Saturday, June 9, 2012



Prologue: This is Part One of a three part series on something I feel is very important. Before you begin reading, please note that the subject matter, and the blogs, were read and approved before posting by the people involved. Thank you to my wonderful friends Nick LaRoche, Parker Pennington, Sean Rabbitt, Tim David and Doug Mattis for allowing me the true honor of sharing your stories. It has been educational, inspirational and humbling. – Allison Scott

What motivates you? I certainly have things that have moved me to action, particularly in the past few years. Recently, I took a step back to analyze: 1) What grabbed my attention; 2) what caused me to get involved, and 3) who was leading those efforts that struck such a deep-rooted chord in me that I was willing to commit time, resources and any support I could give to help them be successful. My answers actually astonished me.

Five skaters, interestingly – but not surprisingly – all guys, have been my motivation in the past few years. Some of them I’ve known since they were kids; several are new friends. All of them have chosen to take the discipline they learned in skating and turn it to causes they are passionate about. Every reason is as individual as the person behind it. However, the one thing they all share – and what has moved me do deeply – is their commitment, and their heart.

“Motivation is defined as the process that initiates, guides and maintains goal-oriented behaviors. Motivation is what causes us to act, whether it is getting a glass of water to reduce thirst or reading a book to gain knowledge. It involves the biological, emotional, social and cognitive forces that activate behavior. In everyday usage, the term motivation is frequently used to describe why a person does something.” To me, these five men have done more than “something;” they have done, and continue to do, everything they can to make a difference.

Nick LaRoche
I first met Nicholas (Nick) LaRoche when he was 13 or 14 years old. Over the years, our paths crossed many times at competitions where I always admired Nick’s ability to transform his skating into art and athleticism. No matter the results, Nick was a force as a competitor. Like many others, I cried at the 2009 U.S. National Championships when Nick retired from competition after skating his short program and bravely attempting a comeback following his well-chronicled family tragedy.

That singular series of events would have been enough to break most people. But instead, Nick and his sister Tricia took their grief and turned it into motivation to do something no one thought possible. They formed the U.S. Athletic Foundation. The mission of the Foundation is create a fund for financially challenged athletes by managing donations made in support of their national, world and Olympic endeavors. The Foundation manages the financial aspects of training, providing athletes of all sports the opportunity to focus their passion and energy on training and utilizing their talents to their fullest potential.

I’ve also known Parker Pennington for many years. Another truly gifted skater, Parker had tremendous success as a competitor. He was the 1995 Juvenile National Champion; 1996 Intermediate champ; 1998 Novice and 2001 Junior National champion. It’s a string of impressive accomplishments few in our sport have achieved. He was well on his way to international success at the Junior Grand Prix, but 911 derailed his international competitions that season as the US withdrew from all events. In 2004, he had to withdraw from the U.S. championships due to injury. I got to know him even better when he moved to Colorado Springs to train for several years before returning to Ohio, where he currently lives and trains.

Parker and young student. Photo by Debbie King
Outside of skating, Parker was in National Honor Society throughout high school and was on the US Figure Skating Scholastic Honor Team. Additionally, Muscular Dystrophy awarded him Volunteer of The Year award twice(once in Connecticut and once in Ohio) for his work as Producer of "Skate for Life".

Now, Parker is producer of a new show called “Skate Dance Dream,” a weekend dedicated around children. Over the course of a weekend, the children participate in numerous on and off-ice activities learning from their idols in skating and the dance world. The weekend includes seminars, workshops, meets & greets that culminates with performing in the show. The stars of skating and dance who participate take on a mentorship role, using their involvement with “Skate Dance Dream” to guide and encourage the children to pursue both their personal and team goals, while teaching them to enjoy the process. The show is fun, inspiring, and motivating, while teaching children the value of truly dreaming big.

Sean Rabbitt
I didn’t meet Sean Rabbitt until 2011. I had seen him skate several times, but it wasn’t until he invited our skater to perform in his “Skaters Care” show benefiting the victims of the earthquake and Tsunami in Japan that I really got to know this young man and understand the depth of his commitment – and the size of his heart.
A red-headed, freckle-faced young man who speaks fluent Japanese, Sean’s roots to Asian culture run deep. His mother had been involved in the Orange County Chinese Cultural Club in her college days and she passed her love of culture and language on to her two sons, both of whom chose to study Japanese in high school and college. Over the years, Sean developed a close friendship with many people in Japan, but the disaster of March 2011, galvanized his commitment and motivated him into action. Working with his father, Don, and with the support of his skating club, Sean came up with the idea of producing a skating show to benefit Japan Tsunami Relief. He wanted to help Japan, arguably the world’s biggest supporter of figure skating, in a way they would appreciate, and in a way that he knew best. The show incredibly came together in just under 2 1/2 weeks. Some of the top U.S. and Japanese competitors donated their time and talents to skate. Sean and his team garnered support from many big sponsors including Holiday Inn, American Airlines, and Sephora , all in a very short time. In that incredibly small window, and with an impressive amount of belief and support, Sean and his family were able to make “a handsome donation” to Tsunami Relief.

I honestly don't remember how I got to know Tim David. I think it was through mutual friends on Facebook and Twitter. We started communicating, and I started following what this adult competitor, originally from the Philippines, was doing with his passions and dedication.

Me with Tim David and Chris Caluza at 4CC 2012

Inspired by Parker’s show for Muscular Dystrophy, Tim took on the daunting task of producing and directing a show to benefit children with HIV/AIDS after meeting the families of the AIDS Resource Foundation for Children in 2009 when they were doing a video at his rink in New Jersey. Like all the skaters, Tim reached out to his competitor friends and involved them in his project. Tim wanted to make a difference now, not later, by raising funds to support the efforts of ARFC who provide shelter, education, food and medicine to these special children and their families.

Last, but certainly not least, there is Doug Mattis.

Doug Mattis
Under the coaching direction of Frank Carroll and Robin Cousins, Doug was not only the 1985 U.S. Junior champion, he had success on the international stage, even beating Kurt Browning at his first-ever international competition. But it was his last Nationals, where he earned a standing ovation from the 18,000 in attendance while failing to make the podium, that Doug realized he was born to entertain. He retired from amateur skating and turned pro, competing at the U.S. Open and the American Open while also doing a number of TV specials.

Three years ago, Doug was looking for a new challenge. Enter renowned coach Audrey Weisiger. Audrey enlisted Doug to help with her brainchild, an on line program for budding young skating choreographers called Young Artists’ Showcase (YAS) as part of her Grassroots to Champions seminars that focus on teaching coaches and their skaters how to develop from the first steps onto the ice into a championship caliber competitor. As Doug does with all things, he dove in headfirst, supporting the program, helping Audrey market and promote it, and making it one of the most successful platforms for young talent today.

Doug with Mama Jill
Not one to be shy, Doug came out in 1994 and has been a strong and vocal advocate of gay rights ever since. His honesty and openness, combined with his tremendous talent as a coach, choreographer – and his remarkable skills in the areas of writing and social media – have made him a recognized and respected voice and highly esteemed expert commentator and chronicler of our sport. Doug is the epitome of paying it forward and paying it back, with more than 30 years of involvement, commitment and caring.

So, these are five of the guys who motivate me. They are only five of many skaters out there doing good, but to me they are the crown jewels of caring. Hopefully, you’ll learn more about them in the next few weeks; you’ll learn why all their photos are posted next to my dictionary definition of Motivation.

No comments:

Post a Comment