Competitions can be nerve wracking for skaters of all ages and levels. So, if you suffer from competition anxiety don’t worry because you are not alone. However, nothing is worse than training so hard only to go to competition and not skate your best because of competition anxiety. Therefore, I’ve created a list of ways to help you manage this stress.
1. TRAINING PLAN
It is always better to start early! I start choreographing my skater’s programs at least 5 months before their first competition. That way they have time to do a lot of run throughs. This will help with your stamina and you can also prepare for different situations. For example, sometimes my students will miss a jump combination at the beginning of their program, so they can get practice of putting the combination at the end. Also, when you have a program early, you can have a dress rehearsal where you wear your costume and hair the way you would normally do it for competition. When you do your dress rehearsal, have people watch your program that normally wouldn’t so that you can get experience with performing for crowds of people you normally don’t skate in front of.
2. DAY OF COMPETITION ROUTINE
Competition day is super hectic, so it is alway great to have a day of competition action plan. You should organize everything you need for competition day the day before. Try and do it as early in the day as possible, so you can think about things to add to your bag throughout the day. Some essential things are your costume, your CDs (always make sure to have a backup), and your makeup. On Competition day, make sure you arrive at the venue at leave an hour to an hour and a half prior to your event. This way you will have enough time to warm up, map out your routine, and have time for last minute adjustments.
One of the best ways to handle competition anxiety is through mediation. Try and find a quiet corner or go outside and focus. The best thing to do is calm your breath by breath by breathing in and out. Breath in through your nose and breath out through your mouth. The best thing to focus during this process is that you are taking time for yourself. For people who get extra nervous, aroma therapy can also be super helpful. The smell of oranges calms a lot of my skaters. Also, I have some of my skaters take Bach Rescue Pastilles Natural Stress Relief candies. They can be bought at most Whole Foods or on Amazon.
Another part of mediation is visualization. After you have calmed your breath, go inside the rink and stand by the ice. Close your eyes and run through your proofread in your head. This is especially useful for younger skaters, when you are competing at a new rink, or when the judges are on the opposite side from when you normally practice. After you visualize your program, stand up and play your music so you can walk through the steps.
5. OFF-ICE RUN THROUGHS
Drilling off-ice runs of your program is key when preparing for the competition. When you simulate wheat is going on the ice, you are building great training habits. This is also helpful because you are able to keep your muscles warm.
6. LISTENING TO MUSIC
Everyone has different personality types, so the type of pump up music between skaters will vary. Some of my skaters like to listen to smooth jazz because it calms them now. However, I have other skaters who like to listen to super upbeat music because it gives them a lot of energy. The best thing to do is figure out what works for you to put out the best performance.
7. POSITIVE AFFIRMATION
In my experience, a lot of skaters go through competition anxiety because they do not believe in themselves. Therefore, I tell my skaters to come up with 5 positive affirmations that they can tell themselves the day of competition. For example, one of my skaters says, “I love my program, I love when people watch me perform, my skating skills are gonna give me the highest points, I have the biggest double axel, I look great in my costume.” The key here is to say it enough times and with enough conviction that you believe what you are saying. I also recommend keeping your 5 positive affirmations as your home screensaver, so you can always remember them.
8. FUELING YOUR BODY
You should be fueling your body right daily, but obviously it is more important to prioritize this leading up to the competition. Even if you don’t think that you need to eat, try and get something into your system because when you get nervous, you lose your appetite. For me, the day of the competition was filled with butterflies, I got so nervous that I couldn’t swallow certain foods that were more heavy. Thus, in order to stay energized I stayed hydrated, I ate yogurts, smoothies, and string cheese, bananas, plain toast, to keep me full but also not feel too heavy.
9. DRESS REHEARSAL
Another important part when preparing for a competition is going through a dress rehearsal. I normally have my students go through a dress rehearsal a week before competition day. They put on their dress and fix their hair the way they want it done for competition day. I then make them go through a five minute warm-up routine. We normally take about this before dress rehearsal, so they know exactly what to do. I’ll tell them to stroke around the ice once or twice and then do a scratch (either forward or backward depending on their level) in the center ice. Then, I’ll have them run through all of the jumps in their program. Then, I’ll have them practice the entrance of their spins. After their 5 minute warmup, they will run through their program. Simulating competition gives them the tools to work through nerves and the anxiety before the actual competition so they can learn how to manage it better
10. PRACTICE ICE
When you compete at a new rink, it’s a good idea to order practice ice on the new surface so you get used to the new environment. I know that signing up for practice ice might mean going to competition a day early; however, it is incredibly beneficial. It helps skaters feel the ice and really understand where the judges and the audience members are before they compete. It also is an easy way to eliminate any surprises. You’d much rather figure out all the new things are the rink during practice ice rather than the 5 minute warmup.