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.

Friday, January 21, 2011

- pair oddities


Pairs skating has some almost impossible demands upon modern men: throws require that the strength and size of the male partner be significantly greater than the female. But this causes severe stress during synchronized moves. It's one of the great mysteries of that particular event. Plus, more than any of the dance events, pairs end up with the greatest mismatches within the skill levels of the partners. Partly because of the rigorous demands on the male, but there is also a very subtle interplay in the mechanics of "partnering"... the hooking up, if you will.

Monday, January 10, 2011

- immersed in the coldness


As I fasten the top button on my collar to ward off the cold, I watch my daughter out on center-ice practice her sit-spin. She's been in the rink for a couple of hours by now, but I just wandered in about five minutes ago. I don't fathom how she can stand the cold; I guess it's because she is active out on the ice. As she spins and sits I think to myself "keep your hip up" and she does, then getting almost all the way down she switches the down-foot, spins for a while, and then clumsily arises while running out of torque. She skates a couple feet over to her right and then looks down at the ice to inspect the spiral marks from her skates.

I sit next to one of the skatemoms. That's what we call each other: the skatedads and the skatemoms. It's always the same folks, sitting on the enclosed boxed-bench for the hockey team or, depending on the rink, up in the stands. After a while we recognize each other by our jackets. Our kids are out on the ice in tights, a skirt, and a short sleeved blouse, while we're bundled up in a jacket while our legs and feet freeze. We backpack our skatemom accessories: a videocamera, a book to read, a laptop computer to occupy our time. We cradle cups of hot chocolate.

Usually it's just one of the parents at the rink. For some kids it's always the skatemom, and the dad is never there (this is the usual situation). I figure the dad is off at work or home watching TV. It doesn't make a lot of sense to have both of the parents there sitting around, so most of the time it's the skatemom. But a couple of us skatedads make an occasional appearance as well.

The skatemoms usually sit around the rink the whole time their kid is on the ice... they'll chat amongst themselves, or talk on their cell phone, or talk to a coach. The skatedads tend to wander around.... they'll appear for a little bit and then wander away, maybe go to a coffee shop, or go back to work for a little bit. Then they'll reappear again and observe for half an hour before they need to take their kid home.

Sometimes when I'm sitting by the ice watching my daughter, I'm really struck by how cold it is just sitting there. I'll notice it first in a general feeling of chill, and I'll zip my jacket up to the top, and then button the top collar button. After another ten minutes or so the cartilage edging my ears will begin to tingle. I'll place my hands over my ears -- a monkey in a hear-no-evil pose -- while my ears warm a little. This saves my ears from being in too much pain for another five minutes or so, but then I'll have to retreat over to the shelter of the heated Icebreaker Lounge, complete with it's video games and pre-packaged pizza.

We freeze a little so that our kids can warm their souls.


Friday, January 7, 2011

- a perfect layback


There is something sublime and special about watching my daughter in the midst of a layback. Time slows and stretches -- you are aware of the physics and yet at the same time not completely in belief that a person can stretch into that position and still maintain control while balancing muscles, torsion, and grace. There she is, moving along the ice, then a quick three-turn, and now the back is jackknifed, the hands perform air tracery, the trailing foot gradually descending, her revolutions tracing sparkles of imaginations in pinwheel fireworks.