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

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    I got your program components right here. Pepe Nero's Avatar
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    Psychologizing skaters: attributing success and failure to mental states

    Do you know what I hate? I know, you don't care what I hate. But still...

    I hate when people commenting on figure skating (whether they are people paid for their opinions on television broadcasts or anonymous internet opinionators) psychologize skaters: attribute their successes or failures to what is going in their minds.

    Here’s what I mean: Skater A has a bad skate in an important competition. “Oh, well, she is just so fragile. She gets really nervous. She is beautiful and oh-so talented, but can’t handle competition.”

    Or: Skater B has a good skate in an important competition: “She really knows how to focus and quiet her demons. She doesn’t let the pressure get to her.”

    I’m not saying these explanation aren’t sometimes true. My point is that no one who says these things ever has any basis for saying these things. Unless one is the skater herself, her coach, or her therapist, one has no basis for saying such things. Especially for explaining the quality (or lack thereof) of a particular performance.

    (I’m using feminine pronouns because I think female figure skaters are overwhelmingly the ones who are psychologized. This is due, no doubt, to the global gender stereotype of women being ruled by their emotions.)

    You all are with me, right?

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    Custom Title Franklin99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pepe Nero View Post
    Do you know what I hate? I know, you don't care what I hate. But still...

    I hate when people commenting on figure skating (whether they are people paid for their opinions on television broadcasts or anonymous internet opinionators) psychologize skaters: attribute their successes or failures to what is going in their minds.

    Here’s what I mean: Skater A has a bad skate in an important competition. “Oh, well, she is just so fragile. She gets really nervous. She is beautiful and oh-so talented, but can’t handle competition.”

    Or: Skater B has a good skate in an important competition: “She really knows how to focus and quiet her demons. She doesn’t let the pressure get to her.”

    I’m not saying these explanation aren’t sometimes true. My point is that no one who says these things ever has any basis for saying these things. Unless one is the skater herself, her coach, or her therapist, one has no basis for saying such things. Especially for explaining the quality (or lack thereof) of a particular performance.

    (I’m using feminine pronouns because I think female figure skaters are overwhelmingly the ones who are psychologized. This is due, no doubt, to the global gender stereotype of women being ruled by their emotions.)

    You all are with me, right?
    So true. The same psychological judging was done at last year summer Olympics esp. in Gymnastics and Track & Field.

  3. #3
    Tripping on the Podium penguin's Avatar
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    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.

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    EZETTIE LATUASV IVAKMHA CaroLiza_fan'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.
    This is something that really winds me up as well, penguin.

    But, to be fair, I have noticed that this particular term is most often used by members who are from countries that do not speak English as their first language. Hence, I don't think they realise the true meaning of the term, and hence how diminishing it is.

    Here is Google's definition of "Headcase":

    headcase
    Pronounciation: hɛdkeɪs
    Noun Brit. informal
    noun: headcase; plural noun: headcases; noun: head-case; plural noun: head-cases

    1. a mentally ill or unstable person.

    synonyms: madman/madwoman, maniac, lunatic; informal loony, nut, nutcase, nutjob, nutter, fruitcake, cuckoo, basket case, headbanger, schizo, crank, crackpot, oddball, weirdo, weirdie, sicko; informal odd bod; informal radge; informal screwball, crazy, kook, geek, nutso, meshuggener, wacko, wack; informal wing nut; informal dingbat; informal case

    So, I think we do need to get it sensed into these members that "headcase" is not an acceptable way to describe a skater that is not performing to the standard that we would normally expect of them.

    CaroLiza_fan

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    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    Franklin99, Welcome to Golden Skate! Post long & often.

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    Custom Title Franklin99's Avatar
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    Thank you dorispulaski

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    This is an interesting observation OP and yes, there are quite a lot people that forget quite fast, but at the same time praise you very quickly for a good performance.

    Personally, I have also mentioned nerves in some of my articles, but that doesn't mean a Skater is bad or that I think bad of him / her. It is more an observation over a period of time.
    You do have a few candidates that can be a bit nervous on the ice, but seriously who isn't? That's why all those practice sessions very often give you a much bigger view on the whole condition of a skater than the actual 3 or 4 minute program in the competition.

