SUM PEOPLE BY DOUG MATTIS
We are the sum of our parts.
Simple concept. Right?
Most of us tend to agree; we have advantages and issues, good points and stuff that’s inferior, features that are attractive and stuff for which we buy a bigger size and let the fabric drape.
So why, in skating, do we tend to discount a particular performance as “bad” or even “just not good enough”?
Scott Hamilton said that Janet Lynn gave him some advice [paraphrasing]: “No one can take anything away from you. That which you’ve accomplished…is yours, forever. There is no take-away. There is only ‘add.' Everything you do is ‘gain.’ So go out there to add to what you already have.”
Any athlete will connect with this concept. Anyone who has aggressive goals and dreams that turn on specific performance moments will, as well. Nerves can be handled, but being nervous about “losing” can be debilitating. If you are scared about losing or failing, you run the risk of not performing in a way that is close to your actual abilities.
To look at a moment of risk—a critical performance—as a chance to *gain*…it’s a shift in perspective that is powerful.
We need a new definition of failure!
It will affect how we review this next jump attempt.
This day of practice.
This week of training.
And that next performance.
Because we will be seeing what we gained—and know what we have to work on so that we can gain more, next time.
A skater’s ability to evaluate themselves correctly sucks. Like, big time.
Not their fault; they’re constantly subjected to evaluations that always, always, always have a “but” included—even the greatest performances of their careers. And usually those qualifying and (mildly or greatly) humiliating moments are derived by what the rest of us think the judges “want.”
I reject that approach.
After one competition performance where I got a standing ovation and my marks were booed so loudly their reading by the announcer had to start over and over, I went up into the stands and a couple stopped me and said, “I don’t understand how 9 people at the side of the rink can tell 18,000** they’re wrong.”
[**Back in my day, skating as an organization saw critical benefit in selling tickets to big events.]
That statement has a skewed perspective; judges aren’t telling the crowd they’re wrong, they just are applying a comparative scale that doesn’t exist in the heart of one’s soul—it’s a quantifiable thing, for the most part, as it pertains to the rules of the game.
When I evaluate my skaters’ performances, I start by separating those rules from the goals which we (me and my skater) have set for that performance. I’m not a coach in Wonderland; the months preceding, I’ve had my eye on the rules and have shaped and crafted a path with them as a guiding force. But they’re not the only force. In fact, for me and my skaters, what *we* are trying to do on our terms is far more important than glibly and primarily looking at rules and how judges do their thing as our Lord and Master. Because when my skaters come off the ice, their achievement can be evaluated correctly as something they absolutely *can* do. The judges and other skaters will do what they do—that’s not in our control. So our path (me and my skaters) is consistently relevant, repeatable, and surpassable. When my skater skates close to their best and achieves what we set out for them…we look at the marks and results with interest. Perhaps using it as a guide for how we go forward and plan a path to “gain” more. When my skater doesn’t achieve things we’ve planned as goals, the results are simply not reflective of what is possible at all. Whether they’re first or last place. Our evaluation is about how to achieve, in the future, more than what just happened. It’s an instant plan. Clinical, often obvious, and circumnavigating the necessary character assassination associated with “failure.”
What happened on the ice….is the plan for going forward.
And that’s IT.
Most of you know I’ve got 1000 stories to tell—my travels, anecdotes, moments with famous skaters, moments in critical skating events…mostly humorous. Often uplifting.
I keep hearing over and over, “You gotta write a book!”
I’ve heard you—I’m compiling those stories for a book—a memoir, in part.
The working title has everything to do with this missive: “There is no bad skate.”
We are the sum of where we’ve been, the wonderful things we’ve accomplished—the moments we’ve achieved and shined and personally triumphed and (this is important) how we’ve touched those around us.
My skaters and I are Sum People.
Editors Note: Doug has a Masters Degree in business, is a coach, choreographer and a 7-time member of the U.S. International Figure Skating Team. Most importantly, he's a close friend, a father to Ina Bauer and a perpetual optimist. We met through skating and were quickly magnetised by our similar attitude and outlook; please share and send us your comments as we all seek a pinch of positivity.