Competition preparation notes for skaters at skate school level
Arrive early prior to commencement fully dressed for the competition (ie with your skating costume on) and hair done, but without skates on, bear in mind that there will be plenty of waiting around to skate, please do not put your skates on until after the off ice warm up which will be held approximately 30 minutes prior to your on ice warm up. Bring a skipping rope for the off ice warm up. Bring warm clothing for all as there is plenty of waiting around inside the ice rink.
Make-up for girls
Some girls do wear make up for competition, this is optional but please keep it simple. Please remember that skaters are viewed 20 to 50 metres away, so fine detail in make up is lost at distance, a bit of lipstick is all that's needed.
What to eat and what not to eat
On the day of the competition please eat normal meals, avoid large meals, before leaving home or slightly earlier eat a simple snack such as a sandwich and a banana.
I have had skaters turn up for a competition who have not eaten all day and then have skated badly due to low blood sugar and lack of concentration, I have also had skaters buy a bucket of chips and eat them only minutes before they are due to skate, this also has to be avoided.
Other things not to do
Stay out of the sun for prolonged periods of time, e.g., do not go to the beach. Get a good night sleep the night before.
Avoid other sporting activities on the day of the competition, e.g., do not go on a 15km fun run on the morning of the competition.
Do not sharpen your skates less than 3 practice sessions before a competition, examine your skates 10 days before a competition to see if they will make it through until after the competition. Do not leave your skates at the rink for anyone to sharpen, take them to Mario http://mzicenpics.idx.com.au/
You only get one chance to skate your program, there is no second chance to get it right, yes hours of waiting around for minutes of skating!
Make sure you have your toilet break before or just after your off ice warm up, please do not leave it until it is nearly your time to skate.
Off ice warm up
This will be held about 30 minutes before you are due to skate, please bring a skipping rope, after the off ice warm up please put your skates on.
A note on stretching, at my recent level 2 coaches course this was discussed, the opinion from the experts is that stretching is warming down, not up. Also it is best if the muscles are warmed up before stretching. So to say it again, stretching is not a warm up. Skipping rope for 5 minutes is the best warm up in an ice rink as it is safe (no running around and tripping over or falling down stairs).
Ice warm up
This is only 3 to 6 minutes and is just time enough to do your program about 1 ½ times, as soon as you step on the ice please start your program.
Practice before skating
Some skaters arrive at the rink very early so they can skate for 30 minutes to practice there programs, the full entry price is usually payable. I do recommend it for small children who have difficulty remembering their program such as my daughter, or if you are having difficulty with some element. For senior level competition with jumps and spins this is very important to get the jumps working as the 3 to 6 minute warm up is too short, this may consist of a short practice session (20 – 30 mins) on the morning of the competition or at least several hours before the competition starts.
During your program
If you fall over please get up quickly and continue the program as if nothing has happened, if you forget your program the coach cannot tell you what is next, however this does happen frequently with pre-school children.
At the end of the competition there will be a presentation to the top 3 place getters in each division, these competitions do run very long and this could be 3 hours after commencement, the Dias will be used and this is a good photo opportunity, please take off your warm up clothes to stand on the Dias should your name be called, please leave your skating clothes on until after the presentation as this is a good photo opportunity and jeans and daggy T shirt don’t look good on the dias. If your name is not called and you do not get a place then this does not mean you have lost as all skaters who perform to the best of their ability are winners. We have no control on who enters the competition in your division and how they skate, at every competition like this I have attended on leaving there has always been children crying as they leave the rink (because they did not get a place). If you would like to avoid this then please ask me after you have skated and I will give you my best guess as to whether it is worth staying 2 hours plus to wait for the presentation, if you do not chose to stay I can collect any prizes won for you.
Because these competitions run so long, it is a good idea to bring something to sit on and warm clothing. Think also about food as the competition may run 3 hours plus, the food in the rink canteens usually consists of chips and hot dogs so a trip elsewhere may be needed.
