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.

Monday, January 8, 2018

- humility

I suppose it is okay to be proud of the moves you have learned and that you can perform with some skill, grace, and panache. So yeah in your program you are showing off, a bit. After all, your program is a beautiful blossoming flower. At the same time however, a graceful skater recognizes that she is still just sprouting, forever climbing up the long skating-career trellis. Your program is in no way the only blossoming flower, and hence we gardeners request some humility.

How do you demonstrate respect for the sport and deference to the judges? Well for one thing, don't show off so much. Avoid doing a split jump directly in front of the judges. I am sorry but up close this looks ridiculous: it is like a flower spritzing a burst of pollen in your face. Off toward a third point of the ice works just fine.

Performing your best and most difficult jump directly in front of the judges is quite a risk: if it's perfect you are showing off, yet if it is imperfect then you are so close that imperfections are what the judges will remember. A wonderfully colorful and symmetric bird of paradise blossom may look gorgeous from fifteen feet away, but up close the tatters in its leaves are visible.

Treat the judges and the audience equally overall. Unfurl your jumps with a sprinkling around the rink so everybody receives a good view. Share the bouquet with everyone. Perform your spins in the central half length of the ice, centered across the width.

Smile, but it is also okay to acknowledge how much effort your program importunes. Finally when you finish, courteously curtsy to both sides of the rink. And smiling with a slight wave to your dad in the audience is cool too.

Friday, December 22, 2017

- vapor

After your kid has been competing for a while you get a pretty good sense of the variety of ice rinks. Aside from the big mix in amenities and heating for the parents in the stands, you soon recognize that all rinks share a sublime difference that has more of an impact on how your kid skates. At first you may think it has to do with the Zamboni or the rink's temperature. Somehow they must be affecting the ice's surface. But after years of sitting in a wide variety of rinks I suspect the difference is something deeper, more sublime, and environmentally holistic.

Consider this: over the lifetime of an ice surface, in between complete melts, a couple years of running the Zamboni a couple dozen times over the ice daily, probably deposits a good 20 feet of additional vertical surface above the freezer pipes. Yeah it also scrapes off a bit of the snow on top. Still, how come the ice doesn't rise right up out of the building? The answer my friend, is that ice evaporates.

Natural ice sources, like a lake, have a resupply of water from underneath. The rink however has to always add water on the top. So what influences how the ice evaporates? I am sure there must be some lengthy technical article about this in some trade publication (is there such a thing as Rink Maintenance Monthly?), but my guess is that rinks strike a balance between four variables: temperature, humidity, dehydration rates from the mechanical air conditioning, and the quality of the rink enclosure's "vapor barrier."

Although I can never quite come up with a simple rule that ties them all together, I am quite confident that the vapor barrier is the key determinant to good skating. Compared to a building that has been "repurposed," modern rinks specifically designed for the sport are hence both fifty times more comfortable and have much better ice conditions. It's all about the vapor.


ed note: After writing this I did a bit of research and found this PDF, which explains a lot.

Friday, December 8, 2017

- tipped

It doesn't take a lot of sitting on the sidelines to realize a damning fact about ice skaters: even though they spend 98 per cent of the time standing upright, you could pretty much determine everything about how they are going to skate by laying them flat on a sturdy board and placing a pivot wedge underneath it at the geometric center.

If the skater tips down to their feet, oooh you got lucky and managed to clear all future challenges with grace.

God bless and peaceably pray however for those that tip down to their head; they will not have a particularly easy time competing on the ice. I suppose this happens either because the good lord (or genes if you prefer) conferred upon the skater skinny legs, or a lengthy or busty torso.

A top-loaded skater is constantly battling the counter-tilt of gravity, the difficulties of centering spins, the stability of holding a spiral, and especially the battle to prevent a spin from precessing. You start to feel deep sympathy for the top-heavy gals after a while, and there's not a darn thing you can do about it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

- components

One of the tougher things to decide when you are a performer is what to include in your "exhibition" program. I'm not referring to your IJS short program here, where you have required elements. You do skate in a couple of shows though, don't you?

I suppose a large part of this decision derives from how you view your skating... is it a demonstration for the judges, or is it a performance for the audience? Is it impossible to combine the two?

I suppose what I am alluding too is that, sure, certain moves get popular because all the other gals are doing them, but I still don't feel that a pancake sit allows for any particularly elegant way to transition out from beneath it.

Choose the moves in your program because they are elegant, they transition well, and fit your music. Don't select a move just because you feel that you have to prove that you can do it. And often some of the simpler moves are still elegant and appropriate to the music anyhow, so include them! Your program will be much more alluring if you place your expressive principles above your desires to "impress."

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

- sides

Trick question: how many sides does an ice rink have? Yeah I know it's an oval shape. The trick is that I am not asking for a geometric count, but rather a tally of its personalities.

At nine in the morning on a Wednesday at the rink I meet Janet, a skate coach here. Otherwise the rink is completely empty even though it is open for public ice. I suppose this runs typical for a mid-week morning.

Rinks have such jagged up and down spiky sessions: if you were to walk into a rink totally at random half the time it would be vacant, empty except for the staff performing random chores, cleaning the rental boots, fixing the boards. This is the personality of the rink that the employees know; it is their grounding.

The other half of the time the place is a zoo, eighty kids going every which direction, or a rough and tumble roaring hockey match.

The difference between figure skating and hockey is matched by the stark contrast between when the rink is empty and when it is full. Figure skating and hockey are two distinct personalities.

So empty, hockey, figure skating... an ice rink has three sides.