Wednesday, November 11, 2009

So You Think YOU Can Dance?

This blog is NOT about ice dancing; it is about my all-time favorite spectator sport: Coaches at Basic Skills competitions!!

I have told you all before that I love to announce skating events and have done it for years. While it is a true honor to work top events, my absolute passion is being behind the microphone at Basic Skills competitions. It is like announcing on speed, especially when you have two or three events going on one sheet of ice at the same time. I will discuss that in another blog because it is truly schizophrenic and definately NOT for the faint of heart (voice or organization). 

What I truly love about doing Basic Skills competition is watching the coaches interact with their young students. Seriously...have you ever REALLY watched? If not, you are missing a true gem in our sport.

From compulsory programs right up through Basic freeskate events, coaches are far more entertaining than the skaters, who are seriously the cutest things on the planet! Next time you are at a competition and you don't have a Basics competitor, go sit in the stands and observe. It is the most wonderful, and the absolutely the funniest and most adorable thing in skating!

Lined up in the hockey boxes like a chorus line covered in Patagonia, feathers and occasionally furs, the coaches live and die by their young skater's program. Every move; every nuance of choreography is mimicked on the sidelines. You can almost hear Mama Rose screaming, "Sing Out, Louise!" (Reference to the musical "Gypsy," for those of you too young to remember). With laser-like stares and voices that come close to sounding like a cross between Mary Poppins and Cruella Deville (no matter if they are a female or a male coach), these mostly-young stewards of skating move in a strange unison with their student  in a manner that appears to have nothing to do with what everyone is listening to in the rink. Actually, if you watch closely, you can't tell if the coaches are directing "A Whole New World," or "The Chicken Dance." Whatever it is, if you do not smile - or occasionally laugh outright - you had better check your pulse.

Believe me, I have been on the microphone side sitting next to the judges many times during these competitions, so here are my suggestions: Watch the judges watch the skaters and secretly smile at how adorable they are while trying to maintain their judge-like professional demeanor. Watch the coaches watch the skaters and "will" them to do their amazing little programs by mirroring  the moves in sideline machinations of twizzles, twists and turns.

But after you have had a giggle watching the coaches, watch these wonderful young skaters who go out and absolutely perform their very best, no matter what the outcome. Their joy and freedom of expression is contageous. If you've been at this for awhile, it will make your heart warmer and bigger while reminding you why you got involved in this crazy sport in the first place.


  1. I specialize in coaching these little guys, and you can bet that I don't have any less invested in them than 8 Frank Carrols put together. As you say, it's really hard not to sit in that judges box and just fall in love with every one of them. GREAT description (and thanks for noticing us down here in the trenches).

  2. Xan - It's ALL about the "trenches." If it weren't for all of you protecting the Front, our kids wouldn't be where they are today. That is one of the reasons that our skater still lists his first competitive coach on his bio! We owe a lot to her and all the support she provided, along with the others who still stay in touch and continue to work the trenches day to day, some 20 years later.