Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Go Time: Article #1 What Makes a Champion?

From the book "Champions in Training" by Kate Howe. Copyright 1992, 1999, 2008

What Makes A Champion?

All of us who have participated in a sport we loved have at one time wondered why and how the elite got to be that way. What makes Michelle Kwan so special? How is it that she skated so flawlessly from so young an age? And Tiger Woods? And Andre Aggasi? And Tony Hawk?

Some will say that it is genetics, and a propensity to do well in athletics certainly owes something to being born long lean and fast. But not everyone at the top of his or her game is naturally genetically gifted. In fact, in my experience as a coach it is those with the most natural ability who have the hardest time cracking the top 25%.

Why is that? Aren’t Champions born and not made? Isn’t the Olympic Village peopled with those who started skating before they could walk, were born to parents of Olympic prestige themselves, and who had nothing but the best coaching staff dedicated to their every move their entire lives? Not necessarily! Sometimes yes, but mostly, No.

Who wins, then? Who gets to be a champion? Let’s look.

Imagine this: that the triangle below represents everyone in the world who likes to ice skate.

What does it take to make it into the top 5%? Lets start at the bottom of the triangle with everyone. First, you have to like to skate. Then, you’ll probably take some lessons. If you do well and still enjoy it you might start competing. If you like competing, you probably want to win. Lets be honest, even if you DON’T like competing (and you’d be surprised how many people don’t) you probably still like the idea of being a famous well loved awesome ice skater who goes to the Olympics.

Making it from the group of people who compete (the top 50% of people who skate) into the group who does well enough to start training, who have Olympic dreams, who have desire to be the best is right around where I come in.

Stepping into the top30%, joining the group of “contenders”, or people who we can seriously consider as contenders takes something special. Most of us can guess what those things are, but let’s list them so that we know that it is hard work and not magic that gets us there.

• A love of skating
• Understanding that it takes work to improve
• A desire to improve

Lets stop right there. If I love to skate. And I understand that it takes work to get better, and I have a desire to get better, then… You have to learn to love to work!

• A love of the work that will make you better
• Determination to keep working when it gets hard

Have you noticed that I haven’t yet said “A will to win?” That’s because it takes a LOT more than a desire to win to become a champion. If I had to put “Will or Desire to Win” on the triangle above, I would have to put it down at the bottom with “Takes Skating Lessons”!

• Surround yourself with people who want you to succeed
• Get a coach you trust and listen to them

This list will get you into a more elite group. The big question is… how do you get out of this group and into success? The first guess is that the people who rise to the top of this group are naturally gifted.

Let me assure you that is not the case. I have trained people with more natural talent than anyone would know what to do with. I have trained people who had to work a hundred times harder to land a jump that came in a week to a peer. Its true that you need to have an ability to skate, and enough intuition and natural athleticism to master the moves, but what makes a champion?

Lets look at another triangle for the answer:

Here is my golden rule. It takes any combination of two of the above to succeed. That means: Timing (being in the right place at the right time, or more accurately, putting yourself in the right place at the right time) and Persistence are as likely to succeed as Timing and Talent, or Talent and Persistence. Talent alone won’t get you there. Being in the right place at the right time won’t get you there alone.

The top five percent are people who have remembered that, and are smart enough to hang their hat on persistence, keeping talent and timing in mind.

Imagine that all the competitors in the top 30% (All of whom are good enough to qualify for Senior Nationals. They all have triples. They all have put in the time, they all have spent a lot of money and made a lot of sacrifices.) are in a tree, hanging on to branches.

Let’s imagine that to make it to the top 5%, to be a real champion, all you have to do is hang on to your branch when the tree gets shaken.

What shakes the tree?

