Coach Alana: Managing Transitions, a Lesson in Sport
Lessons in one sport are often teachable moments that can be opportunities for growth and understanding in another. Whether you observe or have played other sports, you probably have moments you look back on and realize it makes you a better runner or even a better person today. For me (perhaps after watching too many old videos while cross training) my past figure skating career has helped shape me as an athlete, coach and person. While I was no superstar, 13 years of the sport taught me many lessons through personal experience and by observing some of the world’s best.
Figure skaters are judged in two ways. Half of their score is objectively based on the execution of their Technical ability (jumps, spins, and step sequences). The second half of a skater’s score comes from something most sports have little to no familiarity with. This Program Components score is an almost entirely subjective view of the skater’s execution, musical interpretation, skating skills and choreography. The point is that skaters must focus on the entire performance package, and they have to deal with whatever is coming their way in front of an audience and judges. Imagine if every time you let the outside world know you were suffering in a 5k, the clock added 5 extra seconds…for skating, it is not time on a clock but points that are subtracted. Thus they are taught to “bounce.”
When I was learning a jump element, it was not uncommon to fall hundreds of times before the element was mastered well enough to be put into a competition program. Even after all of that repetition, mistakes can happen. One of the most devastating things for a skater is to fall during a competition, especially early on in one of the first elements. Not only do they have to get up, they have to find the rhythm of their music, get back to their choreography, create flow (again!), but they also have several more technical elements to complete without thought of the last. They must disguise their disgust to both the judges and audience in order to make them forget about any mistake that was made. They need to withhold the integrity of their oncoming subjective score. How they “bounce” back from that fall impacts nearly every part of the bigger picture of the total performance. Not to mention the way in which a skater mentally handles themselves after a fall or even nailing a difficult element affects their entire mentality moving forward. It’s the attitude towards and execution of the smaller less spectacular moments of the performance that make the big elements show worthy.
In running terms how we bounce back from our races good or bad is highly dependent on the quality of how we transition from race to race. If races are your technical elements in a training cycle, then how you come in and out of races is your program components mark. It is variable and subjective from person to person. As a runner our program components consist of our physical and mental preparation, our recovery, and how we execute and reflect upon the work we are accomplishing. If we treated the in between moments with more care, and placed less importance on the outcome of one particular race, we give ourselves the opportunity to have an overall great training cycle and beyond.
Right now with cancelled races, limited training facilities, and a future schedule that is being amended frequently, I believe we are in for a long wait till the next big move. How are you handling yourself in these in-between moments? It is a highly subjective question, but it is up to you how you define what success looks like right now.