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.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

- smoothe

While watching some intermediate skaters in Pasadena, I was most impressed by a particular gentleman who stroked more smoothly than I had ever seen. I will see if I can describe it in enough detail to give you a sense of the effect of this approach. The technique seems to extend somewhat beyond what one would learn straight up in a stroking class. I saw an article about this type of skating once by a Russian ice dance team (it may have even been called Russian stroking), but I can no longer find its reference. In any case let me describe the impression I got and you can take it from there.

If you were to take a high-speed camera and some LED lights marking an outline of a skater's boot on a single solitary stroke, and then graph them onto a piece of paper, I expect (for the typical skater) you would see a slanting line extending downward at more or less constant velocity, of approximately a fixed angle of descent. It would look like a wedge, or the hypotenuse of a triangle, until the skate hit the ice. This is well and good and is rather what one would expect from managing the leg muscles at a constant rate of extension. I doubt it is mechanically optimal and it doesn't look particularly elegant.

Now picture a graph of a curve that starts more steeply and then gets shallower, approaching the floor axis more and more gradually. In math we say that the curve has an asymptote, like a graph of y = 1/x. Is it possible to have each stroke appear this way?  In my lifetime I have seen perhaps two people in person skate like this, and it is quite a striking visual effect. It makes it appear that they are achieving very high transfer-of-energy productivity to the ice, with little or no wasted impact friction. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

- a fix


Once in a while I get to thinking about the state of the "sport" and although I am now actually outside looking in, I do still get somewhat cheesed off at skating today compared to my recollections of its grace and class when l was younger. At the same time, aside from joining the cacophony of bloggers who feel the same and create electronic messages that flow into reader's brains, is there much else that I can do about the present morass? Well yes, unfortunately so. I could found an alternative to ISU.

As I am by profession however a software geek and nominally by free-choice a writer, let's consider this for now just a thought experiment. Would it be possible, what might it achieve, and where would we encounter the major challenges. After reading this if you, as a studious parliamentarian, feel so motivated as to actually carry out these tasks then you have my blessings (and more power to you).

So I hereby propose the Youth Performing Skaters Organization -- the YPSO if you will. Its targeted beneficiaries are youth aged 8 to 20 who regularly skate artistically in front of an audience. Its charter is to promote the long-term comfort, safety, and satisfaction of the participants (including their parents, coaches, and audience members) and to guide the harmonization of rules and services promulgated by the national level skating organizations that may overlap in scope.

Yeah I know, boring bureaucratic hogwash. Yet it's focused to specific ends that the present hierarchy isn't. So say that you're all on board with this. Now what? Well to actually establish such a thing you need to bootstrap a group of relevant and interested experts and participants and create some actual bylaws. I suppose you could do this with a Kickstarter project or some such tool; say you set a funding goal of having a hundred prospective members each providing $1000. Donors who agree to abide by the charter and who pass a certain amount of vetting become "charter members" and get to create the bylaws.

Of course you'd want to assure a fair mix of representative interests: singles skaters, pairs, dance, ice theater, and their respective coaches. Some trainers and sports medicine folks. A couple language and cultural boffins. Some marketing and media types. A few rink owners, a renewable energy representative. And some skate parents, naturally.

So there you go, now you have a group of folks to work with. You next need to mutually create and agree to the bylaws that specify how YPSO will run, keep and suspend members, organize standing committees, hold meetings, resolve problems, yada yada. A good six months of wrestling with best practices and attorneys, certainly.

Then comes the real work.

YPSO will need some initial regular fundraising, with all the politics that implies. It will need to deal with the rules and legalities for a disciplinary committee. It will need to develop a scorekeeping methodology and scoring software. It will need to handle contract negotiations with vendors and media. It will need to establish accounting for startup travel costs and justification for a future budget. It will need to handle auditing and credentialing, copyrights and IP legal matters, and create policies that promote comfort, health and safety. Finally it can think about curation and musing of the art form.

Heck I'm not saying it would be easy, and after the bylaws are established you've still probably got a solid two years of work before you produce anything influential, but it's a start. Of course it's easier to blog concerns and flay one another with comments, but when blades scritch ice the Doing will trump the Writing. Just saying.