    Still, some reviews or "analyst´s" indeed go a bit too far, especially if its about weight, costumes or program composition. A Skater shouldn't be attacked for having a specific program or outfit, there are always reasons why and those reasons a fan doesn't know in most cases. It is something that those would understand a lot better by being a skater themselves or actually having some more insight in the whole procedure, including talks to coaches or the skater him / herself.

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    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. Plus, the people commentating have been there. I'd venture to say that every skater walks out onto that ice with nerves buzzing in their heads. Some find a way of dealing, some don't. It's a big part of who stands on top of the podium and who does not.

    And I will defend the use of "headcase," as it is frequently used in sports and everybody knows it doesn't mean "crackpot" or one of those other synonyms. It means a person whose psychology is getting in the way of their other abilities in the sport. Everybody in every sport has something (or a bunch of somethings) to conquer on their way to the top. It doesn't mean there is something wrong with them.

    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.

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    Headcase is a particularly bad example because some skaters take a while to peak (see Kostner and Wagner) and yet people chew them out or say there's something wrong with them. Skating isn't easy. Most of the time skaters do not skate perfectly and are prone to errors. Mental errors are inevitable but it's hard attempting triples on ice so calling athletes a headcase when they make mistakes isn't fair nor does it heed how difficult it is to skate well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CanadianSkaterGuy View Post
    Headcase is a particularly bad example because some skaters take a while to peak (see Kostner and Wagner) and yet people chew them out or say there's something wrong with them. Skating isn't easy. Most of the time skaters do not skate perfectly and are prone to errors. Mental errors are inevitable but it's hard attempting triples on ice so calling athletes a headcase when they make mistakes isn't fair nor does it heed how difficult it is to skate well.
    I'd add Joannie Rochette to the late bloomer list as well, on the podium and hit her consistency at 23.

    I think it's more about consistency and mental toughness-- to me that means being a good competitior. I know what people mean by headcase but how about finding another, more appropriate word for it. Why not just say "She's inconsistent".

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    Quote Originally Posted by coppertop1 View Post
    Why not just say "She's inconsistent".
    Because people are juvenile and cruel and likely jealous of skaters at elite levels, so it's convenient and helps the haters sleep better if they harshly criticize or label the skaters.

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    Yeah, it's easier to insult a skater than just state the facts. I agree there's no need to insult a skater. Sandhu frustrated me with his inconsistency to no end, but I won't insult him, I'd just wonder why he was so inconsistent.

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    All "inconsistencies" stem from lack of training and/or lack of physical talent to a degree. So what's more polite, call a skater "lazy" or "inconsistent"? Keep in mind, no skater is truly lazy at that level, but some do work harder and are more focused than others, especially when they don't have money issue and/or other problems to worry about. If we don't psychologize a skater we could very well potentially physicalize them. It's a lot harder to dispute physical states than mental ones.

    Personally I value intrinsic talent more than anything. Why is it that only winning is plausible? I don't mind Nikol Gosviani falling on all her triple jumps, as long as she moves beautifully in between them. She is just not a gifted jumper or even someone who has the winner mentality. Does it matter?

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    I think sometimes it's hard to understand why you can watch a skater do beautiful jumps during warm ups... and then they go out and bomb their jumps in the program. I think skating is just frustrating because the audience naturally wants an explanation for why someone isn't performing well, and the idea that they are folding under pressure is the simplest explanation that most people jump to. If you're more knowledgable about skating, then maybe you look at other issues and take time to listen to what skaters are saying in their interviews. Like Javi mentioned that his jumps feel good in practice, but in his program something about the choreo/transition leading into it is throwing him off which obviously he and his team need to look at. Maybe Max Aaron is doing too many quads, maybe he's doing too many jumps too late in his program. Also, at this elite level I believe people often have a romanticized idea of athletes being up before dawn and training until after sundown, and the idea that they aren't training for every aspect of their competitions as much as they should or could be -- for whatever reason, sometimes it's because of a recent injury! -- doesn't necessarily leap to people's minds as the simplest explanation.

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    I wonder sometimes about the most artistic yet notoriously inconsistent skaters. Do they have an artistic temperament that makes it hard for them to coach or be consistent?

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