Ice Network

Bobby's world: Handling 'different' key to success

Coach breaks down challenges he and his teams will face in 2013-14
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Bobby Martin, seen here with U.S. pairs champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, will try to convince his teams that this season is no different than any other. -courtesy of U.S. Figure Skating

Let's talk about the elephant in the room: How will we all handle the Olympic year?

This year is HUGE! The last four years of existence boils down to the next five months. It will be stressful, packed with challenges, expectations and anxiety ... or so everyone has told me.

How is this different from other years? Stress? Yup, felt that before. Challenges? Daily. High expectations? That should be the case always! Anxiety? I already have gray hairs with names of previous and current students on them. You should see my beard! (Perhaps I will grow one and post a picture.)

There will be more media, more attention from judges and officials, more questions about the Olympics, more potential distractions. People around you may behave differently; actually, they WILL behave differently. We are at Champs Camp this week and are getting a heavy dose of SOCHI (Scary Omg Craycray Help me Insanity). This is an Olympic year, after all. Didn't you know that? Gulp.

The challenge I see is not in the fact that this year will be different, because every year is different than the previous one. (I actually was not sure of this until the Red Sox finally won the World Series!) What I am faced with is getting my athletes to understand that different is the norm, that they have handled different over and over and over and, most important, that they know how to react to different. We prepare for different. We embrace different. We are better at handling different than our competitors. Different is actually a competitive advantage. Who would have thought?

A classic coachism: "The ice is the same. You will lace your skates up just like at home." Let's see just how ridiculous we can get:

  1. We will not be traveling on the Millennium Falcon and competing in the "Tatooine Trophy" against Chewbacca and Yoda. This remains a sport for humans, still breathing the air. You will still eat food.
  2. There are 52 weeks in the year. Twenty-one weeks until the U.S. championships. Twenty-seven weeks until Sochi. That is true for everyone. Some people are not fortunate to have an additional week or two. Time travelers are not allowed to compete.
  3. Caddyshack is still hilarious.

Of course this is a big year; I'll give everyone that. But there is always different. What about your first competition? First nationals? First Grand Prix? Remember when you forgot your (fill in the blank) back home and had to (fill in the blank) someone else's? Or when you ate fish in a foreign country and stayed up all night hugging a bottle of Pepto? We can handle different. We embrace it. 

All kidding aside, the magic lies in the planning and approach we choose to take. The more prepared we are, the more likely we will be able to handle the stress, distractions and challenges that this year will bring. My athletes have a fantastic team of people around them, ranging from their families, friends and training partners to the coaching staff, medical teams, judges, officials and U.S. Figure Skating personnel. The week at Champs Camp will help them greatly in preparing both physically and mentally for the unique challenges that the rest of the year will bring. We have laid the foundation over years of work and effort, disappointments, failures and successes. This really is going to be simple but not easy.

Now come over here and drink the Kool-Aid.