On Falling Down on the Ice
June 23, 2013 § 5 Comments
Nope, this post isn’t a metaphor for anything. Falling while figure skating scars casual and serious skaters alike. My ankle, my four major knee ligaments and meniscus, my hamstrings and my spine are still intact, but even though falling sucks, falling defines the sport of figure skating.
Casual Skaters & Skating, Never Getting Back Together
For the casual figure skater who only skates once or twice a year during the holidays, goshdarnit figure skating in the Olympics is so damn beautiful. There’s the sparkly tops and dresses. There’s the effortlessness that skaters have trained years and years for in order to make it all look easy. There are the triple axels, dear God (but you know, you may need Scott Hamilton to point out the jump). Every casual skater eats up Olympic figure skating with their collective spoon.
All it takes is one terribly embarrassing fall, ego bruised from people looking on and clothes wet from sitting on the ice. That’s all it takes to scar a casual skater for life and vow to never skate again. That’s it, never using those rental skates that lack any resemblance of edges ever again!
But you know who hates falling more than casual skaters?
Adult Figure Skaters
You know, the ones that can drive or use public transportation to the ice rink. The ones that can put on their own skates. The ones that pay for some, if not all of the expenses that come with skating. Adult figure skaters take some time to get productive in either freestyle or public sessions, when skaters of all skills and sizes skate recklessly around the rink.
Adult figure skaters who pick up figure skating late find out not only how rewarding, but also how taxing it is to participate in this sport.
There’s all these components to doing all your jumps right. If you set up the jump wrong, do the actual jump wrong, or land funny, chances are you’ll only have crappy fall and a gnarly bruise to show for it. If you’re scratch or sit spinning and you rock back to your heel, chances are your feet are going to slip from under you and your head violently hits the ice.
Back of my head meeting the ice? What the fu-
By falling though, you slowly start to figure out what is going wrong with your technique. Do you not have astronomical leg strength to get out of the sit spin position? Are you keeping your center of gravity from tilting over? Are you checking your arms so that your body isn’t spinning out of control? Are you looking out and not downward so your body doesn’t go tumbling down?
Maybe your arms and legs aren’t coordinated or you’re using way more upper body strength to force the rotations in the jumps or the spins? Whenever you have to force the technique to make cool things in figure skating happen, it’s not going to happen.
The falls that result in weird bruises up and down your body and/or banged up joints take a toll on your entire body, but there are some positive takeaways.
After each fall, incorrect take-off, or jump where you needed to improvise mid-air to save the jump, you come upon a lot of information to improve your existing technique.When you start critiquing your technique and tailor your jumps, spins and footwork around not making the same mistakes you made earlier, you are on your way to becoming a lean, mean, triple axel-completing machine.
That is when you start overanalyzing everything and/or convince yourself you can’t do new things in figure skating.
The lutz and axel jumps, jumps Brian Boitano can do while winning gold medals and wearing blindfolds, are the most difficult jumps in a skater’s arsenal.
There’s so much to mentally think about in terms of coordinating which edge of the skate you will be on, where your arms and legs are swinging through, where to put all your weight… So much going on that if you miss one of these tasks, you will have a difficult time controlling the jump, let alone get all the way around to complete the jump.
Have I mentioned how painful it is to fall on the ice? Well, that combined with not thinking about putting the jumps together allows a lot of doubt to creep in your mind.
It’s discouraging when things aren’t coming together for these two jumps, or figure skating in general. It then becomes pretty easy to take safety measures to not fall, even if it means not being able to complete the spin or jump. These safety measures include two-footing the landing, landing on the wrong foot, or stopping the set-up motion entirely.
All the Bad Habits Tho
Mentally freaking yourself out during hard jumps and spins in order to save yourself from perceived injury may end up hurting you in the long run.
If you don’t embrace the fact that you need to make these mistakes and fall a few times to progress in skating, you will regress. You will continue to land on the wrong foot, make the same not-helpful mistakes and allow yourself to give up. You need to trust where your arms, legs, and edges are going to go and stay committed to the jumps and spins, even if everything goes awry.
If you don’t, you’ll mentally and physically stunt your figure skating growth for a long time. Keep at figure skating and if you fall, so be it. Just don’t let the fear of falling stop you from your Olympic-level dream.