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.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

- dedication

When I'm in the general vicinity of one of my rink hangouts the sense of skating is palpable, although I have a tough time explaining why my heart quickens. Nearby skaters are constantly working very hard and seriously with perceivable bodily risk. It's a similar flavor to hanging out near a hospital: it's the sense that extraordinary people are doing incredible things to make the world better, in small ordinary ways. Part of it is the aura from the class of people, some of it is the relief and change they make in the world.

The reason a gal becomes a figure skater feels obtusely parallel to the reason a guy becomes a doctor, along with its accompanying misdirections, temptations, and sorrows. They all have immense concentration to start with, but it takes a very strongly focused personality to be top-level successful in either occupation (a maniacal and extraordinary sort of driven being). I never witnessed this level of total dedication with my friends in other sports -- they were more just very serious jocks, like those of us who were deeply into science.

Skaters are much more than that. They are the doctors of athletes.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

- fleek

I had the pleasure of attending a few hours of the Pasadena Open on Saturday and a couple of items struck me as particularly fleek. As always I'm impressed by the ambiance of the place (the rink part at least; the ancillary facilities could use a bit of work). I struck up a conversation with a gentleman fixing some coping in the men's room and I commented how much I liked the skating structure -- it was holding up fairly well for being "temporary". You see it's like a giant tent. I still don't understand how it manages to keep the heat and humidity out effectively, but it does.

Standing next to him outside the place I mentioned it looks as though it should last until the seams between the fabric sections unravel. "Oh it'll be fine," he commented, "we'll just replace the outer tent in a couple of years."  I raised my eyebrows. "You know it's actually two tents, a tent inside a tent, with four feet in-between them. Here, you can see it at the doorway" and he escorted me to the side entrance, showing me a metal access panel that was four feet across. "Oh," I replied, "now I understand."  The rink design was perfectly fleek. "That explains everything." In my mind's eye I imagined four feet of insulation between the layers with a couple vapor barriers, so there you go.  Then he described the HVAC and how efficient it was.  "Uhhmm," I interrupted him, "are you the rink manger?"   He said he was, so I introduced myself, we chatted about another manager we knew in common, and I told him I write this blog. Then I tried to convince him the structure needs an adjacent hockey shop.

It was around 90 outside so I excused myself to cool off and watch some skating. Nowadays when I spend time at  local event I'm mostly interested in the intermediate freeskates -- they had group A with three flights running from 10:30 to noon and group B with three flights from 3:00 to 4:30. Intermediate is such an interesting level as the skaters have enough technical ability to fill out a program quite nicely, and yet they have such a wide variation in styles of presentation to make me plan all sorts of improvement.

When you grow into a seasoned viewer like myself, watching a gal skate a program generates two parallel trains of thought simultaneously. One is strictly observant, enjoying the flourishes and skillful maneuvers and watching the edges cut the ice. The other is imaginative of the possibilities.  That second track is thinking: This would have looked better with the hands this way, she will overrotate this jump, she needs to hold her spiral longer, the raise to Bielmann needs to be slower and more graceful.

Every once in a while though a skater will pull me out of duality and make me quietly just watch. One of the skaters in group A (I think she was from AllYear FSC) did just that, and afterward I recognized what had happened: her concordance to the music was fleek. She wasn't at the highest skill levels in her jumps and footwork, but she was close enough landing everything (with only one two-footer) and more importantly every crescendo or accent in the music had a corresponding arm or leg flourish exactly on cue. It appeared nearly as though the music had been written specifically for her program. Fleek.

When you're watching a light-entertainment or an exhibition program you expect the skater to flow and work with the music; you presume she is skating the intent and story of what she had edited together for her program. Nowadays when I watch a freeskate it seems all to often though that the skater simply chose a certain style of music she likes and then tries to shoehorn in all of her required moves with a somewhat vague fitting to the mood. Unfortunately most freeskates don't follow closely to the music. It's rather sad but I understand the motivation.  All the more reason if you want to stand out as an exceptional artistic skater you'll engineer your freeskate program to highlight and match your tune.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

- specialist

Once you reach a preliminary level of competitive skating you probably have a grasp of twenty different moves. By chance and the luck of your matching physical characteristics some elements come easily and quite naturally to you, yet others will prove to be more challenging. What should you practice then, those things you are good at, or those you are "not so" good at?

You may have to spend an hour every day polishing your layback, your spiral, or your Axel just to stay at a consistent level of competency. Obviously then the moves you are "not so" good at could use the most practice.

Once you are competing prelim you focus most of your effort on your programs. You probably have a technical, a dramatic free, and perhaps even a novelty program, each skating to different music. You need to spend at least half an hour every day on each program in order to keep all the transitions flowing smoothly and cued to the music.

When you assembled the moves to build your programs, what did you choose? Naturally you selected the moves you /were/ good at. When you are practicing your programs you are polishing your best moves therefore, aren't you. In fact when you are spending time adding a rotation or a completely novel element, this growth happens outside of your program (although you might squeeze it in once you get more comfortable with it).

So here's the rub: every day you practice you subtly determine how much of a "specialist" you become by how much time you dedicate to the program elements versus the novelty off-program moves. Do you want to be really excellent at a very specific program? Practice it a lot, but at the peril of very little experimental growth into newer elements and more balanced capabilities.