Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Competitive Performance and “Again”: Why You Should Thank Your Coach

“Again”…. By this point in the season we’ve all heard it countless times and we will all continue to hear it. As I have been home for the holidays I’ve been happy to get to visit my old teams, and the theme is always the same. At Precisely Right practice I watched John and Suzanne say it all the time, “Ok again..” At Skyliners, I listened to the same from Josh and Jenny, “Again” and of course when I’m at school Carla is always saying it, “Again." So… why is “Again” such a popular coach battle cry? The obvious answer is that by doing it another time, we have a chance to improve upon the last time we did it. But is there more to it than that? Turns out there is.
Visiting Precisely Right Practice

Being the nerdy psychology major I am, I tend to think a lot about why we do things and how the way we train prepares us for competition. In one of my classes this semester we read about Bargh & Chartrand’s idea of Intentional Acquisition of Automaticity (1999), which basically states that the more we practice a task, the more muscle memory associations are created, and the less we have to think about it, freeing up our mind to consciously think about other things. In a competitive context, having a mind that can be “free” to engage in thought can be beneficial. For me, I concentrate on selling the program to the audience and just enjoying the time on the ice. My mind is usually quiet. I do not have to think about the steps of the program because they are automatic from all the “Agains” at practice. This gives me the freedom to truly enjoy the skate and not have my inner voice screaming the steps, counts or reminders at me. I can truly take in the experience of the performance. If the program is not automatic and requires conscious thought, in theory, there would likely be no “room” for our thoughts to be about enjoying the skate when we are so worried about the steps. By doing things again and again it is not just so we can do it better the next time. Repeated action makes it so programs become automatic for competition and gives our minds the freedom to appreciate the moments we all work so hard for.

On competition day it seems that a quiet mind is best for allowing the elements we trained in practice to show. Thinking about the steps when you are out there competing is not your best bet. In a study I read, experienced soccer players dribbled the ball better when they listened to and reported when they heard a noise compared to just dribbling the ball without a task that distracted their conscious mind (Beilock et al., 2002). The point is that those who were not thinking about dribbling the ball performed better than those who were (Ironic
Parent's Weekend Exhibition
right?). This makes sense though. At our parents weekend exhibition I distinctly remember trying to coach myself through a triple twizzle and I put my foot down… Thinking too hard about what I was doing made me mess up. Ironically if my mind had not been thinking about that twizzle I probably would have hit it just fine. At Dr. Porter, I had a quiet mindset like the one I described earlier and I hit everything I needed to. My skating didn’t really change, but my thoughts did. In many respects the Nike slogan “Just do it.” is my favorite. To me it means, stop trying so hard and thinking about it. Just enjoy the moment and let yourself skate.

So as we all approach the height of competition season, I think we need to thank our coaches for saying “Again” (As tired as we may get…) because in the end, it will make our competitive experience more enjoyable. We need to think during practice, but over thinking in competition doesn’t seem to be the way to go. I look forward to seeing you all cherishing those moments on the ice! See you at Colonials!


Bargh J.A. , & Chartrand T.L. (1999) The unbearable automaticity of being. American Psychologist, 54, 462-469

Beilock, S.L., Carr, T. H., MacMahon, C., & Starkes, J.L. (2002) When paying attention becomes counterproductive: Impact of divided versus skill-focused attention on novice and experienced performance of sensorimotor skills. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 8, 6-16.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Holidays: From An Athlete’s Perspective

The holiday season can be such a busy time of year for everybody, and for an athlete like me that is an understatement.  With practices, competitions, exhibitions, finals, and everything in between, the past few weeks leading up to the holidays have been quite eventful!  But, even though we all get wrapped up with the things we need to do, it is important not to forget all incredible opportunities and people that make our lives so special.

For me, being away from home at college, I could not be more thankful for my teammates who have become my family.  Every single Haydenette truly is my sister and the bond we share as one unit is unbreakable.  Around this time of year we become even closer than we already are thanks to several different traditions and special events.

In late November, a special tradition for us is the Haydenette Thanksgiving.  This year, Eliana Marostica’s (also a DREAM skater and Haydenette) family invited us to their house for a delicious Thanksgiving feast.  We always enjoy taking the time expressing at the dinner table all that we are thankful for and hearing special messages from our parents via email. 

In early December, we were honored to participate in the Bryant Park Tree Lighting in NYC.  Our quick day trip to New York went by in a flash but was filled with laughs, smiles, and great skating as we helped bring the holiday spirit to the crowd. 
We competed in our second competition of the season, the Cape Cod Classic, in mid-December.  This was a great experience for us, as we were able to put out our two programs for the new season and gain great feedback from the judges.  This was also a fun competition as we stayed right on the beautiful beach of Cape Cod, and got to enjoy amazing home-cooked food from two Haydenette moms at the Albert Family home on the Cape!
Before we take a weeklong break from practices for Christmas, we skated in our club’s annual Holiday Show.  Here, it was fun to see all the younger skaters who look up to us and aspire to be like us some day, and it reminded me of the journey that I have taken to be where I am today.

All of these experiences, plus the hard working practices in between, make being an athlete around the holidays that much more special that they already are.  I am so lucky for my team who has become my family and our coaches and team managers who do so much for us.  Lastly, I am incredibly grateful for my family and friends at home who I get to spend time with this time of year, even if it is only for a couple of days.  I wish everyone a happy holiday and new year and encourage all of you to think about all the things in your life that you are thankful for!

Happy Holidays!

Ashley Tomich