The axel jump, also called the Axel Paulsen jump for its creator, Norwegian figure skater Axel Paulsen, is an edge jump in the sport of figure skating. It is figure skating’s oldest and most difficult jump. It is the only jump that begins with a forward takeoff, which makes it the easiest jump to identify. Wikipedia
The skating world puts a lot of emphasis on landing the axel. It’s a kind of right of passage for skaters. It is the first jump that the skater must really work to land. It can take months or even years to land just one. The skaters fall repeatedly and they fall hard. The mastery of the axel takes perseverance, girt, determination, and the ability to face your fears and conquer them. Because of these factors some skaters work on this jump on and off. This negatively impacts the timeline of landing and getting this jump consistent. Another and probably the most important factor in landing this jump and getting it consistent is the mental factor.
Mental Toughness = “Mental toughness is the ability to resist, manage and overcome doubts, worries, concerns and circumstances that prevent you from succeeding, or excelling at a task or towards an objective or a performance outcome that you set out to achieve.” http://mentaltoughness.com
As a coach, I try to help my athletes learn mental toughness. Learning the axel challenges the skaters mentally like no other skill before it. Jack J. Lesyk, Ph.D. has discovered that all successful athletes share 9 mental skills. When an athlete develops these 9 mental skills they achieve success. https://www.sportpsych.org/nine-mental-skills-overview This article perfectly illustrates what skaters need to successfully achieve this jump and many other skills and outcomes.
According to Jack J Lesyk, Ph.D.
Successful Athletes Need:
- Choose and maintain a positive attitude.
- Maintain a high level of self-motivation.
- Set high, realistic goals.
- Deal effectively with people.
- Use positive self-talk.
- Use positive mental imagery.
- Manage anxiety effectively.
- Manage their emotions effectively.
- Maintain concentration.
The axel can really challenge a skater, and can bring up emotional reactions, anxiety, and doubt. I have noticed that these mostly come up after a skater lands their axel for the first time. Because the skater’s thought is “Once I land this jump the work is over. I have accomplished my goal.” When in reality, once they land that very first axel the real work begins. This is the first time in a skaters training that landing a jump doesn’t mean they can do it every time. And this can effect their confidence. The snowball effect can set in. Once a skater’s confidence is shaken they can develop self doubt, and have a hard time with numbers 5-9 of the 9 mental skills for success.
As a coach, helping a skater shake off and conquer fear can be very difficult. I wish I was better able to guide them through the development of mental toughness and hone their mental skills for success. We as a team (skater & coach)we talk a lot about importance of postive self talk, risk vs reward, and developing grit. As hard and frustrating as the axel can be, it teaches the skater so many important life skills. If they can break down the fear wall, it can teach these kids they can do anything. It can instill the practice of goal setting, hard work, and self discipline. What I would like my skaters to understand is that the axel is not the end all be all skating skill. That there are so many other areas of skating that are important and that can also help them develop the same mental skills. And that there is success in skating with or without the jumps.
Happy skating! – Coach Leesa