As we at Moonrakers count down the practices until some our new skaters compete for the first time (3, in case you’re wondering) I am beginning to realize how much more there is to prepare than just their technical ability.

I’ve seen my fair share of experienced skaters that are severely affected by nerves- from underperforming, forgetting routines to being physically sick. Here’s three tips from experts far more knowledgeable than me on how to prepare mentally for competition:

Set a performance goal
I have seen so many skaters despondent and demotivated by not winning medals. In many of these cases, podium finishes were not exactly expected. Equally I’ve myself given suboptimal performances and still taken home a medal. You can really help a skater progress by defining success as something other than first place. Try to come up with a goal together during training; a goal that captures what progress for them looks like- and let the skater be the judge of whether or not they’ve achieved it on the day of the competition.

For example for the Newcomers this season, goals will include “To remember the steps to my dances and do them right” and “to stay in time on all my dances” depending on the skater, and even “to enjoy my first competition”.

The point here I guess it to try and define success more by a skaters own performance than their ranked position in the field of competitors. That way a skater can still succeed, even if they don’t win.

Try to avoid catastrophising
Sometimes reassuring with “what’s the worst that can happen?” has the opposite effect. It reminds you what you really don’t want to happen and prompts you to visualize all these terrible possible outcomes in your head. Instead, encourage skaters to picture getting the steps right, successfully completing the element they are worried about, skating off the floor smiling. Instead of imagining those negative scenarios, instead choose to imagine a positive outcome- it’s part way to achieving it. In the wise words of Henry Ford “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t –you’re right”.

Prepare physically
Get your kit ready- clean your skates, pack your dresses, have your bags in the car ready to go if you have an early morning. Having everything squared away reassures skaters and makes it less stressful for parents & families, who in turn pass on their calm vibes to the competitors. Also don’t forget how much difference a good night’s sleep makes, and try to eat for energy in the couple of days before competing.