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.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

- fantasy


If five hours of watching an Open skating competition has numbed my brain, sometimes I will drift off to a fantasy of my own routine: the program that I would skate (if I were capable of skating). Being an older man the performance would be more dapper and stylish, yet oozing with class and supreme athletics.

I stretch a bit from the sidewall as my program's music starts, something with a haunting jazzy bass drum beat. I reach over the dasher, grab a top hat and a silver and black cane, tap the hat onto my head, and do a jaunty three turn out to center ice, bowing as a jazzy slide trombone emerges with a slow melody.

I head off quickly down the ice, the coattails of my tuxedo flitting out behind me, and as I reach the end I jump to land a perfect double Axel (to polite applause). On the way back I split jump while tossing my cane with a twirl high into the air, turning around after landing to catch it behind my back. The crowd Ahhhs.

Then I am picking up more speed, a triple Axel, straight down into a sit spin, flipping the cane around on the ice beneath me in the opposite direction to my spin. Then rising up to a full stop I pose, and the music pauses as I dip my hat.

The jazz now picks up to a staccato pace, and I do impossibly fast footwork down the ice in one direction, on the return path a spread eagle while twirling the cane above my head and then twice around my body. Then gaining speed down the ice I jump straight up into a laid-out front flip holding onto my hat as my skates vertically pass overhead, landing gently (on one foot!) right into a spiral, the cane gently twirling between my fingers.

Then a final bow, hat in hand. Standing ovation.

Meanwhile back at the actual rink the pre-preliminary group A takes to the ice for their warm up.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

- storyline

At an appropriate age (say eleven to thirteen) I'm wondering if it makes sense for figure skaters to enroll in a year or so of dramatic stage-acting lessons? I know they already take ballet, they work out at the gym, maybe they have a jump coach or attend some stroking lessons. They even occasionally retain a choreographer. Do you really need to be spending more toward their skating career?

Well it depends. It does seem that American skaters lack a sense of dramatic projection and the ability to express a story through their skating. This capability varies enormously amongst individual skaters however, even at the local rink. Gals that are naturally expressive tend to enjoy the Showcase events or Theatre on Ice, and that is fine and good. If your technical skater has their sights on Nationals though and is more of an athletic competitor, then their bubbly personality alone may prove insufficient to bump up their Program Component Score, as the objective is to "physically, emotionally, and intellectually deliver the intent of the music and composition."

Russian, Japanese, and Italian skaters already seem to internalize this: it's almost like their culture imbues an innate sense of storytelling; as they inherently value the dramatic they always incorporate it into their choreography.

Dramatic acting is not for everyone though and it takes a couple of years for the gifted artists to "shake out." Sometimes a skater possesses the personality to slip in and out of character while letting their soul temporarily become something else. That skill needs some polish, but for the performer to mature she must learn how to effectively rebound after each performance with a reinvigorating recuperation.

Some skaters are competitive all the way through and through: all they need to stay motivated is somebody to best. But this is a shallow goal. In my mind the purpose of storytelling is more than just boosting your score or providing an entertainment hook. I firmly believe that the story serves as a benign diversion, so that you can accomplish the soul work that you're really out on the ice for. It is only with an artistic soul that a skater has the moxie, motivation, and determination to guide herself through the tough times to ultimately create a skating career.