What builds confidence? Good question. Can you fool your amygdala? Probably not.
My apologies – I was away teaching in the Pyrenees until the end of third week January, and have been catching up ever since (it's a slow process nowadays, catching up!)
I had an interesting learning experience while there. A pupil who has been with me on numerous occasions came back for help with his psychology rather than his technique. He needed, he said, to have more confidence because he was getting left behind by family members, and felt he was holding them up and limiting their holiday experience.
So the question immediately became - “what builds confidence?”
We could have started with thought experiments, or “yeeha” shouting games, or my exhorting him to “Be Confident!” These sorts of things are often recommended, but they're phoney. They are like gangs of youths shouting at the moon to hide their anxieties. Better, to examine the causes of the anxiety than to paper over them.
And in the case of skiing the cause of most anxieties if not indeed all of them, is a suspicion in us that we may not have the level of skill we need, in those techniques that may be required in the circumstances we anticipate we may meet. This is not reprehensible cowardice, this is properly called wisdom!
I won't go into all the things we did, but suffice to say that we spent what many folk would consider an unconscionable amount of time on, would you believe, green slopes and gentle blue ones! This I might add in preparation for his expected family-led black runs! This is what builds confidence.
We started the week very gently, not with a bang. This is something else I've discovered over the years; it's much more successful to have a “graph” for the week that starts low and exponentially rises to a crescendo, than start too hard and over-enthusiastically with a subsequent exhaustion-filled collapse part way through.
The outcome was an entire success. Repeated practices of the appropriate “movements in motion” (with a bow of acknowledgement to John Shedden) led to their becoming embedded and more automatic to the point where by the fourth day my pupil was skiing faster than I care to ski, and not even hesitating, never mind slowing down, when he came to seriously steep (and narrow) red and black pitches.
Here is the learning I made
The reason for this is that this postural element is alien to how we stand and perambulate for the whole of the rest of the year. This means that it is not a habit of ours. Which in turn means that it is very difficult to know when we do have our back leaning forward sufficiently, and when we only think we have. Repeatedly, he felt he was doing it (it's very important on black runs!), when in fact he wasn't.
This is where my “bedroom mirror” games come in. It's why they are well worth spending some of your time on if you really want to improve your skiing and become more justifiably confident. As I continuously exhort – you need to know when you have an appropriate posture, and what it feels like.
You can't see yourself when you're skiing – you must feel it.
The best way by far that I have been able to develop for obtaining this knowledge of our posture is by playing my daily – or at least for a few minutes a week! - bedroom mirror games.
My pupil admitted he had intended to do them, but he's a busy man and hadn't. Some time spent doing it in the hotel helped him catch up a bit. And it worked. More practice with it might worked even better: who knows? This is not a criticism, merely an observation. We can choose to do things – or not.
My happy outcome was his feedback that we had achieved in that week, exactly what he had hoped we would achieve.
That's All for now
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