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.

Monday, October 23, 2017

- spiral

I may have mentioned this a couple times before: the spiral is one of my favorite elements. What, you ask...? The skater is only traveling in a static pose with one leg up behind her -- what could be difficult or interesting about that?

The spiral encapsulates all three of my top skating criteria in a simple to judge move: grace, balance, and skill. Also since I have a skating daughter I recognize how difficult it is to accomplish a quality spiral, mainly since I have had the privilege of witnessing young skaters attempt this in practice as they were growing up.

The first challenge is bringing your trailing leg up at a smooth consistent speed and then stopping at the correct height. Go too far and you faceplant. Don't go far enough and it's impossible to hold. Viewing a gal practice this is like observing a young person learn how to do a headstand. Trial and error, muscle memory, and finding the balance points.

Once you're pegged into position you get to deal with the vagaries of blades and bumps in the ice. I don't know from experience but from watching it seems to me that the gals that maintain the most velocity in their spiral have an easier time keeping their position fixed as they traverse the rink's incongruities. Those traveling slowly get whomped by every small dent and surface gash.

After examining the smoothness of entry I focus on your skates: my peripheral vision makes sure the hind leg stays frozen exactly at the same height, and my wandering eyes appreciate any stylistic hand movements, but mostly I am examining if your edges stay clean and committed as you manage the traversal. I am watching how you use your core muscles to finesse the minuscule velocity changes imposed by the bumpy ice.

Holding your rear leg stock still is enough of a challenge, but if you can do this while also throwing in some slight balletic arm movements at the same time, I'm doubly impressed.
The other notable oddity about this element is, of course, your face is presented straight up toward the audience (or judges, depending on your angle). Please don't skate your spiral with your mouth open.

This element also critically narrows the body types for those who will eventually become the great skaters. Obviously you need strong glutes to pull it off well, but additionally if your center of gravity stays fixed as you tilt into position then this indicates that your top and bottom halves are appropriately balanced.

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