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Thread: Psychologizing skaters: attributing success and failure to mental states

  1. #31
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    In my opinion, any elite athlete that ISN'T addressing the psychological aspect of competing, is simply not fully trained.

  2. #32
    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    There is also the rare athlete who has the opposite of performance anxiety. When the chips are down instead of freaking out he goes into a zone and performs beyond his normal capacity.

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by louisa05 View Post
    Not sure that is the best word choice. In the U.S., the phrase "mental issues" typically refers to actual mental illness. Performance anxiety is not a mental illness.

    .
    When I said mental issues, I did not mean "mental illness". Sorry if the context was not understood or misunderstood. I was not aware that the terms were used in the United States as interchangeable and identical. I am not an American. The two terms "mental illness" and "mental issues" are not necessarily identical, to my knowledge, in Canada. (I actually made some phone calls to check on this with people I know who work in the medical field.) Mental issue is a broader term and encompasses more than mental illness, and I hope that it would be clear from the context of what I wrote that I was not saying that performance anxiety is a mental illness. For here on in, I shall use the term "psychological issues" or (as ICD wonderfully used) "psychological aspect" so that there may be peace between the nations and the contributors from within them.

  4. #34
    Custom Title Rachmaninoff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by golden411 View Post
    Am not criticizing Rachmaninoff for her/his choice of words.
    That said, I would propose "factors," the word that I used above, as an alternative to placate those who insist that "issues" could have no interpretation other than "pathological issues." (Like Rachmaninoff, I myself consider "issues" to be a more neutral term. )
    Thank you, that was the kind of answer I was looking for.

    Really, I've been interacting with U.S.-based posters online pretty much since the internet became popular, and of course here in Canada we get a lot of American media (TV shows, magazines, etc.) and this the first I've heard that "issues" equals "mentally ill." I mean, I know people sometimes might refer to someone who may be mentally ill as having "issues" if they want to be delicate and indirect, but that isn't the real meaning of the term.

  5. #35
    Custom Title skateluvr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by penguin View Post
    I really, really hate the word "headcase." So diminishing, dismissive, and many times inaccurate, but it's used with alarming frequency to describe figure skaters. I wish it would stop.

    I agreeband have said before it is inappropriate and there are other ways to say it. "Sue has great jumps but she does get nervous in competition." It describes simply the issue and is not using a truly unfair word.

  6. #36
    Celebrating the Excellence of #VirtueMoir golden411's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by louisa05 View Post
    .... In the U.S., the phrase "mental issues" typically refers to actual mental illness.
    Disagree -- and I was born in the U.S., where I have lived my entire life.

    Quote Originally Posted by phaeljones View Post
    When I said mental issues, I did not mean "mental illness". Sorry if the context was not understood or misunderstood. I was not aware that the terms were used in the United States as interchangeable and identical. I am not an American. The two terms "mental illness" and "mental issues" are not necessarily identical, to my knowledge, in Canada. (I actually made some phone calls to check on this with people I know who work in the medical field.) Mental issue is a broader term and encompasses more than mental illness, and I hope that it would be clear from the context of what I wrote that I was not saying that performance anxiety is a mental illness. For here on in, I shall use the term "psychological issues" or (as ICD wonderfully used) "psychological aspect" so that there may be peace between the nations and the contributors from within them.
    Quote Originally Posted by Rachmaninoff View Post
    ... Really, I've been interacting with U.S.-based posters online pretty much since the internet became popular, and of course here in Canada we get a lot of American media (TV shows, magazines, etc.) and this the first I've heard that "issues" equals "mentally ill." I mean, I know people sometimes might refer to someone who may be mentally ill as having "issues" if they want to be delicate and indirect, but that isn't the real meaning of the term.
    No worries, my Canadian friends. I agree with you -- and in my post earlier in the thread, I should have identified myself as American.

