Skating PASSION

 It doesn’t matter what happens in life; the ice is always there.  It is our life, our sanctuary, and our passion.

It has been a few months since I have been able to bring myself to write anything skating related.  As much as it pains me to say it, I had lost myself and I thought I had lost my love for skating.  Skating was and always has been who I was.  Every moment I lived and every breathe I took was for skating.  Somewhere along the path of life, I had suffocated and lost the affection for skating I once knew.  My life became consumed with working every minute of every day.  From coaching to expanding my business, there was always something to be done.  I needed new photos for my business and great oppotunity to Paris presented itself.  Many people only dream of going to Paris, and even though I love Paris, since i had been there multiple times I wasn’t as excited as I should i have been.  At the time I would have rather stayed home doing nothing than stressing about getting “good shots” for next seasons line.  What was supposed to be a a business trip turned into an experience that brought me back to who I am.  It was the oxygen I needed to feel alive again.

As soon as I got on the plane and heard another language besides English, my frame of mind had immediately changed.  I was instantly inspired and the inspiration kept growing with every moment I laid foot in France.  The show I went to visit was called Passion which was a portrayal of a skaters life.  From training, to competition, to how skating was a part of each skaters life.  There was one section in particular that had moved me so much that I wasn’t even able to hold up my camera.  The scene was set with a few skaters each telling their story of skating from around the world in their native language.  From being told they weren’t good enough, to losing a family member and their skating family became their own, to having skating be “their most consistent relationship.”  It was a heart jerking and awe inspiring scene.  As much as I tried to hold back, tears kept rolling down my cheeks.  It was the reminder that I needed, that no matter what happens in life, skating is who I am.

Passion BW Skates Poem Figure Skating quote

There were only a few select skaters who were chosen to tell their stories during the show, but it made me curious to ask others on the cast about their story.  With every story I heard, I was more inspired and impressed.  The struggles and strife that skaters from around the world have gone through is unbelievable just to be able to skate. What kept them going? What made them push through the pain and misfortune? Passion.  Their passion had led them to an incomparable and amazing experience of being a show skater.  Passion could not have been a more perfect name or theme for the show.

Prior to watching Passion, I felt as though I “had” to put my skates on.  But after the beautiful reminder, I feel blessed to be able to lace up my skates.  It doesn’t matter what happens in life; the ice is always there.  It is our life, our sanctuary, and our passion.   If you have passion you can and will be successful.  Most importantly, you will find happiness.  As frustrating, exhausting and disappointing skating can be, we never let it go or give up.  There is something so powerful abut the challenge of always going past not only physical limits but the emotions of adrenaline, stress, nerves, pressure and pure happiness.  It draws us in and never lets us go.  Its what makes us who we are.  It is our passion. It is our life.

FIGURE SKATING GAME!

Figure Skating Game Cover

Its the holiday season and along with a hot cup of cocoa, gift exchanging, there are often skating holiday parties.  Last year I threw a party for my students and I made up a game that seemed to be a big a hit.  The rules are not exactly set as there can be leeway depending on the level of the skaters.  Its a fun game to challenge the skaters, keep them skating even though its a party, and its also a great chance to get them to try new things.

The way I played the game is this:

There are 6 decks of cards, 3 for jumps and 3 for spins.  The skaters will decide if they would like to jump or spin.  They will then choose one card from each of the 3 decks.  The description on the card will be what they need to perform.  It can be played where each skater goes individually or all skaters must make the attempt.  The cards go as follow:

Jumps

Entries: Enter the jumps from one of the following chosen: Stand still, knee slide, spiral, split jump, shoot the ducks (ina bauer or spread eagle can be used in place of shoot the duck or knee slide)

Jump: The skater will choose from one of the jumps listed: Salchow, toeloop, loop, flip, lutz. Waltz jump and axel are included if chosen to play. (Flips and Lutz can be designated as 1/2 jumps depending on level of skater)

Rotations: The rotation cards will decide if the jumps must be a single, double, or triple. Depending on the level of the skater it could be performed two three times in a row instead of double or triple jump.  If the combination card is drawn, the skater will choose another jump card.  The two jumps chosen will then be performed as a combination with whatever difficult entry card was drawn. If the sequence card is drawn, the skater must make it a sequence that includes any of the following: split jumps, stag jump, falling leaf, bunny hop, side toe hop, half loop, inside axel, wally, etc.

