There was a significant moment in my career in which I realized my own feel for the skeleton track and the pressures and the timing of it was better than any other kind of feedback. I was training for a World Cup race in Nagano, Japan and it was the first time I had ever been there. On that track, corner 10 is a spot in which the track switches from a steep downhill to moving upwards to the right so there is a lot of pressure that you have to fight against to keep yourself from getting pushed hard into the right wall at the end of the corner.
As it happened I had hit out of the corner pretty hard and my coach insisted that the reason for it was that I was making a particular steer too late. When I informed him that I had actually initiated the steer earlier than where he described, he asked me if I wanted to talk to some of the other coaches who were sitting there watching with him (he was not happy that I questioned his judgment). So I considered the possibility that he was right and adjusted my steering according to his instructions. As it turned out, I had steered where I thought I had, and his instructions to back up where I initiated the steer caused me to actually steer up when the pressure was still trying to push me up in the corner and as a result I ended up hitting the opposite wall about twice as hard because I was coming from twice the height. I didn’t injure myself seriously but I was pretty sore and beaten up for a few days, the lesson learned however was loud and clear. I made a deal with myself that I wouldn’t trust an external perspective ahead of my own from that point forward. This philosophy has served me well.
“I didn’t injure myself seriously but I was pretty sore and beaten up for a few days, the lesson learned however was loud and clear.”
As I have talked about in the previous Self-Awareness posts, I believe it is a very important part of an athlete’s development. For many reasons including being able to effectively perform a skill, to be aware of potential injuries or to know the signs of your own nerves starting to get the better of you, self-awareness is a critical aspect of success in sport. In the same way, awareness of your own values, why you compete, the lessons learned and where sport fits in to the big picture makes your experience significantly better in the sense that it’s more fulfilling and more likely to be successful.