    The way I see it is that what GS members have in common is an interest in figure skating -- not a professional background in mental health. It would be far-fetched to expect that the default mode for most of us is to use words in diagnostic sense. So in the context of GS:
    If an ice dance couple receives Level 1s on the pattern dance, I think one could safely say that they have Finnstep issues. Or another couple might have twizzle issues. Yet another couple might be described as having mental issues -- without any implication of a scathing clinical pronouncement.

    I do not feel at all sure that most Americans would share louisa's opinion. I know that I don't.

  7. #37
    I got your program components right here. Pepe Nero's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    Off topic, but speaking of spelling bees, why are Indian children better spellers than anyone else in the U.S.?

    The last six winners of the National Spelling Bee are Sameer Mishra, Kavya Shivashankar, Anamika Veeramani, Sukanya Roy, Snigdha Nandipati, and Arvind Mahankali (edging out Vismaya Kharkar (6th), Vanya Shivashankar (sister of Kavya, 5th), Nikitha Chandran, Amber Born (!!!, 4th), Sriram Hathwar (bronze), and Pranav Sivakumar (silver).

    Me, I'm too much of a head case to watch the National Spelling Bee on TV. It makes me too nervous.
    Nice derailing, Mathman. Awesome essentialism, too.

  8. #38
    I got your program components right here. Pepe Nero's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RobinA View Post
    I disagree that you can't necessarily tell what is in a skater's mind. If you sit there and watch practice after pratice and the person does beautiful jumps and wonderful flowing run-throughs, and then that person shows up for the competition stiff as a board, splating throughout, I think it's fair to say they have a problem with nerves.
    This is evidence, yes, in principle. The distinction between evidence and proof aside, what I meant to suggest was that in almost all cases, no one has the relevant evidence. (How many of us watch skaters do clean run-throughs over and over only to splat in competition? Many of us believe we have this evidence because television commentators make us believe we've seen such things.)

    Do some skaters have psychological difficulties coping with high pressure competition? Of course. Many people have seemed to responded to my OP by saying, "Yes, they do." How fascinating, but that wasn't the question I began this thread with an interest in.

    The question was, "How often is anyone in a position to informedly claim that the skater whose skate they just witnessed was particularly affected by her psychological state?"

    In other words, to be blunt, I was complaining about people asserting that the skater they just saw skated well or skated poorly because of some psychological fortitude or lack of it.

    My post wasn't about skaters' psychology. It was about commentator's opinions. It wasn't a call for skaters to get tough. It was a call for people opining about figure skating to get reasons (to support their public remarks).

    Quote Originally Posted by RobinA View Post
    Plus, the people commentating have been there.
    It really depends on who is commenting and who is being commented on. This is one reason Tara Lipinski is really poorly qualified to be a television commentator, mainstream America name-recognition aside. What non-useless thing could she possibly say about Suzuki or Kostner, having retired at 15?

    But, RobinA, I also meant to include all of us on the internet, not just paid television commentators.

    Quote Originally Posted by RobinA View Post
    As spectators of sports, we speculate on what is going on. The speculation can go over the top, but when it doesn't, it's part of the fun of spectating.
    Yes, hypothesizing is fun. If only it were acknowledged for what it is, even half the time.

    Quote Originally Posted by phaeljones View Post


    The mental aspect is a big part of all sport, this one especially. There are certain skaters who always skate well under relatively little pressure but never skate well under immense pressure. You can't describe that skater without describing the mental component. I don't think that I am a "hater", but the term "headcase" seems to apply to at least a few of them. Trying to figure out the mental aspect is an integral part of accurately understanding the sport. The mental aspect is a fact of the sport. Are we just supposed to ignore the reality of it?

    Even the best and highest-winning skaters occasionally get mental blow-outs. Some skaters, we all know, get them more frequently. (We each have our own list and I am not going to give you mine. ) It does not mean that they are bad skaters, but it does mean that they have mental issues affecting their competitive standing (at least at a particular time). I can't imagine anyone on this board, when making predictions about who is going to win which event, not taking into account the mental state of the skater based on their past performances. And if there actually is, I would love to wager a few bets with them.

