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.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

- simple

You know it's very difficult to be right on the money all of the time. Sure you practice your toughest elements in aim for including them in your program when you are at your best. Yet it's self-deceptive to expect that you will always be in top form.

It makes some sense therefore to occasionally practice a subsumed program -- something that is simple, follows your music, and completes most of your ice coverage. One way to look at this (to frame it in your mind) is to imagine the unfortunate situation that you fall ill a couple of days before a competition. Hey it happens.

Say you come down with the flu. Now what do you do, scratch? After having prepared your coach and family, reserved a hotel room, and paid the entry fee? Sure it's unfortunate, but I've known it to happen to just about everyone.

The solution is to skate the "simple" version of your program. No it won't impress the judges, but your coach will understand, and your family won't be left with the feeling that they completely wasted their time.

Once a month or so practice the simple program. If nothing else, it's insurance.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

- gloves

Hair pieces, boot polish, tights, skate dress -- a lot goes into a skating costume. When you get fully comfortable, skilled, and graceful, you can don that last flashy accessory: elbow-length gloves.

Opera gloves are a bit of an aesthetically dangerous garment to add to your oeuvre: without doubt they pull attention toward the completion of graceful arm and hand movements. If you don these before your elements are fully competent though, the rest of your program will appear considerably diminished by comparison.

Gloves may only be appropriate at a narrow band of expressiveness. It's like when a guy wears a muscle shirt with arm cutouts: it's unflattering if he has nothing to show. On the other hand if he's already built like Arnold Schwarzenegger then the arm cutouts aren't particularity necessary either.

Wear long gloves when your hands and arms need a bit of assistance expressing what they can already show reasonably well. Only however after you've already figured out how to shine on all of your other elements.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

- up

Even with the most thorough practicing it can happen: gliding joyfully through the middle of your program, in an unfortunately relaxed moment your brain goes blank. Empty. Silence on the radio. The program music still plays; only if you had a map you could glance around for a reminder of direction.

The phrase I've heard for this is "going up." I'm unsure why it's called that, but in theater it's long been used to signify that you've forgotten your lines.

So now what? Well, it's time to ad lib, or as Sheri says here, fake it until you make it.

Mentally this requires a shift from the playback learning part of your brain over to the playful imaginative lobe of your brain.

I suppose it makes sense that since you know this occasionally can happen, you should also prepare for it. Practicing to ad lib means allowing your imagination to run free, while still keeping time to the music and additionally keeping some semblance of physical control about yourself.

It may seem a bit odd to your coach or the other skaters at the rink that you would spin a whole program just to improvise, but consider the benefit! It's worth a run through at least once each freestyle, if for no other reason than to build confidence and remove the fear of ad libbing when those brainwaves suddenly evaporate.