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Thread: Nerves of Ice vs. Nerves on Ice

  1. #1
    Fan of The Incomparable Sonja Henie Glacierskater's Avatar
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    Nerves of Ice vs. Nerves on Ice

    I need some help. I am an adult skater. I just tested and passed my Aldult Bronze MIF and Freeskate. Although I was nervous, when I got on the ice, it all came together. This was March. We had a small in house competition in May. I fell apart. I skate FS4 (ISI), and my program was a mess. I could not land a single jump cleanly, my skating was like someone else had taken over, or someone had injected JELL-O into my body. This is a program that I have had for 8 months. The two programs that I skated after that were better, but not the best they could have been. I am very disappointed with myself because I did not skate the best that I knew I could. After that intro, here is the question:

    What can I do for nerves?

    I have been working so hard, and my goal is adult nationals, but the moment I get in front of people in a situation that commands their attention, I crack. I don't feel scared, but I sure skate like it. I thought that it was just me, until my mentor tested this last Sunday for Silver FS and it was like something took over her body. She fell 3 times, and I have seen her skate her FS so many times alsmost flawlessly.

    Any advice would be appreciated.

  2. #2
    In love with the axel!
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    I wish I had an answer for you, but it is something I struggle with myself. I do the best when I just go out there and have fun. However, getting past the nerves/over-excitement/whatever is the hard part. I tend to expect too much out of myself. Sometimes, even when I feel relaxed in the warm up, I tense up in the performance, worrying about a particular element, and sometimes blow the easy stuff.

    Here's an entry from Johnny Weir's site - he's someone who probably should have had a serious bout of nerves before this last year's Nats, and came through with flying colors. I just read it tonight - it's definitely food for thought.

    "from Jessica
    question: Hi Johnny I was just wondering if you ever had problems controlling your mental thoughts or nerves under pressure? I am having a lot of trouble with that and I noticed that you have really really grown as a competitor. Is there any key thoughts or anything that helped you make this improvement? I am having a lot of trouble staying positive because I want it so badly and I get so easily frustrated! thanks a lot!

    Relax. There's not one thing I could say to help, but the turning point for me was when I sat down and really thought about what I was skating for. I'm skating for me, nobody else. I hope you can find something like this to help you. "

  3. #3
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    I think every skater has a struggle with nerves before competing. I have such bad stage fright that it's nearly impossible for me to go out and skate without sticking my head in the trash can for 3 days before I compete. But for some reason it's gotten better this year. The beginning of the season I joined a synchro team (wow, is that fun!) and skating with the other ladies helped me to deal with the fear.
    When I skate solo now, I try to remember that I have skated my program in practice well, and that competition is really no different than practice in that I still have to skate the same program. I try to remember that this is supposed to be fun and to find the feeling inside that makes me love to skate in the first place. The other (probably goofy) thing I do is to try to tell myself that my brain is confusing "nerves" with "anticipation of a good performance" and that, for some unknown reason seems to trick my brain into relaxing enough so my knees don't lock up the second I get out there.
    The other thing I learned from a skater friend that also performs music in public is to remember that people *want* you to do well. Nobody is cheering for you to fall over or stumble. Everyone is really on your side. I think that helped most of all.

    Nice to see you back, Glacierskater.

  4. #4
    Salchows and Shimmies!!!
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    Glacier, my heart goes out to you. I get very nervous when I compete, too. When I did the third loop on my figure in my last ISI competition, my skating leg was shaking!! I was nervous in the Footwork portion, but I managed to calm down for Artistic (I skate ISI FS 2).

    What helped? To be blunt--a half a glass of wine about 45 minutes prior to the Artistic comp!!! I'm dead serious, both my competitor and I had some (we're good friends), jokingly under "coach's orders." Its silly, but it takes some of the jumpiness away and nerves away and doesn't affect the skate aside from positive effects of taking the shakiness away (this depends on the individual, of course). I also gave myself a lot of positive mental reinforcement and coach had me take and exhale a few deep breaths before going out. That automatically slows your heart rate down. Just don't do more than three or four, because you could start feeling a little faint. Once I got out there and hit the one foot spin and the sal/ballet combo, I was fine, and just threw myself into enjoying the rest of the program.

