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, April 23, 2017

- asceticism

Like any sort of artist a successful skater demonstrates severe focus, and hence possesses a rather strict, ascetic ability to abide by self-denial. In fact the original Greek term for asceticism referred to the physical training required for athletic events. This is a common and simple concept; we bring up most children to understand that deferral of immediate gratification pays off by being able to learn things that can provide greater satisfaction later. Implicit in this is an expectation for a transcendental future reward.

Aspiring skaters absorb this idea socially, mostly by watching other skaters. When a young girl admires a world-class figure skater on TV she senses the immense love and admiration that the skater receives on the podium and during her performance. This goal drives the sacrifices the skater must endure during practice to hone her craft.

As with all artists, the awareness of a future audience provides motivation. Without such motivation self-discipline is meaningless and becomes torture. At the same time however, people have the capacity to deceive themselves into following false surrogate endpoints. Once an artist recognizes that asceticism serves a useful purpose the self-denial may become a goal unto itself. The asceticism can become an addiction for its own sake. Sometimes this works and leads to autogeneration of creativity; sometimes it only leads to self-destructive depression. It does, however, always lead to self-learning.

Like motherhood, daily skating practices involve much silent unobtrusive self-denial, an hourly devotion which finds no detail too minute. People respect and love us for our struggles.

Friday, April 7, 2017

- an insider

When I visited competitions early in my daughter's skating career, I didn't understand a few things. I assumed some of this was due to a shallowness in my knowledge of the scoring. Every so often an average sort of competitor would skate and they would receive a disproportionate circle of applause, and this always flustered me. What was the big deal about that skate? After several instances of this I figured there must be something more going on, but could never quite place my finger on it. That my friend was a long time ago.

Last month I watched adult sectionals at Pickwick. By now I've seen most all of these adult skaters in one place or another and even recognize how several of them skate their elements. In the midst of this entertainment they announce the next skater, and a switch clicks in my mind. Hey, I know that name.  I've emailed this person before to obtain publication clearance on several of my blog posts. I do believe that she chairs one of the local popular skating clubs. I'd never though seen her in person before.

So here she comes, she does her number, nothing particularly special but with a certain amount of nuanced grace and heart, and my eyes sort of tear up a bit. What's this all about? Well, it's respect for somebody who has not only paid her dues but continues to play a big role in providing support to keep the sport safe and popular. Every couple of years her club produces a national level skater. When she finishes she gets the largest round of applause of anyone who has skated, myself included. Eight or nine folks throw "tossies."

Afterwards it occurs to me that for somebody just visiting for their first time, they would have had no clue what that was all about. I guess that makes me an insider now, eh?