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, March 28, 2013

- the cusp of boredom


I caught just a glimpse of my daughter becoming bored or perturbed with her practice. Once I saw and understood it I drew a bit of a parallel to my math excursions while I was her age. A person gives their heart and soul to what they find they are initially good at, only to eventually run out of steam competing against ever tougher competitors.

Of course I love her anyway, whether she decides to pursue skating her whole life or becomes jaded.

Maybe this is what defines the long-term skaters after all: they are driven by their desire to express themselves through the performance artform. In other words it becomes a matter of survival; it becomes their sole outlet for their creativity. I'm unsure yet whether or not my daughter possesses this trait.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

- intensity


I experience quite a flux of emotions while I watch skaters: my feelings overflow. Pondering how these feeling arrive it occurs to me that most of this intensity results from an identification with what the skater herself is experiencing. Although certainly I am moved by the spirit of her music or the expressiveness of her arms, deeper down I am watching what she is thinking.

In anticipation of her jump landing I will connect to the space between her thoughts and her muscle memory -- that spot that is constantly adjusting -- and watch as she reacts to anticipate physics. While she glides a spiral I see the tension between her stillness and her balance over microscopic bumps. As she spins I observe the nanosecond center of gravity battles she fights with the torque.

Naturally much of this derives from my daughter having skated, so I know what too look for: I know where to focus. So it's rather a sublime intensity. I feel every sigh and held breath, every victorious and disappointing moment. I feel the skipped heartbeat on a spiral that almost face plants, or a jump that rotates way too far. I feel the inner pride when a skater skates her entire program without a serious fault.

Somewhat frustratingly I often find a few folks seated adjacent who don't quite share my involvement. Perhaps they got dragged along to drive or chaperone a small child. Without a mental connection to the skater they seem lost by the ooohs, ahhhs, applause and sharp inhalations from the rest of the audience.

I think a lot of the pleasure of watching skating stems from these feelings. For me though it's actually so intense that after a couple of hours I can't watch anymore as I become too emotionally drained. All the skaters' ups and downs become my own.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

- sectionals


Skating is so "inside;" when I sit at a coffee shop across the street from Sectionals and spy an attractive slender lady, we briefly share an unspoken connection that is more than just interesting strangers. Even though I've never seen her in my entire life and can't put a direct finger on the attachment, only two hours later I will see her in the stands at the rink wearing a competitor's neck card and we'll both nod and understand.

Sectionals is a ton of nerves out there on the ice. This must be absolutely the worst event to have to skate: the ticket to Nationals. Yeah if you ever get lucky enough to make Nationals you'll be nervous when you step out on the ice there too, but at that point it's just a competition (in front of way more people than you're used to). Still you are faced off against the other competitors, and you will place where you deserve.

Sectionals though is an *elimination*. It's fish or cut bait. More than any other time, this is less of a skills-test than it is a mental nerves test.

Down to every last gal, they perceptibly shake while assuming starting position. Every single skater who has never been at Sectionals before perceptibly thinks "holy shit." Even those who have been here before inhale a deep breath and think "here goes nothin'."

I think at Sectionals it's really the strongest personality gals that do their best. This is where your confidence built from how hard you have practiced really surfaces and shines. This is where your spirituality matters.