Pandemic Insights for Coaches Interview – Part 2 (Michelle Leigh)

In this video series, iCoachSkating founder Trevor Laak interviews World and Olympic coach Michelle Leigh regarding her thoughts and recommendations during the coronavirus lockdown. Michelle works with competitive skaters at many levels, and her ideas and approaches to a variety of issues may help many coaches during this challenging time.

Check out all the videos in this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

In this video, Michelle begins by explaining what resources are in place for her skaters. Her club offers a stretching class that has been very popular, but they have had to scale down the off-ice jump classes since there is concern about liability and required adult supervision for each skater (Skate Canada restriction). They also have guest speakers and question/answer sessions available to skaters, on topics such as psychology and nutrition.

Michelle urges everyone to be patient once we get back on the ice. Realistically, skaters will lose skills, and it will take time and effort to get them back. Those skaters trying to maintain skills while off the ice will hopefully have shorter periods of regression. Coaches and skaters will have to maintain some caution after ice becomes available, mainly to avoid injury. But hopefully injury can also be minimized if skaters are training now and maintaining their fitness and athleticism.

There is essentially no experience with this kind of wholesale shut-down for our sport. As such, we are all going through this together and trying to optimize the situation as well as possible. Michelle notes that it’s unlikely skaters will exit this situation with equivalent or improved on-ice skills, except perhaps on the mental side of skating or the physical strength and conditioning aspect. The goal is simply to minimize lost ground. She does note that she’s noticed her skaters developing more flexibility, which is an area that is easy to overlook during normal training times.

Michelle encourages her skaters to use visualization, but realistically, it is difficult for younger skaters (and older skaters with short attention spans). She also suggests mental training such as reviewing “keywords.” Mental sloppiness can rear it’s head any time, so coaches need to be aware of problems (in classes and lesson) as they come up. Most of Michelle’s skaters already have a solid foundation in off-ice jumping, which means she feels comfortable having them focus on good take-off technique off the ice, and rotate as much as possible in the air.


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