• Injury
• Failure
• Depression
• Loss of belief in yourself

You have been skating all your life. You and your family have made sacrifices. The last three competitions you have placed in the bottom 5 in the field. You examine your choices and… give up? Or hang on to your branch? What can you do here? Give up and never make the top five, or…

• Talk to your coach
• Make a new strategy
• Go back to basics
• Learn to reinvent yourself
• Hang on

And crack the top 5%. In my experience, everyone in the top 30% is talented to some degree. Everyone has an almost equal chance of becoming a champion, belonging to the top 5. The difference between the groups?

The only difference is that the people in the top 5% didn’t let go of their branch. They have a cantankerous desire to improve that makes them hang on, back up, and find another maze.

Want to be in the top 5? Never let go of your branch.

Go Time: Article #2 Will O Meter

from the book "Champions in Training" by Kate Howe copyright 1992, 1999, 2008


This is a favorite torture device of mine. I mean, this is a great training tool that I use. It all started with Lactate Threshold Endurance Training for Rock Climbing. Here’s how it works:

When you rock climb, you get this awful burning feeling in your forearms. They are the tiniest little muscles that are working harder than any other muscles in your body, as you try to remember to use your BIG muscles in your legs and butt and core, and save your forearms. But human nature is to hold on and pull, and so those little guys just die. They flame out. They are on fire. You can’t close your fist anymore after a while.

That burning feeling is lactic acid building up in the muscle and impeding its ability to function. There are two things your body can do here, they can learn to tolerate it, and they can learn to shunt that lactic acid away quickly. We train these things by climbing continuously until you can’t hold on anymore. We climb to failure.

So I had this AMAZING client named Eddie Babyans. When I first got him, he climbed pretty hard, V-4/5, and he was very muscular. Like any big strong guy, he liked to pull with his hands and let his feet dangle fantastically out in the air behind him. Very exciting to watch. Not the most efficient way to climb.

I put Eddie on the traverse wall and I had him climb sideways, using all the holds he wanted to, until he started getting tired. Then I had him keep climbing. Then, I had him keep climbing. He wasn’t allowed to touch the ground, rest, shake out, just continuous movement. Standing on his feet, with good technique, he stayed and stayed and stayed on the wall. Then, I had him tell me when he felt like he was going to fall, like he only had one more move in him.

And then we started counting moves. The first time we did this, he had about 9 more moves in him, and then he fell off. But did he climb to failure? Did he climb until his fingers couldn’t close, physically couldn’t grip on the wall anymore? Or did he step off? I put him right back on and we started counting again. He had another 9 moves in him.

In climbing, boulder problems are about 7-9 moves long. So if he had nine more moves in him, he certainly could have enough for ONE more move, if he were at the crux of a problem.

Another client I had had 26 more moves in him, about the length of a sport route, or three more bouldering problems.

Lactate Threshold training is brutal. It is hard to be honest with yourself, to dig deep and give everything you have. To go totally to failure. Some people do it better than others. By our second training session, Eddie could climb all the way to failure on his own. He’d tell me, “Start Counting” and he’d only have one or two more moves in him. He had truly tapped his deepest reserve. Yet he’d hop back on and make sure. One or two more moves and fall off again. Yes, Eddie had dug as deep as there was to go.

Eddie was special, a shining example of what we wish all of our coaching clients could be, and because of this extraordinary ability to listen to his coaches and apply what they said, he climbed very hard, very quickly. He was climbing v10/12 and beat climbing sensation Chris Linder at one of our American Bouldering Series competitions.

What is it about Eddie? Why could he instinctively have access to all his reserve energy? Why could he work so hard, while others had to work hard just to get halfway there?

I have a theory about this, one I tested on Eddie and all my clients with interesting results. This is the theory of the Will-O-Meter.

Everyone has one. Imagine that your ability to dig deep, to try as hard as you can, is like climbing up a ladder. When you feel like you have reached the top of the ladder, you have nothing left to give. Now imagine that the top of the ladder is just a saran-wrap ceiling. Push through it and on the other side you will find more of YOU!

Challenge yourself to check your Will O Meter every time you think you’ve given all you can. You’ll be surprised at how much more is in you!

