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, March 28, 2016

- ten

In an earlier post I chatted a bit about the wonderful thrill you experience skating as a 9 year old. Well, that only last's a year. Once you cross over to ten you're in a new country.

Ten has to be the most mentally challenging part of any skater's life. Suddenly (and it seems for without any special reason) everything you learned about skating turns inside out. Most of this is a direct result of a young teen's spurt in the growth of her long bones, those components of the arms and legs.

Just when you were getting exactly comfortable with the vertical location of your center of gravity and the correlations between arm location and spin velocity, suddenly it all starts changing. Now on a scratch spin when you pull in your arms not only do you spin twice as fast but you wobble like crazy. A higher center of gravity will do that to you, and it demands a real focused attention to posture.

Stroking starts to get more interesting though; suddenly you can actually get places with considerably less effort. Flying around the rink can be quite fun, if a little scary. Hence ten is when you make intimate acquaintance with the dasher boards. Maybe twice even. After that I assure you they stand out loud and clear.

Due to these changes, ten is also where perhaps two remarkable mental realizations occur. The first is a deep conceptual understanding of how angular momentum actually relates to velocity and ice leverage. The second is social awareness; looking around the rink a ten year old recognizes that she is suddenly approaching the middle of her skating career. It becomes time to consider how serious you really are about this figure skating thing.

Oh to live on sugar mountain, with the 9 year olds and colored balloons.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

- choose

How does a skater go about choosing a coach? Seldom do I pen a blog post I know nothing about, yet this is definitely one of those times.

When my daughter started skating around age six, she attended group classes and then had a coach from one of her former class teachers (at least if I recall correctly, it was a long time ago). Then when she was around ten she let me know two amazing things: she was so serious about skating that 1. she wanted to home school, and 2. she was going to pick a new coach. How?

Well she had already talked to her mom who was exploring the home schooling, and she had chatted with several friends at the rink and doing some research to decide which coach to pick.

When your ten year old daughter lets you know she is making such major choices it can be a bit disconcerting. But I trusted her mom with her concern for my daughter's education, and even at ten my daughter knew about twenty times more about skating than me, so I figured she'd make better coaching choices.

We live in what I suppose Xan would call a smallish market; although LA has twelve million people, we could only really drive to around eight rinks. Our rinks are sparse, so a kid has a limited number of choices. Plus I sense that out here the rink a toddler first attends for group classes tends to become her Home rink (although this may just be a Southwest U.S. sort of thing).

So really my daughter was choosing between the three or four coaches at Pickwick who were taking on new charges.

When I checked with her my daughter said that she didn't remember a lot about the process; she wanted a coach that was not too mean (screeching at their students while they ran through a program), and one that was able to teach her students to learn jumps beyond the Axel.

I'm curious to hear how other parents and skaters go about this process. Overall I think our coach worked out well, yet I recognize since this decision happens at an early age and can have such lasting impact that it's a difficult decision to make well.

Friday, March 4, 2016

- timing

As if it's not already difficult enough to perform jumps on ice and be expressive and graceful, for a further challenge you need to time your program to the music!

Of course it's easier to match the rhythm when the music is something more free flowing and without a drum downbeat. Hence it's easier to "match" a dramatic program to a classical piece than to skate a light entertainment routine to a pop song. And I rather doubt how much a person can develop "rhythm" in the first place; it seems to me for the most part that you either have it or you don't.

Is it okay to sing along with your music on a light entertainment program to help you keep pace with the music? Although it may assist with staying synchronized, mouthing lyrics distracts you from your ability to use your body as an expressive outlet. It also somewhat detracts from your grace: viewers will be drawn to your jabbering jaw rather than your hands and limbs. Better not to sing along.

It's a pain to have to split your attention between concentrating on your moves and timing them to the music. A better approach may be to establish mileposts: know that at a certain inflection point of the music you are supposed to be at a specific element of your program, and then make speed adjustments accordingly.

Not only is a skater supposed to stay on the beat but somehow she must additionally finish her skating when the music concludes! To end gracefully plan for a few seconds of "dramatic escape" at the tail end of your routine. How much slack should you allow? If you leave too much emptiness hanging then it's obvious that you're just spinning time at the end.

Judging from the nice endings I've seen I'd say give yourself around five seconds of free ad-lib to finish. Then develop a couple alternate flourishes to use if you're running either short or long. As you approach the end of a program it's far easier to manage some extra embellishments on an early finish than to skate into the deathly silence beyond the music.