important meet. She fights a constant battle with her nerves and expectations just as I did in skating. She has ups and downs and hits plateaus but also does well often enough that it is worthwhile. I thnk that whether one swims, skates, dances or plays an instrument, any time we have to stand alone and show what we can do, the invisble opponent is along for the performance.

  7. #7
    At the rink. Again. mskater93's Avatar
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    Yep, your second paragraph is exactly describing my comment about disappointment and people pleasing and vlauren's comment about mind reading.

  8. #8
    and... World Peace! Tonichelle's Avatar
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    I love reading her blog. really opens up a skater's world to the outside.

  9. #9
    Beliver in Sasha's Perfect Program Tinymavy15's Avatar
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    I know the feeling when testing comes around, but I never really had bad nerves during competition. I was completely freak out about 3 weeks before the event, thinking "i'm not ready," "i am going to fall on A, B or C," "I will freeze up." you name it. After I went through every possible worst case scenario in my head at bed at night and was this close to dropping out, I would arrive at the competition ready to take on the world. Crazy, but true.

  10. #10
    Rinkside
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    Yes, that pretty well describes it, Tinymavy. I never really had a meltdown in front of judges, but it was always possible.

    My daughter does the same thing with her swimming, especially with relays where if she blows it she takes three others with her and then they are all mad at her. This has never happened but it COULD!

  11. #11
    Down With It
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    Man, Jenny's blogs certainly get people talking about things that otherwise might have been overlooked. All this stuff is really interesting.

  12. #12
    Dreaming and dancing Bennett's Avatar
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    I find her a brilliant writer when she talks about her emotions and first-hand experiences. Her instrospective, vivid descriptions of her lived experiences are always pleasurable to read. It is very interesting to hear that "crying" with a time limit helped her!

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