A great example of this is a story I love to tell about my mom. In her sixties, she decided that she wanted to come and see what it was that I did all day. She came to the climbing gym, and we put her in a harness. She got up on the wall, went about ten feet off the deck on the teaching terrain (which is slabby enough that you could actually walk up it without even using your hands) and froze.

“Okay, I understand, I think I’m ready to come down.” She called.

Unfortunately for my mom, this is what almost every adult who has never climbed before says when they get off the ground, so I have a bag full of tricks that I use to get them calm and keep them going. And yes, I was going to use all of them on my mom.

“Okay, mom, just rest there.”

“I don’t want to rest, Katheryne, I want to come down. NOW.”

Crap, she used my whole name. Tough, she still isn’t coming down. In my heart, I know she can reach the top. I start pulling out the tricks.

“I want to take your picture, wave to the camera.” She takes her death grip off the rope (did she really think she was holding herself up there with her hands?) and waves. I have her say hi to her husband on the other side, with the other hand. I point out that she is no longer holding on, and she hasn’t fallen to her death yet.

She argues back that she wants down. NOW.

I tell her she can come down when she touches the blue hold above her head. She doesn’t have to go to the top, she just has to stand on her feet, make one more move, and then zip, down she’ll come.

She scowls at me, looks up at the blue climbing hold just out of her reach, and decides to get this nonsense over. She stands on her feet, she reaches for the hold (and in doing so, goes through her saran wrap ceiling), and then decides (as I guessed she might) to just keep going. I expected another ceiling along the way, but surprisingly, she climbs very calmly to the top and then RINGS THE HECK out of the cowbell up there.

I lower her to the ground, and when her feet hit the deck, she starts crying. I think, oh, dear, I’ve broken mom. But there is a big goofy grin on her face. She’s proud of herself. This experience affected her so profoundly, that she, a woman who has never been able to swim, decided to sign up for classes at the YMCA, got red cross certified, then got SCUBA certified, then went diving with turtles in the Cayman Islands. Because all her ceilings are made of saran wrap now.

What will YOU accomplish if YOU push through?

Go Time: Challenges!

Performance in Pressure Situations
With Kate Howe

Challenge Sheet

Challenge #1: Learn what style of performer you are

USE: Clinic settings, friends and trainers to force performance situations
ANALYZE: Am I an Amper, a sleeper? A nervous nelly? A cocky bastard? Something in between?
WRITE: What your tendency is, and if it differs in different situations.

Challenge #2: Learn how people affect your performance and use them in a way that enhances it!

USE: A whole crowd of people! Friends, clinicians, the general public.
ANALYZE: How do people affect me… the day before, the night before, the morning of, an hour before, right before.
WRITE: what you wish you had from people in certain situations.

Challenge #3: Recover into Victory!

USE: Any run you bobble, any crash, alone or in clinic situations.
ANALYZE: How you feel when you mess up, what helps you get back on track.
WRITE: Words you used, what worked, what didn’t.

Go Time: Cheat Sheet from the Talk

Notes from the Performance in Pressure Situations talk.

