You Gotta Learn How to Fall


Jeremy Abbott

The 2014 Winter Olympics ended two months ago, but this post was delayed by some circumstances beyond my control; let it suffice to say that I was temporarily “censored” on the subject of falling.  Now, however I think this post actually is even more meaningful for me, and I hope still relevant for you.  Thank you for joining in….please do skate along.  KA


Another Winter Olympics has come and gone with all of the

pyrotechnics, international attention (and international tension,)

competition, national pride and defeats, and personal achievements and

disappointments.  The performances were dazzling, daring and in some

cases downright dangerous.  Put a sharp blade or skinny ski on ice and

packed snow, or icy slush, at dizzying speeds and there is bound to be

calamity.  We witnessed the crashes of Andorra’s Joan Verdue Sanchez

in the Giant Slalom, Germany’s Johannes Rydzek in the Nordic Combined,

Chile’s Stephanie Joffrey and China’s Chao Wu in the Freestyle Ski

Event.  Our Americans Kelly Clark and Shawn White slammed into the

Half Pipe.  Germany’s Monique Angermueller skidded off the Speed

Skating track at 30 MPH. Each of these individuals landed and had to

pry themselves out of the snow or off the ice surface, possibly to try

again, possibly not, their dreams of Olympic metal dashed or at least delayed.



Then there were the Figure Skaters.  Our Jeremy Abbott who literally

hit the wall so hard it seemed he might have to be picked up and

carried off.  Japan’s Yusuru Hanaju, who did win the gold, hit the ice

hard in his short program. Beautiful intense young Russian Yulia

Lipniskaya fell in both of her programs slamming down from her

magnificent jumps.  Mao Asada of Japan, repeatedly fell; so sad to see

such a champion hit the ice again and again.  And our jewel box

princess perfect Gracie Gold, with a name destined for Olympic skill

and artistry, landed hard.



What is both amazing and baffling about the figure skaters unlike

their colleagues on the slopes and tracks is that they get right back

up, with grace, without missing a beat to the music, without a wince,

perhaps a nano second of disappointment flooding across their faces,

to be quickly transitioned to eyes focused with determination, perhaps

even a smile lifting their lips.  And they skate on, beautifully.

Only Jeremy Abbott crunched against the wall took a full 20 seconds to

return to his feet to glide and spin on.  Of them all only Eugeni

Plushenko, landing hard in the warm up, decided to call it quits, but

vowed that even if it took 10 more surgeries he would be back to skate



I wonder how these athletes, artists, competitors, champions, recover

so quickly.  How to rise from a clumsy and undoubtedly painful fall

onto that hard cold ice in their beautiful, somewhat skimpy, delicate

costumes.  It seems this would be difficult to bounce back from in the

privacy of one’s own home, alone on a private rink, but they have

fallen in front of literally millions of people.  Once, wearing a

dress, I slipped off an unbalanced chair at a Bat Mitzvah surrounded

by about 20 people. I was mortified.



So this makes me think about resilience.  What is it and where does it

come from?  Something fashioned into an individual’s DNA or is it

learned?  Is it practiced and practiced and practiced like a double

salchow into a triple toe loop?  Is resilience a learned confidence

that you can fall, and get back up?



I took ice skating lessons two years ago and the first thing I was

taught was how to fall.  My coach taught me a procedure similar to

this one I found on the internet:



Time Required: Practicing falling over and over again is the only way



to learn how to fall safely.



Here’s How:



Practice falling on the ice without skates on.



Next practice falling on the ice with skates on.



Practice falling on the ice from a standstill.



Practice falling on the ice while moving slowly.



Practice falling on the ice while moving a bit faster.



Practice falling on the ice over and over again.






Wear gloves or wrist guards. Knee and elbow pads will also protect a



skater from getting hurt if a fall occurs.



Don’t allow your hands and arms to swing around or to get out of



control while you skate.



Put your hands on your waist or out a bit in front of you when you



ice skate, but don’t use your hands to help break a fall.



The only way to get over the fear of falling on the ice is to fall, so



practice falling on purpose over and over again.



If you anticipate that you are about to fall, bend your knees and



squat into a dip position.



What You Need



Gloves or wrist guards



Ice skates



Warm clothing



Knee pads and elbow pads are optional



I skated on a rink at a mall with a gazillion kids skating, falling,

sliding fearlessly around and around, zipping past my carefully

calculated glides and squats.



There is a massive amount of information about resilience in books,

journal articles, and on the internet.  There is a useful brochure

called The Road to Resilience from the American Psychological

Association   I

found an article about resilience by a clinician, Michael Ungar I

actually met at a conference in Belfast, Northern Ireland.   He is the co-director of the Resilience



Michael Ungar relates the Olympic experience to the development of

resilience in children in his article Olympic Gold Medalists and

Raising Resilient Kids.

In addition to getting control over one’s thoughts, having a positive

personality and having strong social supports, he cites the following

as a major contributor to resilience:


1) The advantages of setbacks. As odd as it sounds, most of the

study’s participants said that while serendipity (being in the right

place at the right time) sometimes helped them get a chance to show

what they could do, it was life’s challenges that provided them with

the motivation to push a little harder. Without some setback, most

would not have reached their full potential. The experience of failure

brings with it opportunity: the chance to say with certainty whether

one wants to give everything one has to achieving one’s goal.

Sometimes, those personal challenges were as simple as a bad

performance or being denied a spot at a qualifying competition.  But

personal milestones also played a factor. The loss of a parent, a

divorce, a personal injury all caused these athletes to pause and

reconsider their commitment to success.


What does this tell us about raising resilient kids? Don’t shelter

them from every challenge. Let them fail! (or fall!)



And the support network:  one of the major advertisers and supporters

of the Olympics, Proctor and Gamble sponsored the “Thank you, Moms”

spots and the Family Support Center in the Olympic Village.


For teaching us that falling only makes us stronger. For giving us the

encouragement to try again. Thank you …



And what does this tell us adults who stumble, fall, sometimes totally

crash, whether in a relationship, our professions, our dreamed of

aspirations.  We can’t always foresee the event in advance enough to

squat and avoid falling.  We slip and slide and land sometimes with

painful results, damage, a massive set back.  It will certainly help

to have our loved ones and advocates on the sidelines cheering us on.

We may need to be physically or emotionally picked up.  But most

importantly we need to know that we can skate on, with confidence,

with good thoughts of ourselves and others, and then, we move on with grace.



You got to learn how to fall
Before you learn to fly
And mama, mama, it ain’t no lie
Before you learn to fly
Learn how to fall

You got to drift in the breeze
Before you set your sails
Oh, it’s an occupation where the wind prevails
Before you set your sails
Drift in the breeze

Oh, and it’s the same old story
Ever since the world began
Everybody got the runs for glory
Nobody stop and scrutinize the plan
Nobody stop and scrutinize the plan
Nobody stop and scrutinize the plan

You got to learn how to fall
Before you learn to fly
The tank towns, they tell no lies
Before you learn to fly
Learn how to fall