Spins

Rotations: The rotation cards is the amount of revolutions required for each spin.  The skater will perform their spin with the minimum (or goal) of the following : 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Position: The skater will perform the basic position of the following: camel, sit, upright, layback

Variation/Combination: To increase the difficulty of the standard position the skater will choose from the following: variation, back (performed on the back foot), difficult entry, change foot (example: sit back sit), or combination.  If the combination card is drawn, the skater will choose another spin card position to do in combination with the previously drawn position.

There are no set rules to this game.  The previously mentioned rules was the way my students and I played it.  You can mix and match as much as you like!  We would love to hear how you play! Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page and let us know how you and you skaters played the skating game!

What if You Couldn’t Skate Anymore?

Figure Skating GratitudeOh the holiday season! It brings joy, happiness, stress, family fights, and a low bank account.  The holidays are supposed to be a time to spend with your family and give thanks.  With busy schedules and the commotion of the holidays we often lose sight of what amazing people and privileges we have in our lives.   Sometimes it takes a setback to see things from a different perspective.

I admit I am naive.  I have lived with the “ignorance is bliss” motto for years and it has kept me from fearing many situations. Looking back it may be more stupidity than ignorance, and it usually takes an unforeseen accident to bring me back to reality.  It may be a slip on the ice that has you in the emergency room, a car accident, or even having the stomach flu and not being able to skate for a few days.  It shouldn’t take something negative to make us realize how lucky we are for everything we have in our lives.  Family, friends, and health is the most important but we as skaters are so fortunate to have the ability and opportunity to skate.

The cost of the equipment, ice time, and coaching fees is off the charts.  The time commitment and scheduling and ice time availability is a nightmare.  Yet, we go out onto the ice determined and stressed to have a clean program run or land a certain jump and it never crosses our mind how lucky we are to have that opportunity.  There are thousands who can’t afford it or are not physically able to skate and we can let an entire session pass without once appreciating being out on the ice.  Be thankful for the ability to skate, our friends at the rink, and that feeling of being free when your on the ice.

Now is the time to be grateful.  Don’t wait for the moment you can’t skate in order to realize how fortunate you are to be able too.  Every time you step on the ice or every time you leave the ice, take a deep breathe in, look around and realize how lucky you are to be a part of something so blissful.

Choosing a Coach Part 2

Skating gifts & accessoriesChoosing a coach is an extremely difficult process and there are many things to take under consideration.  In the previous post we talked about personality, strengths, and credentials but there is much more to consider when choosing a coach.  We also need to think about finances, availability, and standards.

In most places figure skating coaches choose their own rates.  Usually the higher the credentials of a coach the more they charge.  Quality over quantity is important to keep in mind when choosing a coach based on their rate.  I have known many people who choose a low level coach with a low rate over a high level coach with a more expensive rate because they will be able to afford a longer lesson time.  In their minds a longer lesson equals more improvement.  More often than not, a student will learn more in a shorter lesson with a high level coach than in a long lesson with a low level coach.  The money can even be wasted when spent on the lower level coach because they can only progress so much with how they are taught.

All coaches bill differently but the majority of coaches bill on a monthly basis.  DO NOT PREPAY COACHES! There are exceptions to prepaying, but unfortunately there are greedy and sneaky coaches who ask advances that can end up being weeks and even months out.  Those lessons never end up happening and the money is lost.

