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 17, 2012

- watch

Sometimes I watch skating as a parent, sometimes as an audience member, and sometimes as a judge. The effect is as different as drinking tea, soda, or hot cocoa.

The tea of observation is to watch skating as a judge. This requires discipline, strict methodological routine, and intense self awareness. The simple knowledge that you must "score" a skater imposes a fabric of criticality before your eyes. You zoom in to minutiae, the very discreet, skate edges, jump rotations and checks, verticals and parallels.

You are so attuned to the performance that you don't dare drop your eyes to the score or otherwise allow your focus to stray, lest you miss an important fault. Internally you store a fast growing list of accomplishments, likes, and errors. When the skater finishes you then immediately dump your mental recording into the scoresheet. As you are in the midst of this the next skater takes the ice, waiting for you to finish. You get about a five second breather as she cues up before you renew this process all over again.

Watching as an audience member you get to savor and enjoy the expressiveness of each performance. You signal the level of your appreciation after each skate by your vigorous (or polite) applause, and chat with friends during or in-between the performances. This is the hot cocoa of watching; it is fun and relaxing. You can get up in between skaters and grab a treat or step outside to warm up a bit.

Watching as a parent however is another matter entirely. You are both courteous and curious as you observe the other competitors, but your heart is always with your daughter. Even though you can't see her you can sense her warming up off ice. When they announce her name your heart leaps into your throat. As she skates to center ice and poses, pride tickles your tongue. Your heart skips a beat with every slip of balance, and when she nails a jump you clench your fist and go "yeah."

Observing your daughter skate is the soda pop of watching: sometimes the soda goes down the wrong pipe and makes you cough, other times the fizzy bubbles shoot straight up and tickle your nose. It's never a dull moment.

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