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, June 18, 2011

- in and out

You practice your footwork. You practice your spins. You jump, jump, jump. You blend it all together with choreography and nice hands and come up with a fairly consistent program. That is most of what competitive figure skating is all about.

Out here in the stands though I only really need to watch two of the smallest "tells" that reveal whether or not you are a polished pro. They are the most overlooked minute inflections and usually the last elements to receive any detailed attention: the entry into and the exit out from your jump.

Professional entry exhibits a smooth seamless trace of your center of gravity. The jump happens as part of a continually flowing procession; it is not punctuation.

And now you are mid-air, thinking of your impending landing and check back. A pro has already perfected and no longer thinks of this, but rather flourishes the landing with graceful arms and hands. The love of artistic expressions upon landing demonstrates that you are already confident in your jump.

Easy in, flourished out. Rather than watch you barely land a triple, I'd love to see easy in, flourished out on the double that you now already know intrinsically.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

- the pep talk

My daughter was feeling frustrated because she couldn't get her spins to work correctly. She was weeping, thinking that her whole career had passed her by. I explained to her that she would need to relearn things again, that as she grew older, her body would be changing, so that skating was always about relearning and adjusting. I also explained that progress would constantly be a roller coaster up-and-down ride... don't expect that she would always improve straight uphill, increasingly better and more confident. I also explained to her that giving up certainly didn't accomplish anything.

I mentioned that there were days when I was running track when I didn't feel like doing anything, and yet I went out and ran anyway. This changed her perspective and allowed her to go back out onto the ice and practice some more.

I realized afterward that I had become the quintessential skatedad, providing emotional support and psychological guidance. They also serve who only stand and cheer.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

- packing

After the tumult of the practice, the falls, the chatting, the drama, the bruises, an advancement or two, the deep creeping exhaustion finally overcomes the skater, and the practice quietly dissolves to an end.

A couple of steps on the rubberized floor padding, a final stretch or two, grab the skate guards off the boards, and plop down on the bench with a sigh. Open the bag and take out the towel, dry the blades, remove the states, dry some more, slip on the soakers, set the skates into the bag.

Squeeze and massage the toes.

Behind you the Zamboni starts it grinding around the outer edges of the ice. Put on your tennis shoes, check that you have everything, zip up the bag, a couple more stretches, go pay the coach, chat a bit, see you next time.

The winding down is as much a part of the experience as clearing before the hockey spirits take over.