Today we’re talking about quitting. Yes, you read that right. One of our readers asked a great, but often uncomfortable question – should I quit skating?
We’ve all been raised a variant of the expression, “when the going gets tough – keep going.” But there is also such a thing as beating a strategic retreat. So, how do you know if you’re thinking of walking away from the sport the answer to the Clash’s iconic question Should I Stay or Should I Go?
We think a good place to start is by figuring out why quitting is appealing for you. What about skating is bringing you to a point where you feel like taking a step back is your best option?
In this week’s post we’re taking a deeper look at three scenarios where quitting may seem the best route and three scenarios where sticking it out may be the better strategy.
- You hit a plateau: Everyone arrives at a point in their training where they’re just not getting something. (Like me not being able to find the sweet spot in my spins.) The level of frustration can sometimes be intense – say for example that you’ve been working on your axel for six months and can’t seem to land it. Learning new skills is a hard process and we understand the feelings of anger and weariness that can accompany it. Is this a good reason to quit?
Verdict: Not necessarily. Counterintuitively, sometimes you need to take a break from practicing the skill that’s eluding you before returning to it. So, going with our example from earlier, if you’ve been killing yourself trying to land an axel for six months and it’s not happening. Take a break for a couple weeks and then return to it. The body can internalize skills better when attempting those skills is not hampered by frustration. Another route to bypassing a plateau is to change how you approach your problem area. If every time you try the axel on ice ends with a fall, try approaching it exclusively off-ice first. If that’s not working, focus on conditioning your muscles to jump higher to give you more clearance for rotations or work on your single leg balance to make sure you’re landing leg is solid before re-attempting the axel on ice. Don’t deprive yourself of finding creative solutions by quitting too early.
- Your heart’s not in it anymore: We’ve all been here at some point or another in our lives, when we no longer care enough to be invested. My entire eight years of piano lessons fell into this category. It’s the feeling of apathy under obligation. I have to do this, but I just don’t want to and it’s not fun anymore. Is this a good reason to quit?
Verdict: Maybe so. If lacing your skates gives you anxiety and stepping onto the ice makes you feel emotionally drained and defeated, even before you start, then it’s time to start looking more closely at your involvement in the sport. For some, there’s a sense that you’ve done everything you can, you’ve tried every which way to succeed, and you’re not progressing. Or, you’re no longer enjoying skating – it feels like a burdensome chore. Then maybe it’s time to pick a new sport, or move from competitive figure skating to a more recreational approach. Life is too short to consistently do something that makes you downright miserable.
- You’re feeling pressure from your peers: The skating community, especially in Houston, is generally quite supportive. But there will always be rivalries between skaters that can lead to some nasty exchanges. Sometimes, the atmosphere at the rink – especially in the weeks leading up to competition season – can turn stressful or even toxic as skaters reach peak intensity in their training. There is also a real pressure in the skating community to have a certain body type. These external pressures can sometimes make visiting the rink unpleasant. Is this a good reason to quit?
Verdict: Not necessarily. The truth is life, like competitive sports, is full of interactions that are less pleasant than you’d want them to be. How you choose to handle those interactions is up to you. Know that you can be a skater with any body type. You can be a skater at any skill level. Don’t give others the power to run your life. If you love the sport, nothing anybody says should deter you from getting onto the ice and skating your heart out.
- You’re injured: Being sidelined with an injury is one of the most frustrating things as an athlete. Recovery is usually a longer process than you want, and then post recovery you have to regain all the strength and skills you had before you injured yourself. Is this a good reason to quit?
Verdict: Depends on the injury. We have a skater who came back from hip surgery after a year to compete last month in a Silver Ice Dance program. The severity of your injury will determine if going back to skating is even an option for you or not. As will your drive post injury. This is a decision best made in consultation with your physician, physical therapist (if you have one) and your coach.
- Your relationship with your coach is strained: There will come a time when you and your coach don’t see eye to eye. You feel like you’re constantly butting heads with the one person who’s supposed to be in your corner, no matter what. Is this a good reason to quit?
Verdict: Not so much. The solution to this is in good, old fashioned communication skills. If your coach is taking you down a path you don’t understand, ask them! Coaches have generally been around the block a few times and have the best interests of their skaters at heart. If the problem is in how you and your coach are communicating, set up a coffee date or a time before a lesson to talk about it. Oftentimes, issues in communication come down to miscommunication or misunderstanding each other. Take some time to set the record straight. Is your relationship strained because your coach expects too much from you too fast, or because they don’t expect enough and you want to move faster? Both can be solved from talking it out and coming up with a game plan that works for the two of you. If, on the other hand, you and your coach have irreconcilable differences – or your coach is verbally or physically abusive – find another coach. Quitting the sport at this point is likely premature.
- You’re presented with an opportunity that outweighs skating: Sometimes life presents you with opportunities that you just have to take: the opportunity to act on Broadway or in a motion picture, a great new job in a different city, a chance to adopt a child, and a million and one other opportunities that are uniquely great for you. Is this a reason to quit?
Verdict: Yes. If a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity comes your way, take it. (Whether it comes to you in the form of love, family, business, or career, such an opportunity is to be seized.) The truth is – the ice will always be there for you to return to, if you so choose. So if the events or decisions in your life lead you away from figure skating, that’s OK. There are other activities you can pursue that might be more conducive to where you are in life than skating. You know what they say: Regret is caused, not by the things you did do, but the things you didn’t.
If stepping away from figure skating is the best course of action for you, be sure to quit right. Wherever you are in your skating career, finish your commitment, whether that’s skating through the next competition, testing session, finishing the semester etc. There may be others who rely on you – especially if you’ve cultivated a relationship with a coach or a synchro team. Give ample notice of the date you’re planning on quitting, so others can prepare. Planning an exit strategy is not just courteous to those around you, it is a skill you’ll need in life so might as well make leaving skating a learning opportunity. Setting a definitive, future date for leaving will also give you time to change your mind, should you wish, or to work through the issue. Sometimes things work out on their own with a little time. Sometimes they don’t. And for the times when quitting is the right decision, allowing yourself a chance to fully explore the option instead of dropping the sport immediately will give you to feel confident about your decision. It will give you peace of mind to say that at least you gave it a fair shake. And done right, will erase the pesky question, what if, from your memories of the sport.