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.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

- boots

This may seem peculiar for a participant to realize, but after watching skating for six or seven years the habits of my gaze settle directly onto your feet. I still admire your competition dress for the first 30 seconds or so, and during your program my eyes float around to graceful arm movements, a smile, a flash of rhinestones, or a spray of imagination.

But for 70% of your program (when watching in person) I am mostly interested in the interface between your blades and the ice. That is really where you express all of your suave athleticism. Hence, directly at the periphery of my focus: your boots.

For a competition I suppose you really have only two options with respect to your boots: either wear the tights down over them or keep them polished white.

Those other little boot tricks: gold blades? Boot glitter? No thanks -- frankly it's too distracting.

Yeah I know you spend a lot of effort on you hair, your dress, and your makeup. But while you're on ice the old time audience members mostly focus on your skates. It's really bad form to show off the scuffs. Polish or tights over, please.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

- pride

More than most other sports, a competitive skating program laces together a series of individual thought-through elements. A skating program comes pre-parsed, if you will: you assemble routines from a varying set of challenging molecular pieces depending upon the skills and moves that you've learned.

One might assume this make the sport easier; in reality however it presents a nefarious and pernicious booby-trap. Since skating is such a curious blend of the quantum and the continuous, a skater may falsely judge her performance (and herself) on how well she executes the individual elements. Did she cleanly land her double? Did she nail her flying camel without wobble or precession?

Danger lurks in both directions. Certainly if you vigorously practiced an element for several months only to fluff it in a competition, it may make you angry, bummed, or disappointed. This may then adversely affect the spirit you inject throughout the remainder of your program.

The true pothole however lies in the opposite direction: if you are a little shaky and uncertain but become fortunate enough to slam dunk a tough move, then you will feel proud. I can't even begin to count how many times I've watched a skater approach the climax of her routine, smashing bullseye a jump, check out with a big smile, only to then simply switch her back inside edge and trip on the ice. Pride after landing a tough jump can distract you enough from your balance that you subsequently miss a simple step.

Pride is the last thing a good skater gets rid of.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

- telegraph

I was a rather average basketball guard growing up, practicing about an hour a day or so. One of my problems was that opponents all too frequently stole my passes. Why? Well as my coach explained I needed to stop "telegraphing." It took me a while to comprehend his advice, but basically he was saying that I was thinking too loudly -- I  contemplated my pass a second or two beforehand, and the opponents scanned my thoughts and hence intercepted my pass.

In figure skating nobody is going to jump in and steal your momentum because you are concentrating on your Lutz ahead of time, but something still looks awry. I sometimes wonder if overthinking your jump reflects badly on your professionalism or distracts you from embellishments you could otherwise be performing with your arms, hands, or attitude to infuse more grace.

It seems to me that telegraphing makes the entry into your jump less natural. It's as if you are setting up your muscles to perform ahead of time rather than allowing for your muscle memory to guide you automatically on the exact moment as the time arrives.

Might it be possible to focus more on grace and less on your takeoff, or would doing so adversely affect your jump? How would you know unless you tried?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

- dedication

I suspect the amount of time a parent spends at the rink may be a regional artifact. I sense in other parts of the country it's not unusual to drop your kid off for lessons and then return three hours later after the coaching, ballet, off ice, and freestyle. In the meanwhile you can do some shopping, clean house, or whatever.

Out here though it's not uncommon for the rink to be a solid half hour drive away -- without traffic. That means a drop-off roundtrip adds another full hour of driving. Spending half of every day at the rink then becomes the more logical choice whether you like it or not.

In the Southwest a parent with a serious young skater practically lives at the rink. I have infinite respect for the parents of skaters out here: it takes a lot of dedication to commit that much time to your kid's sport.

Nowadays when I go visit a competition all the parents seem exceedingly stressed. They also express surprise that a guy would go watch a competition without a skater involved. Why would anyone ever want to spend *more* time at the rink after their kid finishes her skating career?

I smile inwardly knowing that one day they may well do the same.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

- dynamics

At a local competition a few months ago I saw a vast variety of musical selections, with the typical flavors of styles and mix of cuts. One number jumped out at me however, for all the wrong reasons. Once she was in pose her music suddenly blared with full speed and intensity and she was off, jump, combo, bing bang boom, chaining one element to the next. All was going along fine technically, but after the initial pop out of our seats the audience dissolved into a quiet funk as the music settled into more standard fare. By the end of her program we had mostly forgotten what had transpired.

You need to be careful when you clip together the musical phrases of your program: what seems to work best is either a crescendo toward the end or something bimodal (like a two hump camel). This gives you the chance to gradually work into your routine and the awareness of the audience to capture their hearts. It also seems to mesh well with the natural nervousness and flow of energy that a skater traverses in her performance. Plan your musical crescendos to match your energy dynamics.

The dynamics of your skate involve quite a bit more though than just the simple up and down mountain profile of your energy. As in dancing you can frame your movements within a flow of expressive parameters. See for example this page, which details most of the currently standard thinking.