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.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
It's a freestyle: I sit in the stands and concentrate on writing and staying "small" and inconspicuous. Freestyles are an intense combination of spunk and spiritual expression. These are the serious skaters, the ones who are working on a career. There is maybe a half dozen of them on the ice, and unlike a competition where they are careful, graceful, and showy, the freestyle is a lot of work and "pushing the envelope".
Every couple of minutes somebody falls on the ice; not seriously though, since they are all accustomed to falling. They attempt jumps that they are just working on, more spins than they would have done before, or an entrance move that they are just learning. They concentrate on their center-of-gravity and watch and control their body as gravity, forward velocity, and angular momentum pull at their limbs.
Learning is painful and is part of the process. A new attempt, the center of gravity behaving unexpectedly: a hip bounces on the ice. Up immediately again for another try with a slight shift in approach this time.
When you watch a competition you are seeing the moves that the skaters already know. When you are watching a freestyle though you are seeing the moves that they are just discovering. The difference is like that between ordering the steak tartare off of the restaurant menu versus visiting a friend for dinner where they just open the refrigerator to see what they have so they can "throw something together." In the first case you'll get a polished presentation of a tried-and-true creation, but the second case is quite a bit more interesting.
But there is more happening here -- it is that subtle act of creative destruction, the same that you might witness in an office of computer programmers or at the job site of construction workers. They are building something, they are struggling with their craft, they are moving through creative space and the rigors of the medium to reach the objective that they visualize. They are illuminating the path that leads to their own future.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Waiting for scores at a local event is different than at the National Level, where all scores are displayed real-time while waiting in the kiss-and-cry, which is painless. Well the scores may sting a bit, but at least the waiting is painless.
Below those levels however the drama is fairly intense, as you typically need to wait all the way until the end of your particular round to hear how you did. Then the scores for all of your competitors, spread across the various rounds, aren't completely available until nearly the end of the competition.
What tends to happen is that you get a bimodal wave interlude, with an upward pressure on the competitors at the end of the event (to the extent that they can remember the previous scores) and a downward slide of sadness from the early competitors as their positions erode.
There's only the slightest bit that you can say about local judging, out of courtesy for the sport. Overwhelmingly the judges are angels with the pure intent of provoking the competitors to their best performance. Judges, even the best, get bothered by their piles after sitting for eight hours. Sorry I'm joking, but only slightly.
Saturday, May 7, 2011
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 they 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.