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, March 10, 2012

- ouch

Well as a parent you'll watch all levels of skaters with various skills; some possess a more consistently stable set of skills than others. Regardless, small unfortunate things can still happen on the ice: a blade can nick a hole that waits there in ambush, or a stray sequin can wedge into a micro crevice and patiently skulk as a tripwire.

Skaters fall on the ice all the time of course. When they are little the shorter distance to the ice and a child's mass combines to mitigate any risk. As skaters grow and mature however, a fall can become rather serious.

I was in the audience at a local competition in Burbank. We were around midway through the second day, a Sunday, and the adult ladies (silver) were skating their free skate.

An average build, 5 foot 6 brunette takes the ice, poses. The music starts and she glides with grace and experience. A split jump, some light footwork, a toe loop. Then a nice spiral with a small bit of shimmy. Now a wide spread eagle sliding back, arms graceful. Then she three turns, toe loops, approaches the audience side of the rink, Axel.

But something cocks up her landing, and she suddenly strikes the ice flat or her side like a fifty kilo sack of potatoes. The audience gasps. She gives a tight grimace, but stays absolutely motionless. Ten seconds pass. The audience is numbingly quiet. The music continues on for a few more seconds, then the booth fades the music. Another small tight grimace, still no movement.

Is she conscious? Did she break something? Another twenty seconds pass. Everyone in the rink seems frozen in a sepia photograph of shared pain, worry, and lost dreams. Something needs to happen. "Help her," somebody yells from the stands. The audience murmurs, a couple people stand. Why doesn't anybody help?

Another thirty seconds pass as she lies motionless on the ice. We see her thinking and crying inside, her whole skating dream is over. We have all just witnessed the end of a young lady's career. We are somber and concerned at the same time. Silently, many of us are praying. The passing seconds each seem like minutes. A door in the boards opens and a younger skater and a rink employee step onto the ice, the skater rushing in a beeline to the downed gal, the rink employee following reluctantly lagging behind.

The downed skater now moves, whimpers, presses herself up sideways on one arm, grimaces hard again. Her friend reaches her and whispers something in her ear, then puts her ear up next to the panting injured skater. Half the rink is crying. The rink employee reaches the downed skater, kneels and asks her some questions. He places one of her arms over his shoulder, and she lets out a small painful gasp as they stand together.

She holds one leg slightly up and glides on her other skate as the employee and her friend propel her to the boards. The audience stands, both applauding and crying. We are applauding for all the years she has skated, for her entire life. The injured skater exits the ice and sits on a bench, her mother rushing over.

The announcer calls out the next skater, a smaller blonde gal. She skates out to center ice, blinks back some tears, and poses.

1 comment:

  1. Well said indeed. No other sport is as cruel and unforgiving when the chips are down, or in this case when they happen to send you down. In this the most graceful of all sports, you fall down, you get right back up and soldier on as if nothing happened. Now consider what happens in two of the most brutal of all sports, boxing and football. A boxer goes down, he gets a full measured count to hopefully get up and continue fighting, the match frozen in time as we allow the fighter chance after chance. If the fight isn't ended and he keeps going down, the referee can mercifully call it quits for him. On the football field, a player goes down and a whistle blows to stop the play. If he can't continue, another player is sent in to carry on for him. The game stops for as long as necessary for this to happen. The skater has only herself. No teammates, no timeout, no countdown. By all means, applaud her for all the years she has skated, and applaud her for her entire life.