Overcoming The Fear of Mistakes

Skating Psychology

Overcoming Fear of Failure in Skating

The three biggest performance killers in figure skating are fear…

  1. The fear of failing
  2. The fear of falling
  3. The fear of not being good enough or as good as “so-and-so”

Fear comes from a faulty belief system.

Fearful skaters believe they need to be perfect, and they see mistakes as something to be ashamed of.

Fearful skaters constantly compare themselves to other skaters they view as better than themselves. These comparisons are viewed as constant reminders of a perceived lack of ability.

The end result is lower confidence and holding back on the ice. Playing it safe is just less threatening than making a mistake, even if it means staying stuck in mediocrity.

When skaters fear failing or making mistakes, they make it harder to develop new skills because learning requires falling and messing up.

That’s right, part of the learning process requires errors in order for the necessary feedback to improve a skill.

Every skill has a progression or steps for skill mastery.

You cannot master a skill on the first try… It is a many-step process.

The opposite of fear is the mindset of growth.

A growth mindset seeks challenges and understands each attempt brings you one step closer to your desired objective.

The story of 19 year-old U.S. figure skater Mathew Graham is a great example of not letting fear hold you back…

Graham took second place in the U.S. Junior Challenge Skate, won the Northwest Pacific Regionals and won a silver medal in the Pacific Coast Sectionals. Graham’s second place finish at Sectionals qualified him for Nationals.

Graham took his skating to the next level and finished sixth in the junior men level of the 2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, a very successful showing for the young skater.

Graham was pleased with his season but realizes he needs to continue to develop his skills if he wants to realize his dream of competing in the Olympics.

Graham: “I really feel that this year and with this competition I’ve kind of taken my skating to the next level. I’m going to keep working on that and taking this experience as something of a learning experience that I can try and improve myself from.”

Graham knows he needs to master the difficult triple-axle if he is going to be competitive at the international level. Even though Graham has landed the triple-axle in practice, it is not quite at an elite level yet.

Is Graham fearful of failing?

Well, there are definitely elements of fear in performing the skill but that is not stopping Graham.

GRAHAM: “It’s such a big jump and such a big stepping stone. Getting it, it’s kind of more mental than physical. I know that I have the athleticism to land the jump. It’s just that it’s such an intense thing to throw yourself into the air and try to rotate three-and-a-half times. What I really feel is going to give me that jump is working on my mental skills of just being fearless and really going for it.”

You can feel fear but it doesn’t have to stop you.

Like the saying goes, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

Just remember, falling is actually a step forward because you can learn how to adjust on the next attempt.

With that new, positive mindset, you will be able to master challenging skills and maintain a high degree of confidence.

Tips For Overcoming Fear

When attempting a new skill, write out the learning progression from starting the skill in practice to nailing the skill in a high level competition with all eyes on you.

Tell yourself, “I cannot learn without making mistakes,” and focus on the process of progressing from step-to-step.

Also, you must understand that while on step 3, you will slip back to step 2 or even step 1… That’s okay.

Sometimes you have to take a step back to go two steps forward.

By embracing mistakes and falling, you take pressure off yourself and speed up learning. So, go ahead and go for it!

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