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.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

- sparkles

The competition today is in Anaheim at Disney Ice; it's one of the largest competitions in Southern California with five or six hundred skaters spread across five days. My daughter skates a short program in the morning and then her long program that afternoon. To avoid the locker room crazies she puts on her performance costume at home. As we get in the car before sunrise I ask the usual checks: do you have extra tights? Your music?

What with all of the preparation, coaching, skate sharpening, clothes, filming, practice tights, transportation, snacks, photos, music, ballet instruction, stretching, makeup, hair scrunchies, and performance costumes, it finally all comes together as we head down the I-5. As I drive she applies the final touches to her makeup in the passenger visor mirror. The clouds clear and the sun rises, reflecting off of the sparkles in her sequin dress, filling up the interior of the car with thousands of small moving rainbows. Deep breath.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

- between good and great

The other day I was watching my daughter do a strange kind of spin with her foot out to the side. I asked her what it was called and she replied "a broken leg sit-spin." Okay. But I told her that the arms weren't correct: they didn't look right. I was clueless on how to refine them, but I also wanted her to wait until after her ankle surgery (and recovery) before working on the maneuver's arm detailing.

She skated another half hour or so, and as I walked around the rink I realized *ping* how the arms should be. I revisualized a memory of something that I had seen a pro do some time long ago. After my daughter got off the ice and changed into her street shoes I called her into the ballet room and showed her (in private) how the arms should be: stretch over to the side, torso tilted sideways. It's meant to be a big horizontal sweeping motion. She commented "well if the arms are wrong I can always work on them separately and then change them later."

But what I realized the next day (and didn't tell her) was that, no, for some moves the aspect of the arms and body posture are integral to the move. In fact they define the effect more than the leg positions. I also realized something deeper than this though: the best skaters use all of their body parts as a means of artistic expression; they visualize what they are trying to express first and then see if they can accommodate it into the physics of skating.

My daughter is still looking at it in terms of discrete moves to accomplish: sit spin, back camel, Bielman, double Axel. But I recognize that what separates the famous skaters from those just temporarily at the top of their sport is that the famous skaters transcend the moves -- they master them, but then they move on. They incorporate the moves into their intended communication and effusion, rather than trying to imbue the individual moves with their expressions.

In other words rather than using expressions that they apply as a toolset to their moves, they instead internalize the moves and then use them as the tools of their expression.

Well, I don't even know if it's proper for me to discuss this with my daughter -- it actually has to come from her own soul. And it also has to happen after her surgery. And it's also dangerous: it creates an environment where expression can get ahead of physics and result in crashes.

So these were all of my thoughts, but I never said a word more to her about them.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

- soul service

After a long hiatus from the rink, I need to get my sea legs back under me as to the equity and clearance flow of the place. I had forgotten about most of it, but I recall it has some of the appropriate sublimates for athlete/artists who are at work. I sense however that the real soul of skating is not about the work, and it's not about the show.

I keep saying over and over and over (until I'm convinced) that skating is only about the soul, and the art and athleticism are primarily support for that soul service. But it's not about self-service either: it's about preparation for carrying the dreams and hopes of spectators... it's about fabricating a source of inspiration.

As usual my tiny little cog in the whole bailiwick is just to pin the center: to be the torque-point and wormhole to allow the artists to project themselves across their service timeliness and to alert the athletes to balance their long term fitness with their immediate training objectives. So I take the very very long view, generally concerned more with continuity.

I suppose that is part and parcel with my attachment to the sport more as a parent than as a participant. Of course I defend my kid by assuring that she takes adequate precautions and gets treated equitably. But because I view the sport as an activity and also have a much longer view of my kid's life, I also have a broader view of what she does in the context of how it helps her grow up in general.

Yet I focus on what is in the best interest of the sport more than any personal gain for my kid. If I had a million dollars (rich uncle? lotto?) to spend specifically earmarked toward ice skating, I would put it toward things that benefit the sport much more quickly than expensive and marginally effective incremental training for my kid.

Skating grace comes from helping people in a small, courteous, non-selfish manner. It comes from putting the comfort of other people above your own. It is not something manufactured through ballet class or artistic posing or muscle training or choreography. Grace is the outward expression of a pure and egoless soul. Those of us in the backstory -- parents and coaches alike -- recognize that, and create a positive space for the skaters to accomplish that service.