Advice for Handling Pressure Situations (Michelle Leigh)

World and Olympic coach Michelle Leigh shares her thoughts on how to help skaters excel under pressure. First and foremost, Michelle recommends having specific, realistic, and achievable goals that are within the skater’s control (winning a competition is almost never directly within the skater’s control). She recommends starting with career and lifetime goals, and backing up through yearly goals, and so on, all the way down to specific goals for a given jump or spin. She says, “If we’re clear on where we’re going and what track we’re on, there can always be success.” She offer an example of the mindset and process of building towards a clean skate a the biggest competition of the year.

Michelle recommends that skaters have a “keyword” or “feeling” they should recall for each jump in their program. She gives common examples of keywords which should be “one simple thing.” Michelle notes that using keywords like this can be very helpful because it tends to focus the skater (or keep the skater focused) in an extremely distracting environment. Using a good keyword does not guarantee success, but it raises the odds dramatically.

For skaters that struggle with mental distractions at competition, Michelle recommends simply going to more competitions. This is the best way to get more practice competing and staying focused. Other methods include running more simulations (even almost daily) at your home rink. She says, “Sooner or later, we learn to perform under so-called pressure.”

Michelle adds another great insight at the end of the video. She says, “Under pressure you become more of yourself. Everything gets exaggerated.” Bad habits and negative tendencies in practice are typically magnified when nervous and performing under pressure. Having appropriate keywords to mitigate these habits and tendencies is crucial to success.

In summary, Michelle says, “If you have a real good understanding of yourself and you keep things simple and you practice what you need to practice, you do your run-throughs – never, never, never stop under any circumstance in a run-through – they you’re preparing yourself for success.”


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