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.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

- the cusp of boredom


I caught just a glimpse of my daughter becoming bored or perturbed with her practice. Once I understood it I drew a parallel to my math excursions from when I was her age. A person gives their heart and soul to what they find they are initially good at, only to eventually run out of steam when opposing ever tougher competitors.

Of course I love her whether she decides to pursue skating her whole life or becomes jaded.

Maybe this is what defines the long-term skaters after all: they are driven by their desire to express themselves through the performance artform. It becomes a matter of survival; it becomes their sole outlet for their creativity. I'm unsure yet whether or not my daughter possesses this trait.

Monday, July 23, 2018

- triumph


It seems natural as we are growing to attach our selves to things. It starts with a connection to our mother, then to toys and friends, then interests, workmates, and lovers. As souls follow their paths however, unfortunate worldly circumstances may cause disconnections, and hence sorrow.

We may defray this sorrow by attention to physical activity, "centering," or by shifting our attention to art or entertainment, thus joining a larger global culture.

Skating meets all of these needs: it is artistically entertaining, physically demanding, and culturally enthralling.

Is sorrow necessary to be a good skater? Otherwise you are just skating for attention, fun, peer or parental approval. When you are skating to relieve sorrow though, something else is in play.

Skating is also one of the few sports that relies on near total physical detachment. The skater uses just her mind, body, and some steel blades to excel in her sport while only attached to the world by a thin layer of water melted over ice.

Skating demands that the skater connect to a larger, longer-timelined culture. It requires intense attention to physical centering. And it constantly reattaches the skater through love to her coaches and to her audience. She does all this only because it is what physics allows.

Skating is the triumph of physics over sorrow.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

- discomfort


I suppose it shouldn't come as any surprise, but like any elite athlete a skater has to put up with a considerable amount of discomfort. It's not just the demands of physical exertion under the duress of awkward postures and strange forces. It's not just cold feet hours inside of those darn boots. It's not even the bumps and bruises from an unforgiving ice. Or the early practice hours, dramatic stress, or clique snubs.

The real discomfort is that skating is strangely isolational. Much like say a boxer, when you're away from your coach you are in a room with people you see all the time, but you are mostly practicing alone.

It's not a lonesome activity however. In fact quite the opposite. When you're in a classroom with fifty students you get most of your thoughts to yourself, as the constantly changing linkages scatters your love. When you're in a room with just a friend however, your love beams concentrate on each other and you become locked into mutual attention, without escape.

Skating practice is like that, and hence the discomfort. Yep, at the rink everyone knows what everyone thinks about everybody else.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

- styled


You realize of course that what makes a skating program stylish has a lot more to do with the mode of execution than simply what elements your program contains. In fact I'd argue that any particular element in and of itself is not more stylish than any other element: a stag jump and a Bielman are moves that can both look either amazing or crappy, depending.

Okay so perhaps a Bielman has greater *potential* for stylish embellishment. This is because if you break the move down into quantum atoms, it has more moving parts.

First you lead into it with your pre-entry spin. Then calf up, hand drop, skate grasp. Then a pull upward, other hand grasp, more upward pull while spinning. Then spinning in final posture, added embellishment, and graceful exit. So watch this video.

There you go, what did you see? Of course, a Bielman. Now watch this one.

Okay, same element really, yes? But styled very very differently. Denise has something to say with her move, her approach is deliberate and gentle, she wants to use the move as a vehicle for expression on entry, spinup, and graceful exit.

She's not just doing a Bielman.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

- atypical

A few weeks ago I invited a friend to our rink's "Showcase" event. Afterwards I recognized she might take me as quite eccentric. Of course it's not like asking somebody to Nationals, where they can expect top-flight skaters in highly manicured, exorbitantly costumed, athletic exuberance. On the other hand it's neither the faux pax of asking a friend to your kid's little league baseball game.

Yes these are local skaters, some with talent, some just getting up to speed. What's makes competitive figure skating quirky is the expense and life-consuming time commitment creates a "clique" sport, and these confines produce (especially at a local competition) a broad mix of skill levels. Even a local event might include one or two national-level skaters.

Hopefully my friend won't feel slighted by the invitation and will join me for the subsequent viewing, provided she has the time. After all it takes patience to watch a figure skating competition (even a quarter of the competition can run to half a day), but championing the boring skaters will likely be awarded by the sparkle of one or two stars.