Last Words to a Skater Before Competing (Michelle Leigh)

World and Olympic coach Michelle Leigh offers valuable insights for coaches on how to handle the last moments before a skater takes their starting pose at a competition. She explains that this is one of her favorite coaching moments in skating.  Above all, Michelle encourages coaches to plan what they will say well in advance, to eliminate potentially awkward or harmful messages that can happen as a result of the coach being nervous for the skater.

The final message should be consistent with your regular daily interactions, and customized for each skater. Technical advice should only consist of a limited number of “keywords” that you regularly use for a specific element or a thought for the entire performance. It is not a time for “teaching” as the skater is simply not in a position to learn in that moment. It is only a time to offer reminders.

Michelle offers a basic template for this moment: “I believe in you. You’re ready.” She often starts with, “Take a deep breath, and …”  She says, skaters “want that encouragement at the last second to feel like you’re with them. They could use a pat on the back as they leave the boards to stand alone.” The idea is to be in touch with the skater and keep your messages very simple.


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