Every coach has a different schedule and a different life outside of skating.  Some coaches live and breathe for skating and are at every competition, test session, and available practice.  Other coaches have families or other jobs and are not as available as other coaches.  Before choosing a coach, ask their availability not only for lessons but for weekend events.  This reason is not a make or break situation for choosing a coach but it is good to know in advance and be aware if the coach is always around or not.  It is better to ask and to know what to expect than to find out later on and be upset the coach is not able to attend certain events.

All coaches have a different style of coaching and with their different styles comes their level of standard.  Some coaches may let things slide such as posture, toe pointing, or wearing a hooded sweatshirt to practice.  Some coaches can be very strict with how you are dressed during a practice session.  Their level of standards on how you look when you come to the rink often resemble their coaching styles.  Competitive coaches are stricter on their standards than a recreational coach who doesn’t care if you wear jeans a hoodie to practice.

Coaches standards are not only with attire but with how the skater skates.  You can usually tell their standard by the majority of the coaches students and how polished their presence is on the ice.  Toe pointing, extension, posture, and flow are all things that need to be reminded to the skaters constantly.  Coaches with a lower standard don’t care about this and don’t emphasize it enough for the skater to make the correction.

Competitions and testing are another good indicator.  Some coaches make sure that their students are extremely prepared for the test or competitions where as other coaches have the approach, “we will see what happens.”  Neither approach is wrong.  It is a matter of personal preference what works with the skaters personality and what you are hoping to achieve from the event.

The list could go on and on about how to choose a coach.  Some reasons you can find out before hand and some things you may not realize until after you have had a few lessons with the coach.  If you start out with one coach and it isn’t working don’t feel like you have to stay with that coach.  Try another coach until you are happy with the work relationship.  Your coach needs to fit well into your life.  If they do, then you have found your coach.

Finding a Coach Part 1

Figure Skating Coaching Blog PostStarting out in skating can be incredibly confusing.  How much should you be on the ice, how many competitions to compete in, group lessons or private lessons?  One of the biggest and most crucial questions is how to find a coach.  There are hundreds of coaches out there and although most clubs only have a few to choose from, you have to find the right coach for you.    If you are skating for fun, if you want to be competitive, if you want to join a professional ice show, or if you want to become a coach knowing which direction you would like to take in skating will help narrow down your search for a coach.
Strength
If you want to be competitive look for a coach who has trained to compete or has competed at a national or international level.  These coaches will have more knowledge than a coach who had never competed.  If you want to join an ice show, look for a coach who has performed in ice shows.  If you want to become a coach, shadow multiple different coaches.  Most coaches have a preference of what they feel comfortable coaching.  If you can find a rink that team coaches, you are in luck and should take advantage of this situation.  Many coaches are not willing to team coach because they are insecure about their coaching abilities and don’t want their students to work with anyone else.  Coaches who don’t want their students going to camps are often worried that if their students work with other coaches and make progress that those students will realize that the coach they have is not coaching them correctly or in a way that they will understand.  I believe that great coaches allow their students to work with other reputable coaches and should encourage them to attend to skating camps.  Many coaches are saying the same thing to a skater but every coaches words it differently.  One way of saying it may resonate more with the skater which is why working with different coaches can be so beneficial.
Credentials
Its hard to believe but qualified coaches are hard to come by.  It is sad and although there are many nice coaches and a lot that may look good on paper; I have seen multiple coaches who lie about their credentials and extremely exaggerate in order to make themselves look more qualified.  The levels they have passed themselves is a secure guideline to how good of a skater they are/were and their knowledge of jumps, spins, dance, etc.  There are amazing coaches who have not passed tests but are still more than capable of coaching higher levels; however, these coaches tend to have more experience in other areas not on the ice.  They are committed coaches and have usually gone to camps, clinics, studied hours of videos, shadowed other coaches and have gone to seminars.  Ask the coaches about their other experience, who they trained with, what coaches they have worked with etc.  Many coaches in smaller cities have only worked with 1 coach their entire life and although they are confident they may not be very qualified.  If they have skated in a show with a famous skater, ask them details about the show.  I have seen resumes where coaches say they skated in a show with a famous skater.  In reality they did skate in a show with them, but it was a club show or a show where they didn’t need to try out and then they only skated in a group finale number.  It is awesome experience yes, but stating it as they skated in a show with a famous skater can be misleading.  Ask questions and get details.  If the coaches are reputable, they will be more than happy to share details.
Personality
A coach can have a huge impact in a students life due to the amount of time they spend together.  It is important to find a coach who is a role model and has a good attitude.  Take deep consideration if you are working with a coach or are thinking about choosing a coach who yells, make their students cry, or show signs of anger.  Do you really want to skate or have your child skate with someone who yells and is angry?  There is a difference between being tough on a skater and being down right mean to a skater.  Coaches can be tough on the skater in a calm way.  There is no reason to hit the boards or yell so much at the skater they cry.  The coaches personalities can rub off on the skater.  If the coach is stressed the skater may get stressed.  If the coach is calm, the skater tends to be more calm.  Would you rather be stressed or calm before competitions or test sessions?
Some personalities don’t mix, period.  There are some people who just get a long better than others and it is the same when finding a coach.  If you have a coach or are looking into a coach that you don’t get along with you should probably look for someone else.  Even if they are a great coach, how much are you going to respect or listen to them if you don’t like them?
There are countless things to take into consideration when trying to find a coach and these are just a few.  It is a big decision trying to find a coach, and although the options may not be bountiful it is still important to weigh the options.

