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.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

- stolen

Compared to the relaxed standing around and lollygagging at your typical weekday Freestyle practices, every competition or showcase event I've been to has always been the epitome of high stress and hectic. Most of this I presume has to do with their relentless schedule -- pretty much everything is planned to the minute, and if you're late then you've missed your event. Everything seems to be tied into this mississippian flow: cars are constantly shuttling in and out of the parking lot, music and registration is a continuous roller coaster at the front check-in, judges are up and down between their scoring stations and hospitality, coaches are checking in and out and mentally checking their internal schedule, the Zamboni driver takes breaks and then wanders back in to resurface at precisely the right time, and the camera and video crews peek ahead to find the next potty or coffee break.

Although it's hectic, skating events are still incurably slow. If you want to catch a fair amount of representative performances you pretty much have to stick around the rink for half of a day's competition. The stressed out drama of the event slowly wears you down with its small catastrophes until you are forced into a trance, and then whamo! out comes a skater in perfect costume with absolute grace who will hypnotically steal your heart.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

- casual

Parents' dress at a competition is always a dicey and mixed affair.

I've always felt a parent (or even a visitor) should dress "business casual:" no holey jeans please, no grunge, no T shirts or ratty sweats.

But it's not black tie either. Guys, you don't have to wear a button down dress shirt with a tie (although blazers are okay).

Ladies don't overdo the jewelry and makeup please.

The skaters are the ones who are supposed to be fashionably flashy; don't compete with, upstage, or even try to match their presentation. Be pertly smart, supportive, and respectful, but after all this is the skaters' show, not yours.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

- jump

In an earlier post I squirmed over watching skaters pop their jumps. I got some pushback so let me try restating my position with a bit more nuance. Obligatory disclaimer: personally I don't skate; this impression is just from inference (and thousands of hours of watching skating).

When you're up mid-spin in your Axel, the actual muscular work consists of fighting off the centrifugal force that wants you to extend your arms and thighs. This effort consists of squeezing "in." All you have to do is relax and the centrifugal force will automatically take over and "pop" you: your arms go out and your thigh lifts up and out, slowing your spin. So the reptile-brain feeling on popping a maneuver is "bah, I give up."

What I am saying is that by pure physics the body *always* rejects the idea of spinning three times in the air. Hence initially jump training must overcome this natural inclination to relax. If you get "used to" a certain muscular autonomic response (strength? balance dynamics?) as an absolute requirement to finish the jump, and suddenly on one jump that feeling fights you back and you give up, you pop.

Landing more jumps is about handling the fight-back and small mid-air corrections instead of giving up. The real trick is being able to know from experience your limits of what you are capable of recovering. Jump 2% off, yeah I can recover this one. Jump 8% off... oh-oh, pop.

Skaters who land more jumps — who avoid popping — consistently work on expanding that percentage of recoverability.

Still though, even the best skaters can't recover a jump that is 5 to 6 percent "off." So most good jumpers get to be good jumpers by refining their takeoff.

Given my many years of rink presence, after a fifth of a second from your liftoff I can discern what is going to happen. At that point eighty per cent of the jump parameters are determined: climbing speed (hence height), body slant angle, slant progression (tilt vector), and ice surface vector. Rotational velocity though is still up in the air, so to speak. It must be odd to sit next to me in the stands and hear me quietly say oh-oh on a takeoff, only to see the tumble a second later.

So the key to not popping is two parallel tracks: first, better recovery, but ultimately having consistent takeoffs with the "correct" mix of factors for your body type and program.

I don't mind if you have to pop a triple that you can usually make, but are missing due to ice conditions or competitive nervousness that caused you to take off badly. Fine, better to pop it (safely) if it's outside of that five per cent that you might otherwise recover.

I know for certain however that you practice your jumps an hour every day, and by now you have more than a vague idea how (in)consistent you are in your takeoffs. Yes it's easy to "pop" if your takeoff failed. Where I get annoyed is that I feel it's a cheat to take a jump into a competition when you're so inconsistent on the takeoff that you pop it half of the time in practice anyhow. Thinking that you maybe "might get lucky" and score big if you nail the takeoff may somewhat diminish the spirit of a competition. I don't want to see your luck, I want to see your skill.

I'm wondering if you need to stand up to your coach and say "I am not ready for this yet in competition; I am not consistent enough."

Okay that's a lot of preaching from somebody who doesn't actually skate, but I am pretty sure this is what I've seen.