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, February 20, 2013

- audience


If you happen by some quiet private ice it's a good opportunity to watch the ladies practice the sections of their program. Watch closely and you'll immediately notice two classes of skaters.

About two thirds of the skaters have a future audience on their mind: they are aware of both a need to impress and a need to achieve. One third of the folks are there however just to, well, skate. Maybe they are older now and used to compete and performed many years ago, and now they skate just to stay in shape. Or they skate to reminisce. It's not that one class is better than the other, it's just that they are distinctly different.

What is it about having that future audience that makes so much of a difference? When a gal skates for herself you can see her think through the moves from a bodily-awareness perspective, with the point of view of limbs traveling through space.

But a gal with an audience does this and something more: she is calculating the reaction from her viewers. What will the viewers think of *this*? The difference is as great between blueberries and blueberry pie. That added step of separation and projection is what turns the skating from physics to performance. It is that power of love.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

- parental guilt


Sometimes at the rink when I'm not otherwise engrossed in my reading or my writing, I'll watch my daughter skate and she'll surprise me with a move that is particularly artistic or technically difficult. This opens up my eyes to the possibility that if she really stays resolute to her practice she has the potential to actually be world class some day; when she gets off the ice I'll compliment her on the quality of her expressiveness.

Thinking of this makes me almost as equally anxious however as I am proud. Hers is an artist's striving, and to the extent that it satisfies her needs for expression or attention then it's fine. It is such a drain on her time and energies though that, unless (by some quirk of fate and luck) she reaches a level of fame achieved by only one or two skaters a year, in the long run I wonder if it is a liability rather than an asset. What if the accomplishment doesn't pay off in any tangible form that benefits her life overall?

I worry that she risks great disappointment should she not advance as far as she could be capable, either due to her own circumstances or my hobbled financial resources. This final possibility is particularly poignant for me... the last thing that I would want would be to get in the way of something that my daughter loves.

(repost)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

- triumph


It seems natural as we are growing to attach our selves to things. It starts with a connection to our mother, then to toys and friends, then interests, workmates, and lovers. As souls follow their paths however, unfortunate worldly circumstances may cause disconnections, and hence sorrow.

We may defray this sorrow by attention to physical activity, "centering," or by shifting our attention to art or entertainment, thus joining a larger global culture.

Skating meets all of these needs: it is artistically entertaining, physically demanding, and culturally enthralling.

Is sorrow necessary to be a good skater? Otherwise you are just skating for attention, fun, peer or parental approval. When you are skating to relieve sorrow though, something else is in play.

Skating is also one of the few sports that relies on near total physical detachment. The skater uses just her mind, body, and some steel blades to excel in her sport while only attached to the world by a thin layer of water melted over ice.

Skating demands that the skater connect to a larger, longer-timelined culture. It requires intense attention to physical centering. And it constantly reattaches the skater through love to her coaches and to her audience. She does all this only because it is what physics allows.

Skating is the triumph of physics over sorrow.