Fat or Fit? Its How You Feel

Figure Skating Body Image

“This makes me look fat!” When you read this, who do you picture saying that? A 30 year old? A 20 year old? Maybe a teenager? Try a 9 year old!  A skater at our rink was trying on dresses during a test session this past Friday and she put on a gorgeous white lace long sleeved dress scattered with rhinestones and a soft chiffon skirt.  Her mom and I both agreed it was a must have dress.  She looked absolutely stunning like a little barbie doll in it.  The 9 year girl then said 3 words that left me stunned. “I look fat.”  Her mother was extremely upset and began to tell me how her daughter has gotten it in her head that she is fat and now refuses to eat. 9 YEARS OLD!

Figure skaters struggling with eating disorders is a whole other subject, but figure skaters no matter how old, need to understand body perception.  Your perception of how you look effects how you feel and your actions.  Someone who is comfortable in their own skin usually has better presentation.  They stand up straighter, chin is up, and are wearing a smile on their face.  Someone with low self confidence on the other hand will be more likely to be hunched over, looking down, and showing no emotion.  Figure skaters need to be proud of who they are and show it off to the world.  We spend hours upon hour training and too often how we perceive ourselves or our fear of how others perceive us inhibits us from performing to our fullest potential.  You are being judged on how you perform, not on what you weigh.  If you feel good about yourself you will skate with better performance.  So pull your shoulders back, stand tall, and own the ice because you are beautiful!

Sometimes we may not even realize that when we speak to others we bring attention to others body images.  I have heard and probably said myself, the really skinny skater or the heavier set skater when describing someone.  To someone who is struggling with their body image or self confidence they will immediately begin to wonder who they are more like.  For parents, coaches, and skaters it is important to be conscious when speaking to others to try to avoid comparing body images.  You never know who is struggling with how they feel, and they don’t need any more reminders for fuel to keep burning their fire.

It is very easy, too easy, to become self conscious of your body type in this sport.  Unlike team sports, every skater wears a different outfit.  Unlike team jerseys, these outfits are form fitting and show off any bump, lump, or roll.  It is only you on the ice being the center of attention in a tight dress.  We as skaters need to take pride in our image.  We get to put on fancy dresses and get all dolled up.  We should be strutting around showing it off instead of looking for a sweater to cover up.  Team sports compare themselves to other teams as a whole where figure skaters compare each other as individuals.  Often times skaters compare their bodies to their competitors.  Skaters need to remember to focus on the skating not the image.  Everyone has a different body type and is built differently.  You could try the craziest diets in the world but it won’t make your legs longer, it won’t make you grow a few inches, and it won’t change your body type.  You are you and not someone else for a reason.  Own your body and love who you are.

