This blog is a collection of my thoughts and experiences from ten years as a skate dad. For those of you sitting with your jackets in the bleachers, first I salute you, but second I want to give you an honest sense of what you are in for and what to expect. Ice skating is both a trying and a glorious sport, but it doesn't happen without the special group of folks who cheer, support, and console the participants. This is dedicated to you.

Friday, September 8, 2017

- smiling


I suppose nothing is as contentious across the realm of stylistic figure skating interpretation as the management of one's facial expressions. Some skaters get coached to be expressively free wheeling, whereas others seem constipated with concern for their craft so much that they remain stone-faced.

I think there is an appropriate middle ground between being zoned out and being totally fey, and it has to come from your soul.

After all of the effort and athletics, the skating competition itself should actually be focused on relaxed entertainment. Show us your stuff, show us what you've got. Remember however you are there to distract us from our mundane daily trials and tribulations.

Don't be proud, no need to nod or smile when you nail a jump, just focus on expressing the meaning in the music behind your program.

Odd as it may seem, we didn't actually come here to see you skate -- we came here to be entertained! Be humble and gracious that we gave you and entrusted you with our hearts to hold.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

- thighs


I mentioned in another post the importance of weight resistance work for building up your shoulders and back, and situps for your stomach. But this post is mostly speculative; I rather sense that weight training for the thighs makes such a large impact on your skating that I am worried the change might throw you for too large of an adjustment.

Naturally your thighs have more to do with your jumps than any other part of your body. But due to the relative percentage of their mass to your total body weight, and the movable action of your hips, a change in the mass of your thighs can have a radical impact to your spins and axels.

Heavier more muscular thighs increase the height of your jumps, and they also lower your center of gravity, which reduces precession when you spin (hence helping you land your jumps). Heavier thighs however also decrease your torque, slowing your rate of rotation.

Adjusting to such a dynamic and varied change is a significant chore. I suppose my general recommendation would be to definitely check to get your coach's opinion first, and definitely proceed in a very measured and consistent routine so as not to overwhelm your ability to adjust your physics. I would love to hear comments from skaters about their thigh-training routine, and how it affects them.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

- packing


After the tumult of the practice, the falls, the chatting, the drama, the bruises, an advancement or two, the deep creeping exhaustion finally overcomes the skater and the practice quietly dissolves to an end.

A couple of steps on the rubberized floor padding, a final stretch or two, grab the skate guards off the boards, and plop down on the bench with a sigh. Open the bag and take out the towel, dry the blades, remove the skates, dry some more, slip on the soakers, set the skates into the bag.

Squeeze and massage the toes.

Behind you the Zamboni starts its grinding around the outer edges of the ice. Put on your tennis shoes, check that you have everything, zip up the bag, a couple more stretches, go pay the coach, chat a bit, see you next time.

The winding down is as much a part of the experience as clearing before the hockey spirits take over.

Monday, July 24, 2017

- the center


Once a young skater gets the sense of how her blades react to the ice, how her ankles transfer her intentions, once she internalizes standing and movement, her awareness gently and gradually goes to her center. It isn't long before she realizes that about seventy percent of skating consists of managing her center of gravity.

Abstract concepts of physics regarding motion, momentum, acceleration, precession, centrifugal forces, and torque suddenly clarify into a hard reality.

How a growing competitive skater envisions and manages her center of gravity reflects outwardly as the foundation of her skating style. If she wrestles the cg she appears to be unsure and unsteady. If she lugs her cg around she appears ungraceful. If she compensates for her cg's movement autonomously then she appears to be flippant. If she over-manages her cg however then she appears to be too rigid.

There is a confident and playful way to manage your center of gravity; doing so on the ice whilst the spin and the jump requires years of practice.

Friday, July 7, 2017

- thoughts on scoring


Way back in 2011 my daughter and I had a conversation about the (then) new ISU scoring. She chatted more about details at the same time that she was sounding me out for larger philosophical issues, and I was propounding a strictly performance and attitude rating, arguing that the scoring doesn't particularly matter one way or another from the perspective of souls.

We reached a bit of a middle ground where I argued that what ISU is trying to achieve is to create a certain kind of "environment", something in the best interest of the sport in the long run. I caution that we need to be careful that we don't set up false objectives: we run the risk of creating a system that coaches "coach" to, in the same manner that teachers sometimes teach skills to score highly on the SAT rather than to develop students who are most competent at learning on their own.

I also brought up the possibility of computers doing the scoring. I said that it would be unreasonable to expect a computer to rate the /artistic/ abilities of a skater, their expressions, their performance, their joy. But conceivably a sufficiently smart and environment-aware computer (visual recognition, music listening) could determine the "technical" merits of a skating program, after sufficient training.

So what do you think? Should scoring create wiry ladies who can quintuple Axel? Or should it create spellbinding performances?