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, December 15, 2012
Practice ice has an interesting dynamic -- I don't mean the mental tete-a-tete between the skaters nor the telekinetics between a coach, her student, and the parent (those are also intriguing though).
The deeply intense dynamic is between a skater and her art and craft. Does she skate the physics, or does she skate the ether of the crowd? Perhaps she sways between one and the other.
A skater has a few different ways to practice stylistically. In one mode she expounds a physical tenor; although she can't see herself in real time she "feels" the moves deductively. Another method is to play to the love of her rink friends: how does this look? You see a lot of this interplay (and politics) during a practice session.
The most interesting method though plays to the ether of the program music and the love from a future audience. When you observe a skater practicing in this mode it's almost like watching somebody who has lost touch with their present world and surroundings. She is somewhere out in a world of her own imagination.
This may be somewhat more difficult to accomplish, yet the gals that can pull off this practice modality achieve a higher level of artistic expression.
Saturday, December 8, 2012
I suppose it shouldn't come as any surprise, but like any elite athlete a skater has to put up with a considerable amount of discomfort. It's not just the demands of physical exertion under the duress of awkward postures and strange forces. It's not just cold feet hours inside of those darn boots. It's not even the bumps and bruises from an unforgiving ice. Or the early practice hours, dramatic stress, or clique snubs.
The real discomfort is that skating is strangely isolational. Much like say a boxer, when you're away from your coach you are in a room with people you see all the time, but you are mostly practicing alone.
It's not a lonesome activity however. In fact quite the opposite. When you're in a classroom with fifty students you get most of your thoughts to yourself, as the constantly changing linkages scatters your love. When you're in a room with just a friend however, your love beams concentrate on each other and you become locked into mutual attention, without escape.
Skating practice is like that, and hence the discomfort. Yep, at the rink everyone knows what everyone thinks about everybody else.
Monday, December 3, 2012
How important is style really, compared to say landing your jumps? Isn't style just a fancied up veneer? Well yes and no; it depends quite a bit upon who you ask. If you invite a random person off the street into the rink to watch you skate a competition, what do you think they see?
A whir of artists, marks on the ice, costumes flitting sparkly, twirling arms, legs, pose, posture, and grace. Primarily the impression they are left with is, yes, your style.
A novice viewer doesn't much know the difference between a double and a triple, a Lutz or an Axel. Surely the other moves look interesting and distinct, but what gets transmitted and absorbed first and foremost is style. Style is the outer shell, the book cover, the inside flaps and backside testimonial that the audience scans first. For novice viewers this is all that they read.
Sure they can see if you long or short or two foot a jump, but they view this through the lens of whether you are smooth or awkward or confident or upset with your performance. So although Style may be the last thing you work on (occasionally in your freestyle) it is the first thing most non-involved audience members register.
I am curious if this perceptual difference is essentially at the heart of the present controversies over scoring. Sometimes framed as whether IJS scoring makes the sport worse by encouraging non-stylish jumpers, the issue may actually be how the ISU selected an audience: they have chosen to focus on pleasing the cognoscenti -- those inside the sport -- rather than the random non-involved viewers off the street. They have stripped off the veneer.