For skaters, this time of year can be a bit of a nail biter with last minute preparations for the national championships – and your nerves, like little gremlins are sitting in the wings, just waiting for a crack in your mindset, an opportunity to get into your head so they can play around with your thinking.  For parents – it can be just as tricky as you walk on eggshells at home and at the rink forever saying and doing ‘The Wrong Thing’ in your attempts to be supportive and encouraging. And coaches are on edge, wondering if your skaters are actually listening to you when you fill their heads full of lists of don’t do this, don’t forget that and so on.

And all that preparation and practice will mean nothing if the skater can’t manage to keep those nasty gremlins at bay.

So I’ve put together a quick shopping list of tips and tricks for skaters to resist those gremlin ‘charms’ and get your mental preparation for a fabulous skating experience on track.


Use affirmations (positive statements about your skating) – every night before you go to sleep, listen to affirmations and repeat them. Out loud if possible, but at the very least, repeat them in your head. Make sure they are positive, personal and present – use the present tense. For example “I skate with good, clean edges”, or “I perform with confidence and elegance”.  Click this link for help on how to create your own affirmations.

Make Every Minute Count

Train every day as if you were competing. Make every minute of your lessons and patch sessions count. If you make a mistake when you’re running through your programme, just carry on as you would in a competition. Don’t stop and look at your coach wondering what to do next. Keep going! Otherwise if you have one tricky bit in the routine, you will keep stopping at the same place. This means the rest of the programme won’t get as much practice.

Don’t Make Excuses

Don’t make excuses or allow those Gremlins to give you reasons why things won’t go well. Once you start telling yourself ‘it probably won’t go well because… (of my injury/I haven’t practiced enough/I always do badly at this competition)” your mind will be coming up with lots of ‘proof’ as to why that is true (that’s its job). So tell it the opposite instead – ask yourself “What is going to make my programme go really well today/next week…?” and your mind will come up with all sorts of answers about what isgood about your programme. This keeps you motivated and confident and more willing to practicing the tricky stuff.

Focus on What you Want

Focus on what you want and how you want to be skating, not on what you don’t want. If you are focusing on NOT doing something (“I don’t want to fall/forget my programme/mess up my spin”/etc) then your mind will be looking for ways to make it come true. You get what you focus on!

Set SMART Goals

Set yourself a really SMART goal. Aiming to beat your personal best is a really good goal, but put a little more thought into it to make sure you can achieve it. If you want to get a better score than at your last competition, what do you need to do?  What needs to change? What do you need to polish so that you can get better GOEs? Break the goal down into bite-sized chunks and work towards it.

Tips for Mums and Dads – find out how your skater wants you to behave on the day and what they find helpful or unhelpful about what you do. Reassure them that you only want to help and see them reach their goal and ask them if there is anything they’d like your help or input on. And when they tell you… STICK TO IT!  (Take the Skater Parents’ Masterclass for a whole range of ideas on how to support them effectively).

Coaches – it might seem like your normally well-behaved skater has turned into a monster, but it is really the nerves kicking in which is making them do this. It’s quite possible that they are worried about letting YOU down, so reassure them – give them your tips and advice in a positive way – if you don’t want them to do ‘X’ then what do you want them to do instead? Tell them what you want them to do, not what you don’t want them to do. If you don’t want them to have their arms all over the place in a jump then tell them to pull in tight. If you don’t want them to drop their shoulder as they approach a jump, tell them what you want them to do instead.

So have a great skate, and remember that you have worked hard to get to this point. Skate like you do in your best practice and focus on the outcome. Today is just the icing on the cake. The hard work was getting that score so you could qualify to be here.

Parents and Coaches – just reassure your skater/s that no matter what happens, you are proud of them and praise them for the hard work and effort (not for talent!). Don’t be tempted to unpick the faults – look for what went well and focus on that. There will be plenty of time at the next training session to look at what needs improving!

Elizabeth Ryan runs Ice Cool Confidence – a coaching programme for sports people to build their mental resilience and positive attitudes.  If you’re interested in working with Elizabeth then I can highly recommend checking out her sessions here: Ice Cool Confidence

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