Switch-Hit: Vocabulary Lesson and Self-Comparison

November 8, 2012 § 3 Comments

If you missed the article on why USFSA does not allow any of its male skaters to wear tights, click here.


A lot of friends received high scores on their October LSAT, receiving a surge of e-mails in their inbox from top law schools around the nation. Those e-mails offered them significant scholarships to pursue at least a JD at their campuses, adding apologies in case their virtual drool got all over their prospective applicants. How about the job front? Log on to facebook and you come upon people gone wild about their job offers. Age 25 sitting on 25 likes (thanks, Drizzy), friends acknowledge their friends and get ready to gain job experience prior to law school. Logging on to facebook is a little overwhelming these days.

High LSAT scores? Scholarship offers? Entry-level position job? Being a little bit taller? Being a baller? I want to go to there!

There, there.

What do these self-comparisons have to do with figure skating? We’ll get to that soon.


Popping figure skating jumps describes a skater who opens up early during the rotation(s) of a jump, resulting in less rotation(s) than the skater wanted. When you do a jump (say an axel), you’re rotating around to complete the jump. If the skater opens up early, FFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUU.

The phrase “popping jumps” seems stupid to be discussing when I haven’t elaborated on basic things like three-turns (going from forwards to backwards and vice versa without sacrificing the connecting moves in the performance) and edges (the sides of your skating blades in which you do jumps like the “Iron Lotus” on). At the same time, we are in the middle of qualifying competitions for the right compete in the US Nationals and subsequently, the right to go to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

WTF? High stakes, you say? I didn’t know.

At a time when skaters have waited their whole careers to represent their country in the Winter Olympics, skaters with a legitimate shot to advance cannot afford to make any mistakes. When the best skaters in the world have at least triples (1080 degrees of rotation, some Tony Hawk s**t) and all the basics are child’s play to them, now is not the time to lose mental focus and pop jumps with 2014 so close.

For skaters who have spent the majority of their lives since infancy for this moment have the ability to do some magical things on ice, things that blow minds of people who have trouble wrapping their minds and rental skates around such magical things.

Exhibit A.

There’s some irony when elite athletes have spent years to execute figure skating elements in the most important two to four minutes of their lives. Mental blocks leading to physical stumbles and judges shaking their heads. Triple jumps? The amounts of rotation that all the little skaters around the world want, from preliminary to senior skaters? These jumps are hard to execute with or without the harness, in practice. In competition, at the highest stage possible that comes once every four years? When thousands watch at the rink and millions around the world watch on TV?!?!?!?!111!!! LOL YOU!

The amount of pressure in such a situation is nuts. In a competition where little separates each elite athlete in terms of ability, mental preparation sets the skaters apart. The skater is attempting something they’ve done in practice many times. The fear of falling, considering the edges, the speed and everything adding up to an insane degree of difficulty will be there. The skater jumps, knowing their fate and not letting the jump control how the rest of their skate goes at this point in their career. They either land it, pop the jump and end it much earlier than they supposed to or they fall. Their score depends on it.


Every skater aspiring to achieve their dream of skating in a high-stakes competition wants what these Olympians have. That jump. That spin. That footwork. That flexibility. Through self-comparison between oneself and their young rival and/or college teammate, it is how some improve to be great skaters. Other skaters succumb under such pressure at a time when emotions are high and self-esteem is fragile. Self-comparisons can escalate to the point where skaters may have difficulty with body image. They may lose sight of their passion and question their identity as figure skaters, inviting doubts about whether to continue on with their skating careers.

I hope that more people can learn to appreciate the efforts of not only the elite skaters at the top, but also those of skaters at the local rink. You know skating friends who work everyday towards improving their technique, powering through fatigue, injury and/or frustration? Shower them with love and support to keep your skating friends on the right track. Your support will hopefully give that extra push for your friends to finish on their own terms, without any regrets.


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§ 3 Responses to Switch-Hit: Vocabulary Lesson and Self-Comparison

  • People definitely underestimate the mental challenges that come with having your entire childhood and figure skating career validated by how well you can do a 4-minute program, once a year at a major competition (or every four years if you’re THAT good). Thanks for posting about it!

    • jdcandidatewhofigureskates says:

      I’m realizing how much mental prep and the mental processes kick in now at the beginner level. I find your posts that break down everything from competition elements to the parts of a skate to be very insightful. Best of luck at school and keep sending out great posts!

  • jackcurtis says:

    It seems likely that few, watching kids figure skating, appreciate the difficulty of what they see. It is indeed as much if not more a mind game as it is physical. That may contribute to the fact that the average competitive figure skater is above average in intelligence. Or maybe it just means that, though above average in intelligence, they’ve been around the rink so much their brains froze…I really don’t know…

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