Welcome to Part 2 of this fabulous interview with Elizabeth Ryan: Mindset Skills and Mental Toughness expert for competitive figure skaters! Check out Elizabeth's website, Ice Cool Confidence, by clicking here. Her full bio can be found at the conclusion of this interview.
Elesia Ashkenazy: Have you noticed a common thread in how fears tend to develop? Are there common themes in skaters’ lives that contribute to the development of fears?
Elizabeth Ryan: Yes I do notice that age, rather than level of ability, makes a difference. Skaters who have not yet graduated from primary school (elementary school in the US) don’t tend to have the same issues with their confidence. When they start secondary school (middle or high school in the US) they become much more aware of their peers and what they perceive others may be thinking of them. Self-esteem is a big factor at this point and often there are challenges with friends at school – or even at skating – which are at the back of their minds and prevents them from performing at their best.
When I ask my skaters if they talk to themselves as they would talk to their best friend, I get a resounding no! There’s a huge pressure in teen years to ‘conform’ so stepping out and being different can be hard to do.
Elesia: Do you have a particular student with a story that has resonated deeply with you over the years?
Elizabeth: I only take a small number of students at any one time because I like to be completely immersed in their world and not be ‘mixing them up’. That way I don’t say to one, “How’s the double loop going?” only to find that it somebody else’s issue!
Each and every one skater has resonated deeply in some way. I just love to see them at the end looking so happy and having made so many positive changes.
It’s hard to pick just one story. And for reasons of confidentiality, I am unable to go into detail. There have, however, been a couple of cases where skaters were really struggling after a change of coach, where the old coach had used a lot of negative language and “reverse” psychology. They found it really hard to trust again with their new coaches and settle into a good working relationship.
Another student came to me recently with a really big block around her double axel. She couldn’t even take off for it. We worked hard to break down the thinking processes around it and replace them with something more positive. It took a little longer than I expected (by session three I was wondering if we needed to change our approach!), but then she started jumping it. And I’ve just heard that she has successfully landed it in competition, and even came in first!
Elesia: What types of students tend to get the most out of performance coaching?
Elizabeth: Those who really want to overcome their challenges and who are prepared to work hard to do something about it. I always make sure the skater wants to work with me and that it’s not just something their mum has pushed them into. If they don’t want to improve and work on their performance then whatever we do will be less effective. Skaters don’t have to have a ‘problem’ for us to solve. They can still get great results and improve quickly if they are already pretty good at what they are doing but just want to get even better.
Olympic athletes use mindset training, so we don’t just take people from ‘bad’ to good – we can go from good to great too! I have to say that thus far, girls outnumber the boys in wanting help.
Elesia: Is there anything I haven't asked that you would like to share?
Elizabeth: Sometimes skaters don’t like people to know that they are working with me. There’s still a taboo among young people about anything to do with the mind. I liken the mindset skills to a missing piece of the puzzle that makes up a champion skater, along with on-ice technique, strength and conditioning, flexibility, dance and so on. Nobody minds practicing those and making it known, but when it comes to mental toughness they sometimes feel that others will think there’s something “wrong” with them if they are working on ‘mental’ stuff. It’s really important that this taboo is dispelled because this age group above all others can really benefit from flexing the mind to keep as mentally fit as they are physically fit – and it helps them with exams and schoolwork too.
This sort of help hasn’t been available to skaters in the UK or much of Europe up to now and so I’m having to make myself very visible. I’m going through an awesome rebranding process at the moment to help with that - so your readers can sign up for my free newsletter for exciting updates as the new website emerges, which includes not-to-be missed hints and tips for skaters. I’m aiming to take skaters’ confidence to a new level!
Elesia: Thank you so much Elizabeth, it was honor to have you as a guest. I wish you all of the best in your endeavors. Always remember you've got fans over here at Skaterina! And we send our hellos to the United Kingdom.
Elizabeth: Thank you!
Bio: Elizabeth Ryan is a Mindset Skills and Mental Toughness expert providing FUN, fast and fabulous results for competitive figure skaters.
Her extensive background in dealing with crisis, chaos and conflict was based on nearly 14 years in the Diplomatic Service where she had to think on her feet in very hairy situations using a set of ‘mind-tools’ that she built up over the years which work fantastically well at beating inner Gremlins!
Now a Master Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Time Line Therapy™, Hypnosis and NLP Coaching, and professional member of the Association for NLP, she’s very good at getting the Skating Gremlins out of your head!
Her experience in the UK and Eastern Europe inspired her to create The Ice Cool Confidence Programme, helping young and adult skaters around the UK and worldwide have strong mental confidence under pressure. And the great thing is – it works for more than just skating.
Elizabeth’s monthly motivational and confidence tips are sought after by hundreds of skaters from the UK and beyond. And they work! Her students change their whole outlook on life once they’ve cracked it, and they’re positively sparkling!