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, January 23, 2017

- overthought

In a blog post from 2013 World Figure Skating warned about the dangers of overthinking; he maintains that overthinking makes you "choke." On that I would agree, but its scope and timing needs to be clarified.

Thinking interacts with training and performing across a complex dynamic. When you are learning something new you need to think about it constantly. Once you get fully practiced however the learnt behaviors become more deeply internalized into a partially subconscious state. Do you think about the shape of individual letters as you sign your name? You used to when you were little, but now you don't any longer. Portions of skating elements are like your handwriting: you internalize the angle of your foot, how hard you toe pick, how quickly you tuck your arms.

Although I agree that overthought jumps during a competition cause recurrent issues of inconsistent takeoffs, I don't have any particular qualms about your deep cogitations during practice. In fact I actually like to see you thinking deeply the entire time that you're in a freestyle. Try things and think about them -- that's how you learn!

And even at a competitive event I'm perfectly fine with your mental ramblings during your stroking, footwork, or spins. This shows that you're minding the music or planning your ice coverage or capturing your audience.

You will skate better however if you can find a way to approach your competitive jumps with your neurons silenced.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

- the artist

Those inside the sport know this but it's not always apparent outside; I'll post these remarks to the general audience and you skaters can comment your concordances. Figure skating is both a sport and an art, and as such skaters are both athletes and artists. Hence skaters share many of the same characteristics and fight most of the same battles as any other artist (although due to the athletic rigors demanded of them they tend to be "clean" artists, eschewing the mental chemical stimulants of other creatives). Yet the demands of creativity are still the same.

As the medium of a skater's expressiveness is constantly fighting back (and she learns as she goes along) staying focused as an artist requires an extraordinary amount of exertion of will under trying circumstances. There's falls, there's equipment issues, there's meddling competitors. To succeed she must take her art absolutely seriously. A skater must become fully dedicated to her craft as anything less may devolve to become only recreational skating.

Like all artists, a skater thinks a lot about her art even when she is not on the ice; many skaters think about it 24 hours a day, albeit at different levels of consciousness. They live, eat and breathe figure skating. And all of this attention and focus to a single subject tends to isolate a skater from a wide variety of outside activities and also limits her social circle.

A skater tends to put herself into "voluntary solitude;" the intensity of the concentration of her sport demands it. Does a skater's isolation border on self punishment? The ones who keep competing may have a greater capacity for this solitude. Still though as a parent I often had my concerns for my daughter's following an artist lifestyle: the consequence of skating as a serious endeavor invokes a social cost -- by necessity the skater sacrifices common scholastic social entertainment. Does a skater have to overcome this parental bias irregardless?

Since she mostly works alone on her craft the skater is responsible for imposing her own high standards. For the most part she is in charge of her own critiques; a skater is often the only one who really knows what's going on with her own work. Certainly her coach and parents can witness the end results, but the skater faces hundreds of small unseen private battles. Many skaters are filled with self doubt and go through long periods questioning their skills. An artistic vision is therefore necessary to carry a skater through her rough patches.

To a certain extent then rinks are like art colonies (well, after the hockey players have packed their bags). And like any art studio, success comes from making your rink a place where you and your fellow artists want to be creative.