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.

Monday, August 17, 2015

- choice

So you've got your nerves and the butterflies in your stomach. Your skates are sharp, your hair is bunned and ribboned, your makeup is sparkly, your performance dress is ready. You do your pre-event warm up, your adrenaline is pumping, and you step out onto the ice as they announce your name. Your heart is in your throat but you breathe deeply, relax, smile, and pose.

Now: is it a competition, or is it a show? I ask this peculiar quandary at this point because, up to here, everything is the same between the two. But after this point everything is different. Why? What is it about a routine, even with the same movements for its foundation, that makes it turn out so differently if you are skating for a show rather than for a competition?


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

- codgers

After you get past the beginning group lessons and the initial years of a private coach, once you are hanging around for the off-ice ballet class or a freestyle or two, you will start to make contact with the rink's regulars.

You'll get to know the staff, the gals that work the register, the other coaches, and the folks in the skate shop. You'll start to chat superficially with the other regular skate parents. You'll even have a couple friendly words with the Zamboni driver and the rink's manager. And then after another year or so, after you are a regular at the freestyles and the local competitions (once your kid has shown serious dedication) you will finally get a chance to meet the rink's old codgers.

This most interesting part of being a skate parent may happen while you are sitting around in the heated snack bar, or while you are leaning on the boards watching the skaters. It will start with an observation perhaps, "your daughter has a nice spiral." Or a comment about your own dedication, "it's good to see a parent devoted to their kids love of a sport."

The old codgers are two generations past the young skaters and they still skate with grace and an easy jump or two. Not only are most of them former coaches, most of them had national fame when they were young competitors. They have amazing stories of both their personal history and how things used to be in figure skating. Listen, respect, and learn from the old codgers; at the rink, it is the best friendship you can cultivate.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

- scoring

IJS scoring nowadays is a big technical stew of a system but if I were the Scoring God I would have a simple (yet remarkably nuanced) score sheet . . .

Women's Score sheet:

- Grace
Feather fingers
Appropriate hand movements
Arms up and graceful
On the music
Musically expressive

- Balance
Center of gravity well managed
Smooth, no jerkiness
Steady spirals
No precession on spins

- Skill
Fluid transitions
Clean landings
Graceful choice of components
Professional friendly demeanor
Fast clickety footwork
Ice pressure command

I differ rather seriously from the general direction that the scoring system has "taken" the sport (if you subscribe to the opinion that skaters are primarily trained to please the judges), but you can read about that in another post.

Friday, July 3, 2015

- musical respect

Earlier I mentioned my preference that, almost without exception, you should skate to classical music. Once in a long while though -- for a novelty skate or a show -- select one of your favorite pop songs that exhibits a wide range of dynamics. After that though please show some respect for the composer and arranger: don't go cherry-picking out just the phrases you like.

For audience members that know the song the missing continuity is too distracting, no matter how well you edit and splice the thing. Select a continuous portion of the song -- fade in the start or fade out the end if necessary -- and skate it end to end.

But mostly, of course, stick to the classical.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

- the parent is a special coach

After recovering from her ankle injury and now back skating, it has been several months since I've had the pleasure of watching my daughter. I notice she has some technical faults -- elements that "project" incorrectly.

She comes over to chat a bit, and I pull out the video camera saying "go do some scratch spins." She nods and returns to center ice to try a few while I tape the attempts. When she skates back over I press the rewind and play to show her what is happening: she isn't holding her tummy muscles tight enough, so her rear end is sticking out while she spins.

Hmmm, she says. So she goes back out on the ice and spins a couple more while I tape again. The next few spins are much better. "Nobody every told me that before," she comments, and all I can do is nod my head.

Although I don't say it to her I think, "well yes, that is what a skatedad is for." Your coach is too busy trying to juggle her schedules and make a living, and your friends at the rink aren't going to tell you elements of style as they are competitors. So that is exactly how a skatedad drives their kid to success: by providing the appropriate positive criticism to artistic style and expression that nobody else can offer.