    Regarding the term headcase, whether it is used properly or improperly, nicely or in hate, it depends on the nature and motive of the user. It can be appropriate and it can be used without mal-intent. I don't think that I have ever used it (although I may have), but I sure have thought it. There are "haters", very true, and they over-use terms like "headcase", but I don't think that they would be slowed down without the term being there. As well, the term can be used in contexts of fair objectivity (or at least in a way that is as objective as an opinion or perception can be).

    This is a competitive sport. People judge the competitors and they can't help but assess the mental aspect, as best as possible, of the skaters over time based on performance. It is part of the way we rank the skaters. Anyone who cannot handle that should not compete as a skater and maybe not even in sports. I respect the compassion and kindness of the contrary opinion, but I cannot agree with it. Sorry.
    Who is the person whose view you think you have disagreed with so strongly that you think you need to apologize to them, phaeljones? I don't think anyone, certainly not me, was saying that skaters are not affected by mental factors.

    I just think it would be terrific if folks would stop asserting that particular skaters are "headcases" (or the like) or are (I guess) "stoics." Most of us just have no idea. All we see is the skate.

  9. #39
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    This is not rocket science.

  10. #40
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    Lets see,

    As a former competitor I too freaked out and rarely performed to my full abilities. I used to get so pissed at missing jumps that I would just train more, but that was not the answer. The thing with skating is that it is really difficult to simulate a competitive atmosphere. During training we train our program but, there is no audience. Skating your program with the costume on and with an audience is the real training that most skaters are missing. In the summer our rink used to have simulated competitions every Friday night and that use to help a lot.

    Skaters like Agnes, Alyssa, Kostner, Abbott, and several others need that kind of training.

  11. #41
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    Well, why would a skater not skate well at a particular competition?
    1. They are doing jumps that are too hard for them and never/rarely land, even in practice but the coach said to try them for whatever reason--maybe if they're rotated, they'll get some points, for example, even if they fall. The reason they can't do the jumps could be that they are not as talented as some naturally or due to training issues.

    2. They have an ache or pain that makes it hard for them to land a jump on that particular day that they usually land

    3. They are jetlagged/affected by altitude or something else because they are away from home

    4. There is something wrong with the ice/temperature/music/costume, etc. in that rink on that day

    5. They have performance anxiety and can't perform as well when they're being judged as they can when they are not.

    I would think that it could be any one of those reasons on any given day, but when someone repeatedly fails to skate clean, probably #1 or #5.

    Which skaters seem like the "life of the party?" Most of them do not, in my opinion. Certainly not Alissa or Jeremy, two of the famed "head cases." They both seem sort of shy and sensitive (her moreso than him).

  12. #42
    Celebrating the Excellence of #VirtueMoir golden411's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poodlepal View Post
    Which skaters seem like the "life of the party?" Most of them do not, in my opinion. Certainly not Alissa or Jeremy, two of the famed "head cases." They both seem sort of shy and sensitive (her moreso than him).
    My comment about those who seem to be the "life of the party" pertained to skaters in general (not restricted to any subset including only those who have been described by others as being affected by psychological factors).

    I don't know any of the skaters in person, but based on social media, interviews, etc., I get the impression that some possible LOTP-types are: Trankov, Moore-Towers, Moir, White, Piper Gilles, Ge, etc. (Those are just a few examples off the top of my head.)

    BTW, I am using LOTP in a positive sense -- a gal or guy with an energetic sense of humor/fun and a friendly word/smile for all.
    (I am not talking about overindulgence in alcohol, excessive rowdiness, or that kind of thing.)

  13. #43
    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    I wouldn't rule Jeremy Abbott out. He can be a pretty funny guy.

  14. #44
    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    There is also the rare athlete who has the opposite of performance anxiety. When the chips are down instead of freaking out he goes into a zone and performs beyond his normal capacity.
    Chris Bowman!

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