OK this is a fancy word for day dreaming, however this cannot be under estimated as a valuable preparation tool, it has been used extensively by elite athletes for many years, it consists of a mental run through’s of your program, only perfect execution is visualized. This can be done on the day of the competition during quiet times at home, also just before you skate while you are waiting your turn. Here are some things that should be included in any visualization – 3 stone faced judges, hundreds of people in the audience (mostly parents waiting for their own child to skate), smooth clean ice, the cold air as you skate a perfect program, the music playing etc.
Watching the other skaters
Watching the other skaters in your division is not recommended, if they do badly and make a lot of mistakes then this can be contagious, it is better to stay in the club or warm up room while they are skating and do your visualization (with perfect execution in mind).
There may be skaters from other rinks/clubs in this competition, usually mostly the best skaters from other rinks attend, so be ready for a high standard from some skaters. Please do not be concerned with other skaters, if you skate you best then you are a winner.
Do not think about other skaters or be concerned about winning/places or competing against other skaters, this sport is mostly about competing against your self to achieve your best performance, we have no control over how other skaters will skate or who else enters. At the Aussie skate level (this level) it is up to the coaches to set the level that the skater enters (for example Level II/novice), however coaches from other rinks may enter skaters in this division who are qualified to skate at a higher level, perhaps even several levels higher.
The rule is that if a skater has passed a skate school/Aussie skate test of a higher level then they cannot compete at the previous lower level, for example if you passed level 3/Intermediate before the closing date, then you would not be able to skate in level 2/novice. Some skaters at other rinks do not get tested, so it is up to there coach to place them in the correct level.
Is this fair – no, but after you graduate from the Aussie skate program all skaters are properly tested by NSWISA qualified judges to ensure they are qualified to compete at level of their competence.
It is important not to have any prior expectations over places before a competition, there are various reasons for this as I will cover. 1st of all it is impossible to control “who” enters the competitions, many skaters will have more experience, for example have been skating a lot longer, they also may skate more sessions per week, have done years of ballet, jazz ballet or Gymnastics.
So there is no point in having any expectations prior to a competition, you just don’t know what will happen.
Expectations create disappointment if the desired result is not achieved, sometime these expectations contribute to a less than perfect performance because they create “Pressure” on the skater. At this level any pressure at all can diminish enjoyment, enjoyment is vital for learning, it has been scientifically proven that enjoyment enhances learning, we all knew that but now the scientific proof is available. The more a skater enjoys the sport the faster they will learn it, an example of this is Tara Lipinski who won the Winter Olympic gold medal some years ago, she skated with such joy it was just overflowing, she landed a triple loop – triple loop combo jump.
My opinion is that good improvement/progress adds to enjoyment and enjoyment adds to good improvement/progress.
So what should you aim for when entering a competition?
You should be skating against yourself to produce a personal best performance, a best ever performance is what makes us as coaches and parents happy, so it makes no difference how many other skaters enter the same division, you could be skating alone in a division and still be trying for a personal best. Some skaters skate mostly for the audience to entertain, some skaters skate for the judges, or a mix of both, you have to chose what is right for you.
How often to skate
So what is the optimum number of sessions to skate at this level – let’s start with once a week, at this number it is two steps forward 1 step back, twice a week is twice as good as once a week, 3 times a week is 2 ½ times as once a week, and therefore it is a diminishing return. Elite skaters at say Junior or senior level skate at least every day during the week, with an extra session say 2 or 3 times a week, making a total of 8 sessions a week of 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours each. So the higher you get the more often you need to skate.
May occur on our children without our noticing it, for example if family members talk about lofty goals, ie championships, Olympics, winning etc. It then creates pressure on the skaters to perform perfectly. Michelle Kwan has entered and competed in the Winter Olympics twice already, although she has won the world championships many times she has not taken the Olympic gold medal yet, the American public have such high expectations for her and she is constantly asked about her gold medal prospects before the competition. The result is disappointment when she does not win. Perhaps a self fulfilling prophesy.
The advantages of competitions are many, they include added motivation to train hard, skate extra sessions and strive to perfect many skating elements.
This attention to detail and striving for perfection is a valuable life skill that can be applied to many other things during a lifetime – school – work and play.
The fact that this is a beginners competition does not mean it has to be taken any less seriously as far as preparation as a senior level competition, proper competition preparation needs to become a habit.