One of my students came to me a few months ago as a newbie skater. She could go frontwards and backwards and could do two foot spins, but she hadn't been able to figure out a one foot spin yet. The problem is, before we could get her one foot spin to work, she had to undo some unhelpful muscle memory she'd picked up in her two foot spin and teach her how to center a spin correctly. Then, we started working on the one foot spins. But still, it took about three weeks before she got the spin to last more than a couple of revolutions, and a couple of more weeks before she had enough balance and centering to turn that one foot spin into a nice, fast scratch spin.
The whole way through the process she was so frustrated with herself. She wanted the spin to be perfect now. I had to show her that even advanced skaters had to go back and tweak the basics from time to time. A truly centered scratch spin is not so easy!
When, a few weeks after getting her scratch spin she was having troubles with her sal chow, she confided, "Before I got the scratch spin, I thought that I just had to get that one thing and then everything else would get easier."
That student is not alone. Last week I had a conversation with another coach at iSkate in Luna Park, Tel Aviv about how our students deal with the frustration of learning new things. Both of us have seen students who work super hard on some element, thinking that once that can do this one thing everything else will be easy in comparison. They work and work and get so frustrated when the move doesn't come to them in a day or a week or even a month. And then suddenly, the get it. The element is mastered and they move on to the next challenge...
At which point they discover that the next element is the hardest thing ever, that everything else in skating will be easy in comparison, that this one thing is so dastardly difficult that it takes weeks of frustrating effort to conquer.
Not every element you work on in skating will drive you crazy and lead you to tears, but you can guarantee that as long as you continue to work on improving your skating skills, you will keep running into new moves that seem impossible to accomplish. Learning to trust the process is maybe the most important lesson you can get from this. As you learn more and more things -- on ice or off -- you learn more about how you learn, about what it takes for you personally to master a new idea or task. Once you know that there is a path from new idea to fully integrated skill and knowledge, you can ride out that path with more confidence and, hopefully, a bit less frustration.