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.

Monday, June 25, 2012

- fantasy

If five hours of watching an Open skating competition has numbed my brain, sometimes I will drift off to a fantasy of my own routine: the program that I would skate (if I were capable of skating). Being an older man the performance would be more dapper and stylish, yet oozing with class and supreme athletics.

I stretch a bit from the sidewall as my program's music starts, something with a haunting jazzy bass drum beat. I reach over the dasher, grab a top hat and a silver and black cane, tap the hat onto my head, and do a jaunty three turn out to center ice, bowing as a jazzy slide trombone emerges with a slow melody.

I head off quickly down the ice, the coattails of my tuxedo flitting out behind me, and as I reach the end I jump to land a perfect double Axel (to polite applause). On the way back I split jump while tossing my cane with a twirl high into the air, turning around after landing to catch it behind my back. The crowd Ahhhs.

Then I am picking up more speed, a triple Axel, straight down into a sit spin, flipping the cane around on the ice beneath me in the opposite direction to my spin. Then rising up to a full stop I pose, and the music pauses as I dip my hat.

The jazz now picks up to a staccato pace, and I do impossibly fast footwork down the ice in one direction, on the return path a spread eagle while twirling the cane above my head and then twice around my body. Then gaining speed down the ice I jump straight up into a laid-out front flip holding onto my hat as my skates vertically pass overhead, landing gently (on one foot!) right into a spiral, the cane gently twirling between my fingers.

Then a final bow, hat in hand. Standing ovation.

Meanwhile back at the actual rink the pre-preliminary group A takes to the ice for their warm up.

Monday, June 18, 2012

- factors

Does it really take a specific coach to create a skater of national quality? When I evaluate all of the growth factors that I attribute to a skater, a coach, a ballet teacher and the skater's parents, I'm somewhat unsure that the coach contributes as large an impact as we all think. If I were to graph it piechart-wise I'd say Primary Coach: 20%; Specialty coaches (combined total from 4 of them): 25%; Involved parent: 15%.

Gee that only adds up to sixty. And the remainder? Yeah a full 40% is solely due to the natural abilities, the developed skills, the dedication, the body build, and the injury avoidance of the skater herself.

What's the difference then on the actual development of a skater overall between the best possible and the typical average coach? Well if the worst coach is zero and the best is 20%, then from average to best works out to half of that, or around ten percent. Heck yeah at the elite level this is tremendous, but at the local competitive level guess what? It's mostly irrelevant as it becomes overwhelmed by the other factors.

Now mind you I'm not saying that you can get by with a coach that is a competent lout. You should strive to find a primary coach that your daughter finds *inspiring*; this is the key trait to discover, and it involves having that right "chemistry" between your skater and her coach.

Make sure your skater is comfortable with her everyday coach, but as long as the coach is competent and inspiring don't fret if she's not the best at the rink.


Bonus: check out this retrograde duck: pretty much impossible on the ice, but on wheels....

Thursday, June 7, 2012

- median

One quickly recognizes what makes figure skating unique among human activities. A hint: it's rather like pole vaulting, but it's distinctively not. Another clue: it's analogous to the ballet, but it's notably not. Pole vault ballet? Yeah sure that's it.

But no, rather seriously, figure skating is the only human activity that lands precisely at the middle of physics-dominated sport and soul-dominated art. Well, it did at some point anyways. Back sixty years ago or so it was primarily about cutting figures in the ice (hence the name figure skating); at that point it was much more like ballet.

In the 1980's and 90's though -- when I did most of my watching -- it was exactly at the median, smack dab at the center, exactly between art and a sport. It's the only enterprise that was. Nowadays one could argue it is leaning a bit more toward being like pole vaulting.

So as art addresses the soul, so too skating. Yet as a sport dominated by physics, a skater concentrates on arcane physical postural timings.

Inside a competitor the view spirals into this essential conundrum: how to blend the demands of slippery ice physics with the touching grace of art to the soul? It's the clash between choreography and skills coaching. And only the skater glides across this schism.