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, April 25, 2013

- canadian champ

Shout out to Vladislav for a very nice interview with Kaetlyn, the 2013 Canadian national champion.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

- judging questions

In an earlier post I spouted a bit over the dilemma I face about skating judges: bless them but for me personally, no thanks. My daughter stopped competing a decade ago, so I no longer have skin in the game. I do still though have a couple handfuls of questions I wish some figure skating judges would answer. Anonymous answers are just fine too.

My daughter felt assured that the judges paid attention to the warm up, and grant some slack to a skater if she muffed a jump in the program yet landed it in practice. True? How much traveling do judges do? How many competitions do they judge a month? What does it pay? How do you reconcile your aesthetic feelings against the rigid scoring methodology? Does USFSA have seminars where judges get to vent their concerns? Do they pay attention and make changes? Do judges have any influence over general rink conditions? Should they? Do clubs request certain judges (or related: how do judges get chosen for an event)? Can a judge refuse to work with another judge?

There, that should keep you going for a while (smile).

Sunday, April 7, 2013

- to judge?

A reader recently inquired whether I would ever be interested in becoming a skating judge. Even though I love watching skating, the short answer is No. Nope, no thank you. The long answer will stretch out below into probably one of my longest posts ever (smile).

Not that I haven't considered the possibility of judging. In the first place I definitely have my ideas for how I'd like to see the sport performed. Secondly I feel that figure skating judges perform a civic service, much as a lifeguard might serve at a public pool, or an attorney might provide pro bono work for a cause that he believes in. Without judges the sport would just consist of recreational shows.

I actually did judge an event once -- sitting in the stands opposite the actual judges -- using my own scoring system. It was not an enjoyable experience. I got some nasty glares from the actual judges: apparently my thoughts were too distracting! The main challenge however is keeping a full mental inventory of what you are watching without letting your eyes drop to a scoresheet; then you jot it all down after the skater finishes. It's mentally quite taxing.

Yet judging supports scoring which encourages both accomplishment and commitment. Quite like any creative art, the presentation of a blank canvas lacking guidelines or limitations can be quite intimidating. So the scoring system provides that scaffold: the outline for building a skating program.

And the judges have these boffo electronics and nice event hospitality rooms! If you watch closely you may catch the camaraderie as they enter and leave their stations. Occasionally you even get the pleasure of brushing shoulders with former national champs, now doing a round of judging themselves. I've even had the privilege to sit behind a group of a dozen aspiring judges to observe as they were mentored through a competition with phony scoring equipment and thick trainee manuals.

Have you ever walked into a Starbucks half a world away from home only to be comforted by the same color schemes, attention to decorating details, and identical social atmosphere? The same seasonal stickers on the windows? You know how they do that? Have you ever seen a 'bux training manual? The managerial teams there are a pyramid of conforming non-conformity.

And ISU judging is no different. USFSA has a well established program for growing judges, see here for example. On one hand, it's quite an accomplishment. On the other hand it's an extremely narrow perspective of the world. Make no mistake about it, ISU grooms judges up through a tightly controlled and socially restrictive culture that inculcates their exact desires.

I can see where it just has to be that way, but that is not for "me." Am I a bit of a rebel? A bit. I love skating for it's artistic outlet, and I am always overjoyed with the opportunity to muse. But judging? God bless the judges, but no thanks (wink).

Friday, April 5, 2013

- special coach two

As I scrutinize my daughter skating her latest routine I appraise it for artistic merit. I weigh the style of the presentation, gauging the flow between the moves, watching the overall presentation of her spins, how she carries her center of gravity, and how she displays her arms in expressive embellishments.

Overall the routine looks pretty solid and only one thing concerns me: she came out of a back sit spin with her arms lackadaisical, devoid of any flair at all. The rest of the program was fine though. I motion her over to discuss this. Can you try it with one arm up? She does, and it looks better by a hundred percent. What about the other arm, should it be palm up? She tries it, but it looks worse. How about a bent elbow, I inquire. So she tries that... that was interesting.

And that is what makes a parent-skater relationship special. I fill that tiny piece between the actual coaching and the choreography; I'm the guy that handles the polishing and patching of the expressive holes. Then when my daughter -- in full competitive regalia -- does that special little thing with her arms or her hands on one particular spin, we smile to each other knowing that /that/ was Daddy's move.