July 27, 2012

The Teachings of Figure Skating: 5 Ways Skating Made Me A Better Person

Well, I don't know about you, but skating has taught me an awful lot over the years. Believe it or not,  2 years down the line from having hung up my competitive skates, I'm still pulling on my skating as a source of inspiration and strength in other parts of my life.

When you are devoted to something so completely, as many hardcore skaters are, certain values and lifestyle choices end up rubbing off on your character, and seeping into your life in ways you never expected they would.

Here I'm going to do somewhat of a self-analysis. A look at how skating shaped the person I am today, and the lessons we can all take away from the rink. I'd be really excited to hear if and how you pull on your skating experiences and lessons in other areas of your life, so please do share if you have something to say, as this is a subject dear to my heart!

So let's look at my top 5 list of things my competitive and professional skating career taught me.

#1: Perseverance
Things not going your way? Can't seem to get it right (whether it be personal, at work, or at school)? Skating taught me to never give up. Sometimes things are hard, the going gets tough. If you don't stick it out, you'll never know what you could have made of things. So get back out there and work harder, do better, and be proud in the knowledge you gave your project 110%.

#2: Discipline
The ability to work through something you find dull or downright difficult has been massively enhanced in my character through skating. I am confident I wouldn't do half as well in my university studies as I do if I didn't come from a high-level sporting background. Thanks, skating!

#3: Indifference Towards Others' Opinions
I was going to write "team spirit" for number three, then it dawned on me that I didn't get much experience working as part of a team at all during my skating career. The only time this really occurred was during my show days. Competitive figure skating however, can be really cut-throat. As much as I'd love to say I learned to work as a team and support my competitors, I didn't. My competitors were mean to me.

"Eww, your dress is ugly."
"I'm going to beat you because you're too tall to land your jumps."
"You didn't quite have that... *sparkle* tonight..."

What I learned from all these mean-spirited confidence-bashing comments was that, well, I didn't care what others said or thought. Who's laughing now?

#4: You Can't Win Everything, All The Time (p.s. it doesn't matter!)
Skating taught me to fail. And to get over failing. Many kids and adolescents lead sheltered lives, which leaves them reeling when they come into contact with "the real world" (be it university, the work place, etc...). Skating taught me that sometimes you just won't be the best, and that it doesn't matter. If I placed badly in a competition, but had trained hard leading up to it, and gave it wally during the event, ultimately, I felt good about myself. No one likes to lose, but you can grow from it.

#5: Criticism Can Be Good
So use it to grow.
Even when I gave a good performance and was confident I did my best, I often found someone had something negative to say about it. So take negative feedback, and use it to become a better version of you. Criticism helped me to work harder on the things that stuck out in my performance. It made me a better skater. It makes me a better person to this day. Skating taught me to take criticism (I didn't say you have to like it!) and to use it to grow. Someone call you impatient? Irritable? Chances are, even if they are exaggerating out of frustration, there is a nugget of truth in there somewhere. So take the chance to transform yourself (any mean-spirited critics will loathe you all the more for it - delicious!).

Well, those were my top qualities skating has instilled in me. These are clearly very much from a skater's perspective. I'd be very interested to hear about how skating affects other roles within the rink environment: parents, coaches, skating-siblings. If you have something to share, please let me know via one of the methods below!

Until next time,
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