In my quest to learn skating, both the culture and the skill, I picked up this little e-book, Talent is Overrated. We hear a lot about "talented" kids and such, and I'm not disagreeing that these kids are talented, but I wanted to see what was differentiating "talented" people from ordinary people like me. This book says, "Not much."
People that we percieve as Talented are really very ordinary, they just have extraordinary backgrounds, a lot of training resources, great teachers, and an amazing amount of drive. They also engage in what this book calls "Deliberate Practice."
Deliberate Practice is designed to make you better, and it's not easy and it's not always fun. You need a lot of it and you need feedback when you're doing it. Worse, you're going to be terrible at it.
But the payoff is tremendous. By continually engaging in high level skills, we make ourselves better at all the skills underneath them. In terms of Figure Skating, tackling the super challenging things makes us more confident at the more basic skills. Which isn't to say we should stop working on the Basic Skills, we shouldn't. Which brings me to the other big thing I took away from this book...
Within the concept of Deliberate Practice, there are three zones that we work in; our Comfort Zone, our Learning Zone, and our Panic Zone. We need to spend most of our practice time in the outer edge of the Learning Zone, minimal time in the Comfort Zone, and press some time in the Panic Zone. If you think of them as concentric circles, they should be continually expanding outwards as you push those boundaries farther and farther out.
I'm a person that likes to quantify, so I immediately started to divide up my given skills into what was a Comfort Zone thing versus a Learning Zone thing. My inclination was to drop FO 3's into the Comfort Zone, but I thought better of it. FO3's are a challenge at speed and when stepping out of a crossover. So they are still in the Learning Zone, but towards the center. Mohawks are also in the Learning Zone, since my Left Mohawk still has problems. So, that makes the notion of "always be perfecting your Basic Skills" much easier to take.
When I approached these skills on the ice with that Cocentric Circle idea in mind, it actually was a bit easier to approach that Left Mohawk and tackle the weak spots. When Coach Fab and I were working on More Push on Forward Crossovers, I suddenly found myself in the Panic Zone, flying at a much greater speed than I was comfortable with. He got mad when I put the brakes on, but it beat hitting the boards. So, those got moved from the Comfort Zone into the Learning Zone.
Other Panic Zone items are more clear. BI3's. Backspins. Half Loop jumps. FI3's at speed. Stag jumps. When I spent ten minutes in the Panic Zone, dealing with these things, I felt better for just having ventured into the territory. Identifying these things as "No, I can't do them but I can try," actually took some of the pressure off. And keeping all this in the back of my head kept me mindful during my practice. I wasn't thinking about my "list of things to do," but I still managed to get to everything and I felt more focused while I was doing it. What felt good, what felt off, and what I could take to Coach Fab later for feedback.
Are there naturally talented people at skating? Maybe, but I'm starting to believe that one of Skating's dirtiest little secrets is that virtually anyone can do it if they are determined enough and encouraged along the way. This little book certainly helped me see past some of the mythology that adults inherently can't skate and kids are just better by default.
Don't practice harder, practice smarter!