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.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

- literal


Skating with expressive style to a musical piece is a good trick; staying stylish when the background contains lyrics is even more of a challenge.

I'd prefer that you didn't, but if you absolutely must skate to music with lyrics, please avoid running the unfortunate risk of taking the words too literally. Just because the lyrics say "breaking my heart" doesn't mean that you have to clutch your chest, seriously.

Although the music usually gets written as an accompaniment to the lyrics, if we wanted you to skate to the words alone we would ask you to skate solely to spoken poetry.

What makes music magical beyond the lyrics *is* the music. The music is the showy sizzle, the lyrics are the poetic scaffolding.

That rather sets the stage for what we are asking: use the higher level, the music, as the framework upon which to build your performance. The lyrics are still there, so don't controvert their meaning. But it's a nobler cause to skate to the feelings of the music.

And when the lyrics say "he shot her" don't cock your fingers into a pretend gun to shoot. Seriously.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

- ballet


Is ballet training a necessary ingredient to competitive figure skating? Perhaps. In an interesting post (from well over a couple of years ago!) Sheri says:

"For years skating coaches have been encouraging their skaters to take ballet classes to aid in the skater's on-ice performance. Ballet teachers spend hours teaching students correct ballet posture which is the same posture needed for skating. Ballet teaches the skater how to move the pelvis without losing balance or disconnecting the center in footwork sequences, including pirouette turns, jumps and leaps across the floor."

I think ballet augments your skating art in a few important areas. "Core" awareness (center of gravity control and fluidity), spine alignment, graceful movement, and "head attitude" are all valuable lessons that transfer well across the related disciplines. The actual physical application of these skills however when wearing skate boots is rather different than when wearing ballet slippers.

The trick therefore to successfully integrating your ballet lessons with your skating is to mentally grok the intent of the teaching but then to reapply and relearn those same lessons on the ice with your skates on. Ballet translates to the ice in theory, but not exactly in muscle memory. Too much ballet and you won't be able to skate, but if you fail to practice enough ballet you will look uncouth on the ice.

Monday, July 2, 2012

- love


A parent envelops a child with Love, and skating is also all about an observing, supporting, and softly critical Love. Sometimes these competing loves interact in a sublimely complicated fashion.

By the time your kid is seriously skating (say by age seven) life's circumstances have naturally ingrained your parental love: you have already internalized how to balance the love you share between your children, or between your child and a stranger. Occasionally issues arise, but for the most part you have already organically grown into handling them autonomously.

Now throw in the complications from skating love. Make no mistake about it, figure skating is a high love-required, high love-intensity sport. Similar to dancing, coaches have no other way to teach it and students have no other way to learn it except by the transmission of compressed thought packets in real time (okay, call it love then). Conveying a sense of aesthetic appreciation as well as the mechanical body dynamics necessary to cleanly execute a move both require love.

Coaches, parents, and skaters provide this love, and skaters demand tons of love while practicing. How you manage your love at the rink is probably a good half to three-quarters of the influence you have over the skating aspects of your child.

I hesitate to give specific advice for how to handle every situation: matters of your heart are for you and your own soul to resolve. I can however give you a heads-up for what you may need to consider.

At times your daughter may interact with the older skaters. Most of the time they are friendly yet detached; how should you behave if you feel they are acting inappropriately? When your daughter is in session with a coach she will be locked into the coach's love; what should you do in the meanwhile?

Your daughter may find herself in a group session, an ice theater or off-ice ballet, where she strives for attention with many others. How do you behave in this situation toward another hovering parent?

Skaters "clique" and your daughter may develop a close friendship to a couple of the skaters her age. How much do you allow her to dawdle and socialize?

Perhaps the biggest issue is that other serious skaters at the rink also crave your attention. Should you lock your eyes solely onto your own daughter alone?

Finally, as a loving parent, you have in your heart a certain life path you would like your child to follow. You would like to steer her clear from many pitfalls, and although you wish her success in her skating endeavors you also recognize that most of her future may not be about skating at all.

It helps to consider these things a bit before they spring upon you to cause unexpected stress. I'm not saying to be robotically clinical, just considerate. All of the parents at the rink are in the same boat; lead by setting a courteous and thought-through good example.