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 20, 2017

- adult sectionals

I encourage parents to drag their skate kid to watch an adult competition. Your kid may be bored that the adults don't do many fancy moves, but the competition will surprise you and is in your long term interests.

Adult competitions are very laid back. The technology is old school, with clipboard scoring and volunteer runners like a local competition. You'll spot the older members of the usual rink crowd. Compared to the real (non-adult) sectionals, the Adult sectionals is easily five times more relaxed. Despite the nonchalance the competitors themselves are pretty urbane about the whole thing, knowing everything involved to nab a ticket to Nationals. Still it's well past time for nervous excitement; it's like being in love for the sixth time.

More than any other skating group the Adults display an extremely wide variety of skating approaches. They show as much variance in their style as the juvenile division, plus everyone skates different elements to boot. Their music is completely all over the map.

There seems to be a fair amount of tongue-in-cheek emoting at Adults. They are well past the age of taking themselves seriously and can't hold a candle to the physical strengths of the younger athletes; the crowd is both well aware of this and is also in on the joke.

Most of the competition's psychic value is sublime -- since the skaters are adults they have full lives besides skating.  Real-life art hides somewhere between the adult skaters and the competitive youngsters. Or to put it differently, the art of life happened in that region in between, where it became impossible to skate. And some of this seeps through to the other side.

Monday, March 6, 2017

- non-elite

Although I link to a few "fan blogs" on this site, I certainly recognize how irrelevant they are to what you actually face day in and day out. Only the tiniest, most minuscule percentage of skaters have the financial resources, body type, dedicated time, and fortune of being in a locale that provides the training support to become national-level competitors. Hence watching the elites can be disheartening if you view them with jealousy. Like a twenty-foot pole-vault crossbar, the elites set the highest level goal for the maximum expectations you might achieve. What you can absorb from them most readily though is performance demeanor.

How do they address the audience? What are their entrance, exit, and off-ice routines? How do they spin the audience love? They have honed their presentation dynamics over hundreds of competitions, so pay close attention to their pre-ice routines. What you find, still somewhat typically, is that they are no better nor worse than your local competitors at managing their nerves and their "game face." View this as a relief: it validates that your stage-fright trepidations are entirely normal, even at the highest levels.

Although you won't learn how to jump a triple by watching the elites, you can still pick up many stylistic clues by viewing the international competitors. Jumps are jumps but spins and arm movements throughout the program (along with certain signature moves) vary substantially in style across the continents. I wouldn't suggest you try to directly "copy" a move you have seen at Worlds, but it's perfectly fine to incorporate ideas that you've seen into your own original manifestations of them.

I know that some skaters avoid watching the elites entirely as it makes them feel too frustrated to realize that many things are unattainable. Mainly though, it's better to be comfortable in your self and view those with more fortunate circumstances as sources and inspiration for your own creative ideas.