    Nerves are why I told my coach I don't want to make a big deal out of testing for USFS. We'll just work on the skills, and when I'm ready, just TELL me I'm ready. If I set it as a huge goal I'm just going to make myself more nervous, so I'm keeping it casual.

  5. #5
    Tripping on the Podium
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    Ah, nerves, nerves, nerves! I was apparently so nervous during my last competition, that I actually shook the whole way through it! Seriously shook; my coach said he could see my leg shaking as I hit my ending pose. So I have learned that I can in fact skate and jump while I'm shaking. Sometimes I will take several deep breaths right before an element that I'm especially nervous about, and that helps.

    I guess everyone learns to deal with their nerves in different ways. I have a history of skating "up," meaning that I tend to skate even better under pressure. Somehow it narrows my focus and nothing else gets in the way, and I don't allow myself to dwell on any possible negatives. And once you have it in your head that you can overcome your nerves and skate well, that helps even more for the future.

    I never tried the wine thing; I think I would fall flat on my face if I did! Seriously, though, I think if you really have your program well ingrained in your muscle memory, that helps too.

    This sport is such a head-game, it amazes me that anyone can skate well.

  6. #6
    Tripping on the Podium
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    I am in a discipline which has many similarities to ice skating: classical music performance. Both of us must perform difficult athletic feats while making it look easy and interpret our music.

    The feeling that a performer gets just before a performance is "nerves". But fear and 'eagerness' are chemically the very same thing in the body. The performer gets to decide which she/he would rather have. If you identify the feelings as "eagerness", a whole different mindset takes over.

    The best preparation for performance is solid rehearsal so that you KNOW what you intend to do.

    The major problem is that a performer must FOCUS on each moment of the performance. No doubting, no wondering, just absolute intending to do each move.

    Part of your preparation should be you SEE yourself succeeding in each move. Repeat that thought. Don't try to believe it, just visualize it. KNOW that you will land smoothly and cleanly.

    IGNORE the audience.
    Have NO expectations or worries of how well you are doing or not.
    Skate ONLY for yourself and the pleasure of carrying out your plans.

    Performing the program you have prepared is a mental, not physical discipline and focus.

    Singing an opera without music and with an orchestra is so similar to skating that I use skating as an analogy for my student singers - they see skaters and begin to understand what they must think to produce a consistent beautiful sound. It worked for me and is working for them.

  7. #7
    Fan of The Incomparable Sonja Henie Glacierskater's Avatar
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    Wow,

    I am surprised that there are others out there that get as freaked out as I do. And yes, my leg does actually shake. It makes it hard to feel solid about jumps, spins, footwork, legwork, etc. And this is stuff that I have worked on repeatedly. You guys have given some great input.

    I have forgotten to skate for myself. I am always worried about what the judges think, or worse yet, what the skate moms my be saying (no offense to any skate moms....ours are allowed to sit on the skate counter and give directives to their offspring who monger at the entrance to the ice. You never know what they are thinking when they stare at you with no emotion.)

    And from one poster:
    "The major problem is that a performer must FOCUS on each moment of the performance. No doubting, no wondering, just absolute intending to do each move."
    In response to this: You are so correct. I know that I can do this. I do it everyday in practice, and I know that I can complete every element.

    Thank you to everyone who shared their experiences. I will be signing up for some exhibitions skates to help with this as well.

  8. #8
    On the Ice
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    welcome to my world. I've messed up every single one of my solos because of nerves except the last one.

    the only thing i can tell you is to PRACTICE your solo a lot so you KNOW you can do it consistently.

  9. #9
    Bless you, Fairy Godmother, I'm Having a BALL! Cinderella on Ice's Avatar
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    Glacierskater - ironically, the person who helped me most with my nerves was Sk8er1964, who posted above. Her advice to me upon unveiling my first-ever adult FS program (at adult Midwestern Sectionals, no less, where I was the only Level 3 skater and everyone else was Level 2) was priceless: She said (and others repeated here on this board) that my goal on the ice should be to show them how much I love to skate. Not to win, not to skate a perfect program, not to do anything that put pressure on me. But to show everyone how much I love to skate. Now I LOVE to skate, so I kept thinking, I CAN do this! And I had no nerve problems at all at Mids, at Adult Nationals or at a small local competition I just completed.

