Boomerang: n. a kind of throwing stick, primarily associated with the Australian Aborigines. When thrown correctly, it travels in a curved path and returns to its point of origin.
I’ve never seen an actual boomerang, or held one in my hands, or tossed one into the air to see if it will return (with my luck, it would probably bonk me in the head.) But I have had several skating students venture out into that big, wide world then boomerang back.
In many cases, it’s because they left the sport with unfinished business, mostly skating tests they now want to check off their lists. Hard as I try to convince kids to finish their skating goals (whatever they may be) before high school graduation, I can’t always adequately impart the urgency I feel on their behalf. Some think, “Oh, I’ll just get that test later, maybe while I’m at college or when I come back for the summer.” And maybe they will…
Of course, what they don’t realize is that, as the months and years pass, there will be all kinds of distractions and a shifting of priorities. (And let’s face it, the body changes in ways we can’t possibly imagine when we’re 18 years old…usually not in ways that are ideal for figure skating.) With panic in my voice, I say things like, “Trust me, it’s not going to get any easier!” And, “Do this now, while you still can!”
Sometimes this message falls on deaf ears and other times skaters do everything they can to get that last test, yet can’t close the deal before leaving for college. I’ve had students in each of these categories, and a handful of them have circled back to finish what they started. When this happens, it’s gratifying, to say the least.
Not only is it generally wonderful to help skaters reach their goals (and especially sweet when delayed), it’s fun to get to know students as they become adults. They are simultaneously the same kids I used to know and also quite different. They’ve gained some perspective while away and independence. Now they’re involved in different pursuits, so their worlds have widened, yet they have become more focused and also more self-motivated.
Granted, this whole boomerang effect in skating is far easier when it comes to Moves in the Field and Dance (what I primarily teach). Coming back to jumps and spins is a whole other story. My sister-in-law, Bobbie Anne Flower, is a rare exception: after quitting skating at age 18, she came back to take her Moves in the Field test at age 29, her Senior Freestyle at age 30 then her Senior Pair test at 31. So this is not impossible, just rare.
Anyway, this summer, I had three students boomerang back. Two returned from college where they skate on successful synchro teams. One took her Silver Samba International Dance and another passed two Gold Dances. A third, Eric Karnani, took a few years off from skating and recently finished high school. He has just moved to Australia (how perfect for this boomerang metaphor) to ice dance with a partner there. This summer, before leaving, he passed his Senior Moves and his Starlight Waltz after only a few short weeks back on the ice.
I decided to ask Eric and a few other “boomerang skaters” what coming back to skating has meant to them and they were kind enough to answer with the following…
Eric: Skating is like an addiction. It is something that you either consciously or unconsciously try to move on from, but somehow get drawn back because you miss it so much. I worked with two amazing coaches before I “quit” skating, and thought that I would never look back. But like all habits, I eventually knew I needed to skate. I knew I needed that feeling of power and passion all combined into one. And so I took that first step back onto the ice to go and pass my Senior Moves, a goal of mine for a very long time. It’s incredible coming back to a sport you used to love and realize you still love it just as much, or even more; you come back with such a different perspective and appreciation for it.
Another skater, Sam Mortimer, e-mailed me a response to this topic hilariously entitled: “Trying to Skate When You are Poor, Lazy and Realize that you can Sleep In.” He first practiced his Dutch Waltz with me wearing a baseball cap and cargo pants at the age of 12 and has now graduated from college. Since high school, he has come back to skating to take three Gold Dances.
He writes: Why is it so hard to skate when you stop skating all the time? I’ll start with my biggest reason, which is when I stopped skating competitively and went to school I realized that there were other things to do. When I was skating all the time I did not think about other things like hanging out late or playing other sports more or even just sleeping in. At New York University, I started doing things that I did not do in high school. Besides, college takes up A LOT more time than high school does, as far as workload. I think part of that comes from going to school in NYC but it also comes from the fact that when anyone goes away to college you all of a sudden feel so much more freedom to do whatever you want to do. So when you have been skating for the past 8 years and then you get the chance to take a break it feels good to just breathe and rest and kind of do nothing and then when the novelty of doing nothing wears off, you do something other than skating.
Second, skating costs LOTS AND LOTS of money and when I am trying to budget myself for food, fun, laundry, transportation etc., all the items that I have to pay for, skating is not factored into my budget. So everyone should be really thankful that their parents paid for them to skate. And I think lastly, I really like skating NOT on a schedule. I treat skating as more of a social event than a rigorous practice. I think that when I want to get back into skating it will be hard but for the time being I like taking it easy. I am sure that a lot of people feel the same way I do: that skating without pressure from parents or coaches makes for a more pleasurable experience. I don’t expect anything out of myself so I can just skate the way I want. I cannot say that I regret how I skated in high school at all and it gave me a really great basis for how I view life in general but I am happy with where I stand with skating now.
Cortney Rosenberg came back to skate with me every summer break from college. She is now a teacher and has her own flock of little prodigies, third graders. She writes:
I don’t remember anything about starting skating. It has just always been there, a part of me. Skating was always a calming influence in my life. No matter what was happening outside of the rink I could always count on my time at the rink and the people that surrounded me there.
Growing up I took for granted how lucky I was to have found something in my life I was so passionate about. Luckily, my parents supported this passion and made sure that I was always enjoying myself. When, in college, I became too hard on myself to enjoy the sport anymore, I decided to take a break from it. I missed it every single day I was away. Life was just not the same. It was only then that I realized I would never be able to take skating out of my life completely. It has become engrained in my spirit. During my summers, I made a conscious choice to spend summers at home so that I could get back to the rink. I would return to my old rinks purely for the love of the sport and the feeling I got stepping on the ice surface. I was always welcomed back. After all, skating was never just a sport but a community. Now that I have a real job, and live a few hours away from the rinks that I grew up training in, it is harder to be able to go skate. I still wake up some mornings wishing I could skip out on work and get on the ice for a couple of hours or that my coaches miraculously lived closer. I beg my friends to join me at public skating sessions just for the burst of cold air and the feeling of gliding that I get from nothing else. Deep down I will always be a skater.
And finally, while I was working on this very CSOM installment, a student named Alyson McGee, who I haven’t seen in years, coincidentally e-mailed me out of the blue. She has just returned from Ethiopia where she was in the Peace Corps. She wrote:
I thought of you today because I just laced up my skates after about two years of not getting on the ice- pretty terrible of me, it was just hard to find the time in college with no skating rink nearby (well actually there were lots of skating rinks near Tufts but they were hockey-ONLY rinks). I recently went to a rink by my parent’s house to see if I still remember how to get around the ice. Thankfully I do and it was really great to get back out there.
I really have missed it a lot since I last competed synchro in 2005. I think it was kind of a shame that I never passed my Senior Moves so I’m thinking about committing to train and finally take that test. Although I am woefully unemployed for now my parents have promised to help me with the costs of skating again (for a limited time only) so that I can accomplish this goal, which I think they have been holding onto for me as well. I definitely have a lot of work to do on my own and I’m expecting that it will take some time to get back to my old self on skates but I’d be interested in having a refresher crash course on Senior Moves and then maybe we can take it from there…
I say to Alyson and to all lapsed skaters who want to test or simply get their “rink legs” back: Of course – boomerang back! Will it be easy? No. Will it be rewarding? Definitely. So call your rink for the schedule and get those blades sharpened. Just remember to take it easy at first. I suggest (from my own experience) that you stretch out your dormant muscles beforehand and also afterwards…
Thanks so much to the skaters who contributed to this.