Bows are part of the performance. Once the show is over, a comet’s tail should be left in people's hands. ~Maya Plisetskaya
You've struck the ending pose in your program, catching your breath with as much grace as you can muster. Perhaps you're smiling because you nailed every jump and spin, or maybe you're holding back a flood of disappointment. Whether you landed a clean double axel, or lost points on an element, how you leave the ice is just as important as how you arrived.
Taking the ice with confidence and poise sets the tone for a successful skate. And no matter how your program turns out, it does not truly end until you exit the ice at the sideboards.
Rather than halfheartedly performing a gesture to acknowledge the judges and audience, curtsy with sincerity. Bows and curtsies are ways of thanking the judges for judging you and thanking the audience for supporting you. It's a moment taken not only to show gratitude, but to center yourself after your hard work. Doing so often takes less than a quarter of minute, so make those 15 seconds count:
-When you take the ice, nerves skyrocketing or not, concentrate on smooth stroking, strong placement, and clean lines as you skate to your starting point.
-Take a deep cleansing breath as you move into position and await your program music. Breathe.
-When the music ends, no matter how you skated, lend energy and strength to your ending pose.
-Skate out to the middle of the ice and give a genuine curtsy or bow. If a curtsy isn't your style, then smile and wave. Give some sort of acknowledgment to show your appreciation.
-When you exit the ice, concentrate again on smooth stroking, strong placement, and clean lines. Remember to keep your head up!
Though judges might not always see skaters perform their curtsies--especially while writing notes and figuring out where a skater should be placed in a group--they do tend to notice skaters who slink off the ice.
Keep in mind that audiences tend to give positive encouraging vibes to skaters who take the time to show their acknowledgement versus skaters who exit with an attitude that says, "I'm sorry to have taken up your time." A display of extra finesse at the conclusion of your program may convince the audience that you are happy with how you skated and that is definitely reflected back to the judges.
Know that there might be judges seated in the audience who will judge you in the future. Even if you skated a disastrous program, those judges will likely remember how gracious you were when your program ended. The poise you demonstrate may be what sticks in their minds. The manner in which you present yourself can either command the judges attention or give them a few seconds to begin thinking about their next break. So go on, leave a piece of your heart out on the ice!