Performance in Pressure Situations
With Kate Howe

• Rather than “I think I can” or “Oh Shit, Don’t Eat It”, perhaps a better regimen of solid performance tactics that let you feel “I know I can, this will be fun” would be helpful here!
• How do you want to feel? (calm, focused, happy, ready, excited, in charge…)
• How do you often feel? (nervous, in over my head, scared, worried, I left the iron on…)
• Things I can control (sleep, fitness, eating, training time, coaching, equipment…)
• Things I can’t control (weather, examiner, who I’m skiing against…)
• Worry Jar (write it down and drop it in, it will be there for you later)
• Pack your bag: Change of shirt: change of mood (can be change of hat, or whatever) Start Over clothes, food, overpack, ice, heat packs, tuning (diamond, gummy and know how to use!) etc. Care for yourself, honor yourself, create a home. Live out of your bag. Ipod mix: up and down, with or without friends.
• Start positive. Word of Power. Rituals. Learning your style: what am I? an amper or a sleeper? What feelings do you experience that aren’t nice? Log them. Induce the opposite. Michael: showtime. Kate, breathe.
• Words of Power: Remember, words of power are not magic words, or words that make you succeed! They are words that cue you into a place of calm command from which you will perform the best you can under the circumstances.
• Stay positive! Don’t focus on CANTs. Ie: Don’t fall. Focus on short positives, that you can hang on to. Mental Worry Jar. Find places in the run to take a win. Be wary of things you’ve used in the past: “I can do this” can sometimes means the opposite.
• Gag Your Critic: Duct tape his mouth shut. This is hard enough without people throwing baseballs at us.
• Take Your Wins: Fight your critic (he probably came back to life) good jobs, out loud, words of power and focus. Examine the mistakes after the run. Look at failure as an opportunity to shine. Be proud of yourself for overcoming adversity. WARNING: wow, I’m doing really well at this, I should try it FASTER! No, no you probably shouldn’t, if you are an amper.
• Get it BACK if you LOSE it: Easier said than done! Wins along the run help. From skating: 7 jumps triple jumps in 2 1/2 minutes. No time for regrets. Worry jar concept: POWER RECOVERY WORD: Next, this turn, now, okay, got it, etc. Failure as an opportunity to showcase talent. Everyone knows you will fall apart if you fall. What if you win instead? What if a fall or mistake doesn’t affect you until after the run?
• BE HERE NOW: (before) meditation concept, grounding concepts, aikido, taichi, (in) deep breath, loving voice, recovery word or focus word
• What makes you MOST uncomfortable? Find out and make it your favorite thing. Camera, examiner, being stared at, hot skiing buddy. Going last, going first.
• FAILURE AS A DIAGNOSTIC TOOL: sus out your weakness and drill it into strength. Your strength is your desert.
• Use your Will O Meter! What do you have left? More than you think. Look again. Ask for more. Pay ATTENTION to safety and fatigue, please.
• Define your goal. Know why you are going there
• Identify and remove impediments along the way.
• The Will to Win is the ability to play smart.
• Focus = Performance. Learn to put yourself in a place where you are truly focused on the task at hand. Medative state. Aggasi. Tiger woods.
• Utilize your support group. Weed your friend garden. (make sure your support group is supportive!)
• Bring what you have, know when its time to polish.
• Bring YOU!

Go Time: Article #4 Welcome to training with Kate

From the book "Champions in Training" by Kate Howe, copyright 1992, 1999, 2008
Here is my welcome to my figure skating clients. The same principals apply for any client I work with on performance coaching in any sport.

Champions In Training: Welcome

Welcome to training with Kate. You are now a Champion in Training. You are not a kid who likes to skate, but a person who wants to be as good as they can at the sport that they love. Think like this, and who knows how far you can go! To that end, your job as my client is to ask yourself “How does this help my skating?” every time you do anything!

For instance, how does getting your homework done, done well, and in an efficient and timely manner help your skating? School is vital to your success, and you will never stop learning, even when you move in to an Olympic training center. You will have to do the SAME amount of work to higher standards with a tutor in small groups when you live in a place like this. Doing well in school prepares you for a time when you have fewer hours and more work as you move up in the world of skating!

Then again, how does sleeping in late, skipping breakfast, leaving your skates in the cold car and not knowing where your music are help your skating? I am sure you can answer this question for yourself: you are behind, rushed, concerned, forgetful, without energy, with cold feet, a lack of motivation and ability to concentrate, and without a vital tool your coach may want to work on with you!

Your first job as a Champion In Training (CIT) is to remember my golden rule, which I learned from the incredible tennis coach, Brad Gilbert (who’se clients include Andre Aggasi, just for starts).

“Your job is to pay attention to the things that you HAVE control over, and LET GO of the things you DON’T.”

