Thursday, July 2, 2015

Adult Friendly Coaches, Coach Friendly Adults

I take the kid classes for several reasons, but a big one is that I get more exposure to more coaches. One of my big mistakes early on was a myopic focus on one coach, thinking that by doing so I would have better technique. Wasn't true, and was actually really limiting when that one coach didn't give me much to do.

So now I get instruction from a wide array of coaches, ranging from a former World Champion to the Regional Superstarlet new to this whole Coaching thing.

Last week I had a Coach that I didn't think was very adult friendly, so I kinda braced myself. It wasn't necessary, and I got one of the best Toe Loop Lessons I'd ever had. I used to think that some coaches just didn't like to work with adults, but there are some things adults can do to make themselves easier to work with.

1. Do what the Coach tells you

Most experienced coaches will modify their approach for you. Either by slowing it down a little or being more specific with steps, they get it that you're not a kid. A Younger Coach will likely toss things at you wholesale, and it's up to you to put the brakes on. But in either case, give it your genuine best effort. My Young Coach didn't quite understand that I can't do a twizzle (yet) and I need a moment to get into a back pivot, so I will sometimes say, "I can't do X Skill, so I will do this similar thing instead." And after a class or two, she understood. My Older Coach would smile at me and tell me to try X Skill anyway, which had mixed results but he was only disappointed if I didn't try.

2. Don't make fun of yourself.

Adults have a bad habit of mocking their age and skillset. Stop it. Take yourself with some seriousness. A Jokey Attitude sets up the stage for that whole "Not Trying" thing. On my first lesson with the Former World Champion, he tasked me with a side toe from an inside 3 turn and I laughed at it. "You never know until you try," he smiled calmly. I had already broken the bad habit of downing myself with Coach Fab, but I also had to break it with everyone else, too. I save the Old jokes for lobby banter when I'm with other adults, and not my coaches.

3. Be respectful.

My Power Coach is young, and she has said she isn't comfortable teaching someone who could be her mom. Okay, point taken, so when I'm in class with her, she's the boss. I do what she says to the best of my ability. I don't talk back and I don't pull the "Old Card," since that's where she starts to feel uncomfortable.

4. Be an Example

I'm currently stuck at Freeskate 2 with Backspins. The Freeskate 2 class shares a warmup with the Basic kids, so I'm literally a giant. But I'm the best giant out there, so I do my best to exemplify good stroking technique, crossovers, and whatever. "I can't do lunges," a scared little girl whispered to me as she watched the warmup group do lunges. "It's okay, I'll do them on my bad side with you," I said. And I did.

5. Constructive criticism is valuable

Take critiques for what they are, critiques of your skating, not of you. Ask for feedback, tell them where you're stuck or confused. In some cases, the clarity of an adult saying, "I feel like I'm on the flat, and not an edge," might be a refreshing change from a kid who can't say what's holding them back.

6. But Take no Shit

There have been occasions when a coach has made mention of me, an Adult, in class with the kids. "What are you doing here, this isn't the adult class." I reply simply that I am in this class and skate strongly past them with my head held high.

It's true that there is some Adult Skater Hate out there, but Adults sometimes do things to set themselves up for the distaste. Don't cop an attitude, don't limit yourself, and try hard. Even if you know you can't do what the coach is telling you, as long as it's level appropriate, try it anyway. I think that's the best way to make headway with Coaches who might have some reservations about adult skaters. Failure is better than not doing it at all or admitting defeat before you got started. And you'll impress a coach more by trying things outside your comfort zone than by making a great crack about your age.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

"That's a lot of work!"

I overheard a conversation about how to avoid rust on skate blades. In a humid summer, it can happen in an hour if you're not careful. Once a blade is rusted, it's never the same. It's critical to take precautions against the Rust Demons.

"Once you take them off, dry the blades and put the soakers on," the coach was saying.

"Uh-huh, I did that. I still got rust!"

"When you get home, take the soakers off and let the skates sit in the open," the coach continued.

"What? I have to do that?"

I had to interject. "I have a bamboo sushi roller that I set my skates on, so they get a lot of air. And don't forget to pull the tongues out a bit so the leather inside dries out, too."

The woman looked at me like I was from mars. "That's a lot of work!"

"Right. But skates are a big investment. You want them to last as long as possible."

"I guess so," she looked hesitant.

"And don't forget to wash the soakers every so often. And put the blade guards in the dishwasher. WD40 if it's really humid." I didn't mean to take over.

"All that for skates."

Yes. This weekend my skates got some abuse, so they are enjoying some window time, airing out with a view of the courtyard and birds. Really hoping they'll be dry in time to start again tomorrow.

Maybe we should look at skating as a lot of work, and skate care as the post-workout ritual that keeps us safe!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Competition Program

Coach Fab asked me to get new music. Something similar to what I did for Ice Show, because while it was short, it was fun.

Okay. So I dug a little, and I found a jazzy little number I could wear a red dress to and something no kid would ever be skating to. Ever. I played it and Coach Fab nodded. "Yes, this suits you. It's very you."

Well, if we're going to be Adult Skaters, then let's have some Adulty music, please.

Now, the number should have this kind of feel to it:

Right now, however, it's looking kind of like this.

I played with it this morning, feeling for the music and looking for the steps. Surprisingly, some things started to come together for me.

Unfortunately, a Salchow from a mohawk was not one of those things.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Awkward Moments

So, we have to be nice to everybody at the rink. We're a community, and even though we sometimes have our little disagreements, we just have to move on... keep going... and all those quaint little sayings that pop up on Pintrest all the time. Right?

My ex-coach was subbing my skating class Saturday. Now, I just disconnected and let it go. This is about skating. Nothing else matters. We're adults. Okay, I did make some trouble during the warm up, but it was only to let him know I found the warm up boring. I had just come out of an exhilarating 90MPH Power Skating class and he was doing dips. Non moving dips. "Just like old times," the thought crossed my mind and I allowed myself an eyeroll once out of sightline.

But then, during the class, he complimented me.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Book Review: Alone, The Triumph and Tragedy of John Curry

John Curry has become my latest obsession on skates. The man was a creative genius, truly, but like most geniuses, a little bit crazy. His attention to detail, his line, the way he moves, it fascinates me. There's a lot of Curry Work on YouTube, and some of it confused me until I read this book and got some backstory on the pieces and the skaters.

There's a lot of me that empathizes with Curry. He, too, felt like he was being put in a box that he didn't want to be in. And he felt that skating wasn't just about flashy jumps and spins, but about gliding and line and elegance. The '70's coaches were trying to teach him their definition of Masculine skating, and he had a hard time breaking free of that definition. And even when he was finished with Formal Competition and those Rulebooks, commercial success was hard for him.

This book goes into the financial disasters that plagued his "Theatre on Ice" attempts after his Olympic win. Truly, he operated under a dark star. Poor marketing, cramped tours, tough rehearsal schedules and bad ice. It was hard for me to read, because I so badly wanted him to do well and I've been in those situations. And again, it put a lot of what I was seeing on YouTube into context.

Curry's secretive nature and bad temper didn't make things easier. He was rough on his skaters, but he was rougher on himself. Flirtations with had drug use, a brutal sexuality, so much of John Curry is in want of a hug that he'd just turn away. Some parts of it were very tough. Especially near the end. But I won't spoil it for you, since you already know how it ends.

There's always a price that's paid for beauty, and if John Curry was anything, he put himself up as the down payment for changing how we think of male skaters today. Here's my favorite piece by John. I tried the toepick push step he does at 2:48, it's not so hard. I'm going to ask if we can fit this into my new program.