Monday, March 31, 2014

Motivational Monday

I love Rocky. I could watch Rocky every day of the week. In fact, I liken my travails in skating as a cross between Rocky and Flashdance. And did you notice in those movies, they don't really "win?" There's no big "winning" scene where they stand over their antagonists triumphantly, with the music playing and confetti everywhere. Rocky doesn't win, he just stays in the game.

Sometimes, that's all you can hope for. Staying in the game.

Stay in the game, skaters! Keep moving forward!

Saturday, March 29, 2014


I've had a lot of parents ask, "What is the difference between ISI and USFSA Curriculums?" And I see this question a lot on various forums and Ask Boards. Here's my opinion on it:

ISI is Goal Oriented.

USFSA is Process Oriented.

Let's say the Goal is forward Crossovers... okay. This seems reasonable. It's a concrete thing; we can look at a skater and say, "Yes, she is doing forward crossovers."

But by focusing on the Goal/Element, we lose the Process. I've never stopped working on forward crossovers. Instead of just putting one foot over the other, now I have arm position, body position, free foot elevation and free foot turnout, placement and holding of the skating foot/free foot, and head position to think about. If my butt muscles hurt the day after, I know I did it right. Because Forward Crossover isn't itself a Goal, it is a part of the Process to a Progressive.

USFSA likes the Process of a Forward Crossover, because the process begins with "Glide on one foot," then "Glide on an FO edge on a circle," and finally, "Cross over." The Process makes it easier to graduate to a Progressive; since you're already so comfy on that FO edge, you're more willing to let it slide out behind you on that Progressive. It doesn't seem so insane when Coach has you try it.

ISI just goes for broke and says, "Cross over." And then is when we see kids gliding on a LFO and trying to cross Left over Right and getting confused and frustrated. ISI sets a list of given goals, and assumes that a skater will "connect the dots" so to speak, and intuitively Get the Process as they go. And some skaters can do this and do it very well. Others, like me, need more. This isn't saying one group is dumb and the other smart, it's simply that people learn differently.

I, for example, would have really appreciated some serious time devoted to two-foot turns before I spent six months struggling with FO3's. Now, I take a page from USFSA Basic Skills and spend time on Back to Forward Two Foot turns, just to get comfortable with the motion. I have no intention of repeating the same agony with Back 3's as I did with Forward 3's.

My old coach hated Shoot the Duck. Said it was useless and never had me practice it to any degree.

My new coach made Shoot the Duck as part of my warmup. I do them forwards and backwards on both feet.

Why the difference?

Sit Spins. Shoot the Duck is a part of the Process of doing a good Sit Spin. I knew this from the get-go, and practiced Shoot the Duck anyway, even though Old Coach told me not to bother.

Shoot The Duck is not itself a Goal, it is a part of the Process towards an element down the line.

In fact, one of Old Coach's Former Students called the Sit Spin the $3000 spin, she had so much trouble with it. Could it be that a critical part of the process (learning to do a solid one legged lateral squat in skates) had been omitted?

There are those who disagree with me. That's fine. I can agree to disagree. But I can say what has worked for me, and that's a Process Oriented method, one that doesn't focus on completion of individual steps and elements. Anyone can balance on one foot in skates. Not everyone can do Edge Pulls with ferocity, which is really the only way they get done. Anyone can do crossovers, not everyone can graduate that into pretty Crossrolls.

That having been said, this should answer another question I get asked, "What level are you?"

My rink operates with the ISI curriculum. I don't like it, so I try to operate outside of it. I'm not interested in testing through ISI. I'm gearing up to test USFSA Pre-Bronze MIF (and possibly Freeskate if I can get a Salchow and my spin happening with regularity) this year. I can do elements up to Adult Silver MIF, which is great but I need to get on this whole Jumping bandwagon pretty soon. My best jump right now is a Toe Loop.

So, the answer to that question is, "Don't know, don't care." I can skate pretty good, so let's go with that.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Freeskate Friday

Grace isn't just physical. It's a state of being.

And let's say that not every skater can walk into Nationals without a coach and finish on the podium.

Unlike some other skaters we know...

Thursday, March 27, 2014


So, I always say, "As long as I'm talking, I'm happy. Even if I'm bitching, I'm happy. When I stop talking, I'm unhappy."