    When I was testing, I started out so nervous that I messed up a waltz jump in a program where I also had a flip (which I didn't mess up). I practically blacked out during one test, and at another my legs were so stiff I thought they would crack by the end of it. At each competition, my goal was to try to get more and more relaxed. At one point, I got TOO relaxed and was almost catatonic. So then I practiced different breathing techniqies, I read The Inner Champion from cover to cover and back again. All of this helped.

    But the other thing that helped me was to put myself in situations where I had to "perform" in front of others, like at practices where better skaters were there or skate moms or whoever. You might think about inviting others to come watch you skate and then do your program for them. People you love who will understand if you are shaky. Just keep putting yourself out there and it gets better. Another breakthrough for me was when three men that I work with unexpectedly decided they were going to come watch me practice. Ick! I almost heaved in the car on the way there. But I figured if I could skate in front of people I know and care about, I could skate in front of strangers like judges and audiences.

    Learn to breathe. Practice where you are going to take calming breaths and smile (not grimace, but smile).

    But most of all, remember that your goal is to show them how much you love to skate.

  10. #10
    Fan of The Incomparable Sonja Henie Glacierskater's Avatar
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    Oh, Cinderella, you and 1964 have great advice. It was like a kick in the behind. I DO LOVE TO SKATE! And it should show when I am out there. I know that I am expressive...people tell me that I cannot cover my feelings because they see it on my face. (That can be a bad thing if I don't like something, or I am cranky.)

    I have been trying to spare my fiancee that burden of being my skate dad, and I tell him not to come to competitions or test sessions. But a couple of weeks ago I was in Tulsa at a test session and there was an adult skater there testing for her Adult Silver FS (I cannot remember if she tested moves or not...I think so). Her hubby was there with her before she got on the ice, he filmed her, and he was there for her when she got off the ice and passed. It was really sweet, and made me realize that I need my guy there. Maybe skating in front of him will help me get over the stage fright. That and remembering to show people how much I love to skate.

    Cinderella, where are you with skating now? You were getting ready for Adult Sliver, and would imagine that you are Gold by now. I am working on Silver. Still need my lutz. I have it, but it is the Chevy Stromotion version...not very fluid. Did you compete an AN? And how does one get to sectionals? Do you have to qualify? I have done lots of homework on testing, levels, and competitions, but I am still confused about these items yet. And what is adult level 3? Oh, and one more...what is adult interpretive? Thanks for everyone's input. I am planning on going to adult nationals in KC...I HAVE to...it is only 4 hours away!!! I hope that I get to meet some of you.

  11. #11
    Bless you, Fairy Godmother, I'm Having a BALL! Cinderella on Ice's Avatar
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    Glacier - oh my gosh, I am so excited to think that I will get to meet you at next year's ANs! That would be so wonderful!

    I think your insight about your fiancee is right on target. When I first started testing, I would not let my hubby come watch me. And the first time he videotaped me, I got so nervous that I was nauseated and afterward got a migraine headache. But each time he came, I was less and less nervous, and when I went for my gold test I ASKED him to come watch me and just knew I would pass. He helped break some of the tension. I remember when we walked through the doors, there was a group of about 8-12 young skaters, probably around 9 years old. Teeny, tiny little girls. He said, oh my goodness, hopefully you'll be careful and won't crush any of them. For some reason, that struck us both as so hysterically funny, I couldn't stop giggling for a long time. It was very exciting to pass with him there, and he was actually more nervous than me. He told me that he had to keep looking away and asking the "other moms" if I was doing o.k. And when the judges were very supportive afterwards, he kept bragging on me to them. Wow, it was amazingly supportive.

    Gosh, thanks for asking about my progress. My coach and I worked really hard to get me to pass my Gold FS test by December 10 so I would be eligible to compete at ANs. My first adult competition was Mids and since there were no other gold ladies level 3, I skated against 3 gold ladies level 2s. Somehow I lucked out and got a bronze medal! Then a month later I competed at ANs in gold 3, and no one was more surprised than me when I won the gold. I am still in shock. Every morning when the alarm goes off, there is a moment when I think, OK, it must be time to compete my program. Like it was all a dream.

