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, October 23, 2011

- the snap point


My daughter skates one of the best programs of her career and finishes fifth (out of seven). The judging was rather inconsistent: one judge rated her 3rd, one 7th, but the rest were generally middle ranges. I take the positive tack though: that makes her an average pre-preliminary, which I consider quite an accomplishment by and of itself.

I worry that she maybe felt a bit embarrassed by her placement, although I'm much prouder of her than she realizes. She will likely suffer a bit of soul searching, but I suspect her love of the sport will see her through. It's a long road to hoe, and the only thing that really matters after all these years is that she keeps making incremental improvements. So far that seems to be her direction, so that is all I ask, really.

And that is also what creates an artist: the ability to self-critique and review your own progress in the long run.

This is a peculiar odd sticky-point for me... by all rights, even though /I/ am aware of her progress, she needs to actualize the timeline and see her path for herself. I can support her, but it is not my place to make these realizations for her.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

- breaking free


When I watch an instructor teach, she looks at the present capabilities of her student, both physically and stylistically, and then she mentally chooses a reasonable target for a near-term objective that is reachable along the pathway of what she can ultimately expect from her skater. She then proposes: do "this," or "try it this way."

The skater tends to imbue from these instructions that "this" is the "correct" way to perform a particular move, whereas the coach's intentions may actually be to introduce a physical counter-action to inhibit something the skater is misperforming.

The coach is looking for a path to final perfection. The path itself, however, is not the goal. At some point the skater has to break free of the teaching.

At some point the skater needs to mentally internalize the actual goal, the objected and desired physical, stylistic, and performance effect, and then use all of her accumulated knowledge to create her own way of accomplishing it. She needs to blaze her own path.

The skater never stops learning but after a while she does stop being a student. And after a while her coach becomes less of a teacher and more of a mentor.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

- louche


The emotional relationship of the skater with her audience is a precarious bargain. It is somewhat akin to that between a cabinet maker and the owner of a mansion. The audiences strives for class, or for at least being accepted into the higher class. They are the owners of the mansion (or at least they are paying the mortgage on the place). They lack however a certain actual substance, and are trying to obtain the essence of class by sponsoring the skating and by experiencing the patina of accomplishment vicariously.

The skaters are like the cabinet makers: they are the utility carpenters and general contractors who put in hours of hard work to lend grace and class to the mansion of a skating performance. What do the skaters receive in return? Just love.

And it is this sensitivity and craving for love alone that ultimately motivates the skaters to practice, practice, practice.