This is the foundation that my entire program is based on. Everything begins with this principal.

Lets look at this idea for a quick minute:

Do you have control over how good your opponents are? Do you have control over how many hours they get on the ice, how much money their family has to spend on their training, what age they started skating and who their coach is? No. So once you arrive at competition, and even before, it does no good to dwell on these things. Skating is a solitary sport. One of the most solitary. It is about you doing what you love, and doing it to the celebration of YOUR spirit for YOU. You are not competing AGAINST anyone, just doing the best that you can do with the skills and training that you have. In this way, it is much like the discipline of Yoga, a solitary, non-competitive pursuit that is incredibly challenging.

Lets look at what you DO have control over, and think about how those things might help you blow your competition away:

What you ate for breakfast, when you ate breakfast. For that matter, what you have been eating for the last three weeks! How much sleep you get, how consistent your schedule is, how hard you try in your lessons, how much you listen to and pay attention to your coaches. How well packed your bag is! What if you are in a strange rink and its really cold and there’s no warming room?? Aren’t you glad you ALWAYS pack hand and toe warmers, have a knit cap or an extra sweatshirt and warm-ups in your bag that you can zip on over your skates?

Part of my job as your coach is to help you discover what is in your control, and maximize those things to your benefit, so that on reckoning day all you have to do is grab your well packed bag and head off to the ice, relaxed and happy, knowing that your only job today is to skate like you skate every day of your life.

Go Time: Article #3 Whats In Your Bag?

from the book "Champions in Training" by Kate Howe copyright 1992, 1999, 2008

This article will be shortly updated for skiing, but for now, here is how we pack our skating bags to give you an idea. Live out of your bag for a few weeks before a major competition so that your bag feels like your home locker room.

What’s In My Bag?

Can you control what you have in your bag? Yes, you can!

Your bag should always be packed by you with the following items, and checked before you leave for the rink. This way, you always have peace of mind that everything you need is in your bag.

Some people may think that this is a big list, full of too much stuff. Let them say that. They can control what's in their bag. Your bag is well packed for any emergency.

For items you buy at the store and will need to replenish, like athletic tape, pre wrap, instant ice, and protein bars (etc.) buy several, and keep them in a consistent place. When you use one, restock your bag. When you put the last one from the pantry into your bag, put it on the shopping list. This way you will never run out of your re-stockable items.

Skates (preferably 2 pair, one old comfortable pair, one that is in the process of being broken in.)

Skate blades should be sharp! (See A Note About Sharpening, p.xx)

Blister Kit (yes, even though you’ve had your skates for years and they don’t give you blisters. Wouldn’t you be sad if you suddenly got one after your warm up and before your program and you couldn’t just sit down and FIX it?)
Athletic Tape
Small Dr. Scholl’s Foam Pad

Foam Cookies
Towel or shammy for drying skates thoroughly
Hard guards (for each pair)
Soft guards (for each pair)
Extra athletic tape and pre-wrap
Instant Ice
Heat Patches (therapy patches for old injuries)(small box)
Hot Hands and Hot Toes x4
Your program music (all of it)
Coaching binder
Ipod or disc player, headphones
CIT Relaxation CD
Your favorite music – an energizing mix and a relaxing, calming mix
Something recreational to read if you have to wait somewhere (something fun and non-stressful)
Warm Ups (jacket and pants that can zip over your skates)
2 pr. extra tights, or socks, which ever you wear under your skates
thermal or warm long sleeved shirt in case its really cold
mittens and a hat

water bottle full of water
a good snack (or more than one, if you will be out for more than four hours)
luna bars
cliff bars
kind bars
edamame (cold cooked, or dried)
beef jerky
cut fruit, grapes, etc.

Your favorite tea! (Always nice to have in case you need to feel cared for or warmed up. Lots of places will have hot water for you)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Marylee Peterson

Marylee Peterson has only been on skis for an hour, can you believe it?

Saturday, March 17, 2007