Skating Fridays

Parallels Between Skating and Music Performance

flute player silhouette

Some of you may know that I was a music performance minor in college. I started playing the flute in 4th grade and continue throughout college and into adulthood (I am currently on a brief hiatus).

Music was a very demanding activity. One would spend hours in a practice room, rehearsing sections of music for either an audition, competition, performance, recital or jury. I spent so much time in the music building that the professors all thought that I was a music major.

Last fall, I got my flute overhauled by a local flute repairman. He asked me if I had ever heard of a blog called The Bulletproof Musician. Intrigued, I said no, and I made a mental note to look up the blog later.

What I found was eye-opening. The author of the blog is a violinist and gave up his career to obtain a PhD in psychology. He suffered from performance anxiety and has spent his entire career dedicated to helping other musicians.

The blog posts are very relevant to figure skating. In fact, I came across one on choking under pressure since that has been on my mind lately. Here is what he said:

…there is not just one pathway to epic fails, but two paths! 

Choking formula #1: When a task requires that we be really focused on what we’re doing (like performing from memory), but outcome pressure kicks in and we worry about screwing up instead of staying focused on the task at hand, we’re susceptible to choking.

Choking formula #2: And when a task requires that we not overthink highly automated skills that operate best outside of conscious awareness (pretty much everything we do on our instruments), but monitoring pressure swoops in, we’re prone to choking yet again.

So what are we to do?

.. the key is to focus more on musical expression (to counteract outcome pressure), and less on technical execution (to protect ourselves from monitoring pressure).

The summary of this particular post (click here to read the entire blog post) is not to think about technical execution, but rather the performance and musicality. In figure skating terms, that’s the emotion, long lines and extensions. Essentially, it’s the PCS part of our score that we should focus on. Our muscle memory will take over on the technical elements.

In short, we need to do the things our coaches tell us to do – trust your training and enjoy the moment. Simple enough, right? (sarcasm)


  1. April 5, 2019 / 6:35 pm

    Oh, I love that blog! I was looking for resources for my son but find his ideas very helpful for other pressure-filled things. I haven’t tried it out for skating, but am sure that idea about not fixating on the technical would be helpful. You’ll have to start calling yourself “the bullet-proof skater,” Eva!

    • evabakes
      April 6, 2019 / 4:10 am

      Ooh, I like that, Jo! Bullet proof skater!

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