top of page
  • Writer's pictureMonica Montanari

Brain Freeze: The Psychology Behind Figure Skating (Series Intro)

Note: just in case you didn't know, I am not a psychologist or doctor. None of this constitutes medical advice. You are not allowed to sue me because I taught you about sports psychology. Get a psychologist and talk to them about it.


I've always said that as a figure skating coach my job is mostly to be a psychologist, babysitter, and occasionally teach skating. As a specialist in working with small children and older adults, I get to experience the entire spectrum of human psychology- and I work with it every single day to help my skaters achieve their goals (and my goals for them).

Figure skating is such a unique sport in so many ways- and the psychology it requires is no exception.

Having the skills to do something on ice is only a tiny portion of skating. The majority is knowing (or at least thinking) that you can. Sports psychologist Aidan Moran perhaps said it best when he remarked that "sports are played by the body and won in the mind."

I use so many fundamental principles of sports psychology with my students every day. So in this post, I wanted to give you a bit of a background, perhaps some more topics to explore, and guidance for getting your brain to 'un-freeze' you and enable your skating success.

Sports Psychology in General

Sports psychology is often thought of as something reserved for the elite athletes of the world- if you aren't going to the Olympics, the thought of sports psychology probably never crossed your mind (puns completely intended. But in actuality, sports psychology is something that affects every single person who has ever learned (or even tried to learn) any sport.

The American Psychology Association is one of the world's most influential organizations- and even they admitted that people in the field of psychology still have trouble understanding what the practice of sports psychology exactly entails. In their recent paper, they finally defined sports psychology by breaking it into areas and exploring two main focuses: 'performance psychology' and its more narrowly tailored counterpart 'applied sport psychology'. They define them as follows:

"Performance psychology is the study and application of psychological principles of human performance to help people consistently perform in the upper range of their capabilities and more thoroughly enjoy the performance process.


Applied sport psychology is the study and application of psychological principles of human performance in helping athletes consistently perform in the upper range of their capabilities and more thoroughly enjoy the sport performance process."

Obviously what I see on a daily basis is a mixture of both. Some of my students are competitive and success driven, while others are just having fun- and both are great! Both performance psychology and applied sport psychology deal with many of the same issues- so let's delve a little deeper into those.

Each article in this series will touch on a different topic within the psychology of figure skating- so stay tuned and/or sign up for alerts so you see them as they're posted! Keep checking this page, as they will all be linked here.

These titles are awesome. They make this sound like the most depressing ice-capades ever.

  1. Self-Efficacy on Ice

  2. Imposter Syndrome on Ice

  3. Flow on Ice

  4. Negative Self Talk on Ice

  5. Self-Fulfilling Prophecies on Ice

  6. Performance Anxiety on Ice

  7. Maladaptive Behaviors on Ice

  8. (and more?)

If there are any other topics you'd like to see covered, send me an email! This series promises to be dense but helpful- so it'll be worth the read.


Just remember- figure skating is a sport that is so mentally involved. We all know it requires a heck of a lot more than mere skill to find success on the ice. But when you put your heart, mind, and soul into it, what you get out of this sport is so much more than just a medal.

"Winning" on ice takes on a number of forms. Sometimes just completing your entire program is a "win". Maybe your "win" is landing a jump or completing a certain number of rotations on a new spin. Maybe it's a section of clean footwork or even just getting on the ice and not completely forgetting your program (hello, my problem). Whatever your version of winning is, the joy and pride you'll feel when you accomplish it will make all the hard work- on the ice and in your head- totally worth it.

bottom of page