This blog has been quiet for a long time. And it's because I've been unhappy. Unhappy to the point where skating got very, very hard. Not hard as in "can't do this element" hard, but just plain hard. Hard to maintain motivation, hard to keep up a smile, hard to fathom just why I was throwing so much into it.

I loved skating, don't get me wrong. It was my love of skating in general that kept me going, but love only gets you so far. There was only so much plugging away I could do before I started getting frustrated, knowing I wasn't where I wanted to be or on the trajectory of getting there. I had started to dread lessons.

I used to love lessons, but what had once been a weekly session of checking in on tips from the previous week and learning something new had become a drawn out drag of the same thing, over and over again. Shifu complained about the hour, and when he didn't whine about the hour, he cancelled outright. My skating calendar was full of "Cancel/Reschedule," over and over. Makeups were missed, and by the time I got to a lesson I was so strung out I could barely skate. I had no schedule, and without a consistent schedule of Lessons and Practice Time, I was literally just going in circles.

I had to make a change.
I let go of Shifu.

There's more to it, more of my opinions as to why this was happening, but the bare bones is that I could not train without really knowing when my next lesson might be, or if it would be cancelled at the last moment as so many of them often were. Without consistency, I would continue to struggle. Shifu blamed me for being unable to skate on "Normal Sessions" at presumably normal times, or on sessions where there were lots of other skaters for me being unable to train. It's true; I don't like crowds and I have anxiety issues with crowded spaces. But that didn't make much sense, as I was already spending upwards of seven hours a week on the ice. Working as much as I do, my schedule is what it is, and fussing at me for having a job and a family that interfered with what Shifu considered reasonable was hurtful and a waste of time. And if there was ice that was empty, I'd be a complete fool to pass that up anyway. Besides, the one "reasonable hour" I could get to, he had already promised to other people. My best efforts to work with Shifu were consistently failing, and not through any fault of mine.

So I had to let him go. And it was hard, and it was messy, and I wish with all that is in me that it didn't have to happen this way. But I felt horrible, for so many reasons, and the Horrible Baggage was literally dragging me down.

I hired a new coach. My new coach is a breath of fresh air. He's on time, he's consistent, he doesn't spend any time at all with useless personal chitchat on the ice. He's always got something new, the past three lessons have all had new things. I'm challenged constantly, and when I'm in fear of falling that's good. And while I only have Coach for a half hour instead of a full hour, it feels like the same level of instruction given that he is on time and we aren't spending upwards of 20 minutes talking about non-skating things. In this regard, new coach is less expensive and of a higher quality. For the first time in over a year, I am sore after lessons. I came out ahead.

And I'm happy again. I look forward to lessons again. The change in my confidence alone has made a drastic difference. I'm no longer dragging myself to practice, looking for something, any glimmer of why this was fun. I have things to do, the hour isn't enough. It's not just new skills, there are changes to be made to old skills; my crossovers are getting a makeover and my turns are being pushed to the forefront.

What's more, I'm seeing a sports physician/chiropractor for my hip and knee problems. While I may never have the same flexibility on my left side as I do on my right, I am not in pain anymore. I also see a massage therapist to help manage the physical manifestations of my stress, and I'll be working with an off-ice coach come springtime. In short, instead of waiting for someone to treat me like an athlete, I'm treating myself like an athlete. I think I lot of my frustration was coming from waiting and wanting people to recognize my efforts. I realized that this won't ever happen, and it's up to me to treat me like an athlete. If I don't, no one will.

I get just as much instruction from Shifu as I once did, but it's in a much less expensive and much more stringent format: It's in a class. It's harder to be late/bail on/spend half the time allotted talking idle drama in a class. He still doesn't wear skates, which makes things confusing sometimes, but again, it's much less expensive so it doesn't bother me as much. And maybe one day he'll realize just why the entire class is confused. (It's the lack of visual demonstration. A lot of people need visuals, I'm one of those people.)

New Coach is in skates, and I have to chase him. We spent a morning on forward crossovers; he was pulling my free leg up and back, way higher than I'd ever thought possible. Being physically grabbed and maneuvered into proper position while at speed will take some getting used to. The past three lessons have been packed with new fixes to old problems, I have tons of skating homework, and I'm already feeling better about things. What's more, I don't feel the need to run to YouTube to get a visual of what an element is supposed to look like!

I'm happy again. And my skating is about me, not anyone else, and I can't and won't apologize for that.