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What is the Missing Piece that Causes Some Skaters to be Unprepared?

Recently, long-time colleague and elite coach, Cindy Caprel and I were exploring some of the reasons for the successes we have had on the National, International, World Junior, and Senior stages over the years. Our collaboration formula was simple. And it is the same one I have used over the years to develop National Champions in singles, pairs, and dance. They are listed at the bottom of this page on my website.

The number one strategy we used was to create the choreography early in the new spring season. The next step was to have the technical coach codify solid techniques to insure consistency for each skater. The final strategy was to begin full run-throughs of both the short and long programs beginning in May, at the latest, and continue them daily all the way into the competitive summer competitions and fall qualifying events.

After watching a number of seemingly unprepared skaters at our competitions this past summer, I found myself wondering how the judges felt to be sitting through these events with these unprepared skaters.

Cindy and I were discussing a strategy some coaches use. This approach allows their skaters time to settle into their new program before becoming successful in executing the technical elements within the choreography.

When working with iconic coaches like John Nicks, Frank Carroll, Peter Burroughs, Cindy Caprel, and Megan Faulkner, we all understand the importance of laying down a solid package every time their skaters stepped out at competition. Constantly changing a program on a daily or weekly basis when a jump doesn’t land creates doubt and insecurity in the skater. This can eat away at the skater’s confidence intimating that they have not mastered a specific skill. Successful element technique on the part of a skater requires consistency in their program run-throughs with nominal changes to their program once it is set.

I began thinking about different preparation strategies when I was presenting at a Seasons of Skating Seminar in Wisconsin. One of the coaches asked me how I knew Ashley Wagner was going to skate clean or make no more than one mistake at Nationals. I shared with the coaches in attendance that Ashley was an exceptional athlete who was compliant when it came to training. She had 75 clean longs on her log from August to January! That includes executing every jump, spin, and all of the choreography in her program. Please note that nothing changed in her programs during those four months except that we added a triple-triple rather than a triple-double. That’s it!

I reminded the attendees at that seminar that they are so competent as coaches and now they needed to trust their ability by relinquishing the power to the skater when they step out to skate. I added that the athletes are, after all, the CEO of their performance and that we are just there as support staff.

The session is over and the Zamboni is coming out.

Auf Wiedersehen

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