A skaters body is our tool for success, not an object to be posed in a magazine.  If you want to pose be a model instead of a figure skater.  Skaters have muscles for a reason, and having muscles does not mean you are fat.  Those muscles allow you to perform.  Perform with presentation and be proud of how you look.  Beauty doesn’t have a weight limit.

 

Not-So Supporting Schools

Pink Figure Skate in Book Not Supporting SchoolsI want to start out by saying that this is not aimed towards all schools or teachers.  There are many wonderful teachers and schools who are doing amazing work in shaping the lives of tomorrows future.  This article is about the ignorant teachers and principals that let their personal opinions stand in the way of what is in the best interest for the students.  It’s sad to see some schools deny their students opportunities that can lead to wonderful opportunities and achievements in their futures.

We have heard it before, skating is not a sport.  No, it is not a school sanctioned sport, but that does mean it is not sport.  I strongly believe that although it is not a school sanctioned sport, students who figure skate should get the same rights as students who play sanctioned sports.  Students in volleyball, track, basketball, etc are allowed to leave school in order to attend meets and events.  Depending on the teachers and principals, figure skaters are not so lucky to have that privilege.  By not allowing students to leave for non school sanctioned sporting events, what is that teaching us about being different and going for your dreams?  It is like telling the students you have the option of being a scientist, mathematician, geographer or english teacher because that is all they teach at school.  Anything else is not allowed.  Students should have the option to be whatever they want to be and play whatever sports they want to play even if the school doesn’t offer that sport.

I have seen it in schools and experienced it myself (and fought tooth and nail to overturn the ruling) that skaters are not allowed to leave for competitions or extra training.  Some teachers and principals understand and allow it and I commend and appreciate those who do.  Those who deny it; however, I am disgusted by.  Teachers have a huge influence on a students life.  I distinctly remember, and always will, the two (yes only 2 from grade 1-12) that believed in me and supported my skating.  If a student is learning in your class and achieving good grades, why should they not be allowed to leave?  I understand not allowing the child to leave school if their grades are failing, but if their grades are high then what is the harm? Letting them attend their event not only allows them to do what they love, but it will also teach them about time management, balance, and independence.  If they are away and not in school, they still need to finish their homework and study on their own.  Balancing skating and school together is quite an accomplishment and they should be rewarded instead of punished for it.  Teacher or no teacher, anyone that denies a child a chance to better themselves should be ashamed.

I can guarantee that if a student makes it to the Olympics or if they get any name recognition in their sport all of a sudden their school is proud and supports them.  When it comes to actually putting in the time and training the athlete only gets flak and the school makes it difficult for them.  It is only when they are successful that certain schools want to share in their success.

If you are dealing with non supportive teachers or principals, do not let it affect you’re skating or hold you back from your dreams.  Voice your concerns and problems you are having.  Plan a meeting with the superintendent, attend school board meetings, have your coach speak with your principal or teachers.  Do anything and everything you can in order to address the situation.  You can also look into independent studies in school so you will not have to associate with any teacher that is giving you difficulty.  Just because a teacher is stubborn about their opinion doesn’t mean it should or can prevent you from furthering you’re skating.

Teachers and schools have a huge impact on a students life.  I am deeply bitter towards school and many of the teachers who taught me growing up.  How they acted and the things they said towards not believing in my skating, that it wasn’t a sport, I was wasting my time, etc was just plain wrong.  I am now coaching students who are facing the same challenges and to see them having to struggle through it is incredibly painful.  I had the mindset to prove everyone wrong, but there are many students out there who will not be that strong and will give up instead.  Teachers can either make or break an athletes future.  Don’t let your teacher hold you back from following your dreams.