The Boomerang Effect

September 30, 2008

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.

What has been your own experience with skating’s Boomerang Effect? Click on the word “comments” below.

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10 Responses to “The Boomerang Effect”

  1. Anna Says:

    Yup much more difficult to come back and jump even after a few WEEKS!

  2. Lori Lee Says:

    What about the boomerang effect as it pertains to Adult Skaters? We also boomerang back. But it’s not college that keeps us off the ice, but rather illness or job change or relocation or any myriad of adult schmutz(es). But we do come back…like the proverbial bad penny and the boomerang!

  3. Terri Says:

    After decades off the ice starting with college I boomeranged and took up ice dancing. Kept skating through a divorce, a move across the country, several job disasters, etc., etc. and finally passed my standard gold dance test at age 45. Life may not work out as planned but you can always escape to the rink. It’s harder as an adult but far more rewarding.

  4. Strats Says:

    very interesting to read how the various skaters were compelled to come back and accomplish their goals…also like the graphic (boomerang skating in air – cool)

  5. Christine Ortiz Lewis Says:

    I don’t really consider myself a boomer-rang skater, but in a way I am. I was not an accomplished skater as a child; I never had a private coach or money for proper skates; I rarely skated more than an hour a week. Yet, skating has been a part of me for 35 years. There is no denying the pull skating has. I had not skated since I was 15 and returned to it at 32 years old. My skating now is a dream I dared not dream as a child. When I passed my Intermediate Moves and Adult Gold Moves this year at 39 I thought, I can ask for no more. Of course, I must now get my Novice- then I’ll be satisfied…
    I think that as an adult, I get to enjoy the sweeter side of skating. The social aspect of skating, if I’m honest, just may be my main motivator to get to the rink. Everyone there “gets it” too. It isn’t easy to make time for skating when you have a family, and I have had to skate while battling chronic illness, but it brings me a satisfaction nothing else does.

  6. sitspin Says:

    Coming back is very humbling. Things you thought were simple now seem very difficult. I have a clear picture of I should look and feel but actually matching my body to that picture is a challenge. Thanks for this!

  7. Roo Kanga Says:

    The best thing about the boomerangs is their appreciation for what it took to put them on the ice finacially and logisitically, and makes them realize the lengths they might, or might not go to for their own kids someday, whether skating, soccer or whatever.

  8. Bobbie Anne Says:

    As the “rare exception” example in your blog above, I must say my boomerang was extremely difficult yet amazingly rewarding! It took countless weeks of hitting the gym for 1-2 hrs/day to get back into skating shape, then countless weeks of on-ice training to get my jumps and spins back. Then to learn the pair tricks to get the Gold Medal there was another seemingly impossible task, but it made it that much more gratifying once accomplished. I had a ton of fun doing it, and I would certainly encourage those skaters who are debating whether to do it or not, to go ahead and just do it! You will feel so empowered when you do.
    I am living proof that you are never too old to accomplish your goals, and nothing is impossible if you really want it. You just need the desire, dedication and determination.
    Go for it!!!

  9. Cabe Says:

    As a habitual “boomeranger,” I really enjoyed this post! My mom and I always talk about all those kids we knew at UD who were phenomenal — but non-Olympic — skaters and who don’t skate anymore. It’s so sad! I feel incredibly fortunate to have been led back onto the ice thanks to a serendipitous set of circumstances for my first boomerang post-college. It showed me that I could still improve despite years off, and that the skating community would always be welcoming no matter where I was. So I didn’t worry getting back to it after another few years off for grad school, and I plan to be back it after whatever breaks are foisted upon me in the future.
    I wish everyone could have that experience and know that the ice is still there for them, and that same Paso Doble you used to do is still on the stereo if you want it! Just get your butt to the rink that first time and you’ll be amazed.

  10. Kati Says:

    Looking at this website gave me some inspiration to return to figure skating when i get the chance. I havent skated for 4 years now. In the beginning it was fine and i was happy to experience new things, but now when i watch figure skaters on television or picture the feeling in my mind i start crying because i miss it so much. I am quite sure that i won’t have the opportunity to skate regularly for another 3 or 4 years due to where i live and my university course. I’m currently 18 but hope to get back on the ice as soon as possible. I’m scared that my skills will be completely out the window by then and it will take years to get back to where i was. I hope someone has had a similar experience and can give me some hope. Figure skating is such a beautiful sport and I miss it more every day 😦

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