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, February 21, 2016

- etiquette


The local mixed-club events can be a bit frustrating, not so much for the jumble of skills and age groups but rather for the disarray of parental experience in competitive viewing etiquette. Basically you've got a slew of grandparents and non-skating siblings bumbling about in the stands and walkways.

I've never seen this coped with completely gracefully; I wonder if it would help if the USFSA required all their sanctioned events to have an Etiquette Flyer passed out to the non-skating audience. It might read something like this:

"Welcome to the [event name]! This event is sanctioned by the USFSA; for any comments or concerns, please visit us at usfsa.org. We would like to remind you that a couple days after the event finishes you may view all results at [club website].

While in attendance we ask that you adhere to these common courtesies:

1. Cell phones on vibrate please. Take your call outside or wait for the next resurfacing. 2. Please wait for the break between skaters before you walk in front of the stands. 3. Please reign in small children; they may crave attention but this moment is really about their big sister on the ice. 4. Refrain from eating in the stands except during the group warmups and resurfacing. 5. No flash pictures. 6. Keep the chatter down. 7. You may yell and cheer when your kid or her club mates take the ice, but during the skating only applause is appropriate. 8. Please be careful climbing and descending the grandstand stairs. 9. It would be really nice if you could stick around through a few flights after your child's event. 10. The far side of the rink is for skaters, coaches, and judges only.

Thanks again for supporting all of our wonderful skaters, and enjoy the competition!"

Is that maybe too much to ask?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

- jump aesthetics

In my series of posts about the elements I have been abiding by the aesthetic audience member's point of view, so when I watch your jumps in the context of how impressive they appear in your program, this post is about what I am looking for. Yeah yeah I know toe loops are different than salchows are different than lutz and axels: it's about the edge and foot you take off from, forward or backward, rotations, blah blah blah (see my quick guide here). I fully appreciate they have different physics, demands and difficulties, and you have to learn each one separately. Out here in the audience though I'm a couple steps removed from all that so my viewpoint is rather different than yours.

First and foremost, I'm looking for some consistency in your takeoffs. I am really less concerned if you two-foot or slightly over or under-rotate as long as the angle you left the ice prevented you from having a "lean vector" during your spin in the air. It's nice if your angle is near vertical but if it's only a tad tilted I don't mind as long as that angle itself stays fixed until you land.

I do want to see a variety of jumps, in terms of salchow lutz loop axel. Nowadays competitors embellish this with a bit of arm variety (one or both up overhead) on a couple of their jumps, but most of your jumps should be standard squeezed in arms. If you nailed the landing then how you check leaves an impression on me too (but not in the way you think... we'll get to that in a moment).

I like to see an appropriate parabolic arc to your jump: it should have some horizontal movement along with the up and down. If you land in the same place you took off then it looks like off-ice practice. If you travel too far though then your arc looks "flat" and it also scares me (falls on a long-travel jump tend to be particularly nasty).

Depending on the level you are skating I want to see level-appropriate combos and jump difficulty. This means juniors and seniors: your single (non combo) jumps after your first thirty seconds of program should be a triple or better. You can do a couple of non-combo jumps but the rest should be combinations of some sort. Nowadays I see most senior skaters do a triple-combo but it seems rather strange: nobody has enough momentum left after the second jump in their combo to do their third part with any skillful gracefulness. If you can though, more power to you. If all three of the jumps in your combo took off from the same location on the ice then don't bother.

More than any of the other elements, the impression you want to leave me with on your jumps is one of graceful professionalism. I am fully mentally connected to you as you prep, jump, and land. I see what you're thinking on the way in, I don't want you to telegraph, I want you to attempt the jump you're supposed to, I want to see consistency and confidence, and on your check I don't want to see you express either disappointment nor celebration. I want it to be, in other words, proof you nearly always make this jump and you've more or less mastered it.