    I have a ton of things to work on to improve my presentation skills, so I began an adult ballet class, a pilates class, and soon an on-ice Creative Moves class.

    Now to your other questions. You do not need to qualify to compete at sectionals, you just have to have passed certain tests by a certain date in order to compete at that level. So I believe the sectionals are open to everyone. However at sectionals there are qualifying and non-qualifying events. In non-qualifying, you just skate (usually) with people in your own or a close age group. Like when I skated Mids, there were so few of us, they combined Level 2 and Level 3 (explanation of levels below).

    In qualifying, all ages compete together -- but you are grouped solely by competitive level - like Gold. if you are in the top 4 (I believe)positions, then you can compete at the championship level at ANs. Someone more experienced than me can probably explain this better. The championship level is like the creme de la creme in that when you compete, there are no age levels. It could be everyone from age 25 to near-death (as the funny level 4 ladies would say). So it is an honor just to skate on the same ice as people of this caliber, and those who qualify (like Sk8er1964 did at the gold level!!!!!) are even more awesome.

    "Level" usually refers to age. Level 1 is 25-35, Level 2 is 36 to 45, Level 3 is 46 to 55, and Level 4 is 56 to death.

    Interpretive is where you have 1 min 40 mins to skate a program that is designed to show your interpretation of the music. You can use music with words, you can have a costume, and in some cases you can have a prop (and there are some other rules, like no double jumps, etc.) Some people choose to skate to "fun" programs like Tiptoe through the Tulips and others interpret more serious pieces. It is a very mixed bag and totally awesome to watch the variety and talents.

    If any of this is not clear, please let me know and I'll try again.

  12. #12
    In love with the axel!
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    You got the qualifying part right, Cinderella. (Oh, and I was not in the least bit suprised to see you win the gold at AN - knew you could after I saw you skate at Mids :D )

    Anyway, to further clarify on the qualifying rounds - there are three sections (Easterns, Midwesterns and Pacifics). We don't have regionals like the kids, because we don't have enough entries. In order to skate at a qualifying event, you must have passed:

    Mens & Ladies Championship Gold: Adult Gold test
    Mens & Ladies Championship Masters: At least the standard Intermediate test - competitors may have passed up to the senior freestyle test.
    Championship Dance: I don't know - I would assume the Gold dances - maybe the pre-golds?
    Championship Pairs: Doesn't exist right now.

    PS - I got the mail you sent me Cinderella - thanks! It was not as disasterous as it felt at the time, but then again time heals the disappointment. At least I looked like I belonged there, even if I was jump-impared :\ .

  13. #13
    Bless you, Fairy Godmother, I'm Having a BALL! Cinderella on Ice's Avatar
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    Thanks for adding the details, Sk8er1964. I wasn't sure exactly of the tests needed to be passed.

    I watched the video again the other day, and your performance was definitely not disaterous. Lots of strong skating and many, many good things. Until I watched, I had forgotten about the poor woman who fell and split her chin open one minute before the warm-up was done. Does anyone know how she is doing?

    Someday when I grow up I hope to be skating in Championship Ladies!

  14. #14
    In love with the axel!
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    [i]Until I watched, I had forgotten about the poor woman who fell and split her chin open one minute before the warm-up was done. Does anyone know how she is doing?

    Someday when I grow up I hope to be skating in Championship Ladies! [/B]
    I haven't heard anything about her at all. I felt so bad for her - to get that far and have that happen. I hope she can qualify again next year -- I hope you do too (as long as you don't knock me out of qualifying .... you know if that happened, I'd be cheering for you to win gold at AN! :D )

  15. #15
    Bless you, Fairy Godmother, I'm Having a BALL! Cinderella on Ice's Avatar
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    Originally posted by sk8er1964
    I hope she can qualify again next year -- I hope you do too (as long as you don't knock me out of qualifying .... you know if that happened, I'd be cheering for you to win gold at AN! :D )
    Oh, HA HA HA HA HA HA Ha Ha hahahahahahahaha. I could only HOPE to improve enough in a year to knock you out of qualifying!!! But thanks for the vote of confidence - you're so supportive. You play a much larger role in my skating achievements than you realize.

    You'll be there again next year, and you'll give 'em .... heck.

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