Swine on Ice


Swine Flu is a serious issue, one we all need to be thinking about right now, especially those of us who spend lots of time in ice arenas, in close proximity to germ-carrying kids with runny noses. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has provided several recommendations for prevention. These include information on “hand hygiene” (i.e. wash hands often and also apply alcohol-based hand gel such as Purell) and “respiratory etiquette” (cover nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze then throw that tissue away.)

On one hand, it’s just the flu and most people who get it are fine. On the other (recently washed) hand, it is spreading quickly and potentially fatal. So it’s difficult to figure out just how frightened we should be and just how obsessively we should try to protect ourselves at the rink.

I, for one, have stopped giving high fives. It used to be a regular and favorite coaching practice of mine but I don’t trust those mittens anymore (theirs or mine). Instead, I’m trying out the “air high five.” In this, the high five action can be replicated from afar or with a near miss, as if one or more participants has wonky depth perception. Though both techniques are significantly less satisfying than the real thing, it’s still more interactive than the simple thumbs-up.

The CDC suggests that you maintain six feet of distance between you and other possibly-infected people. This is why I have decided to stay on the exact opposite side of the rink from my students at all times. This method requires that I move whenever my skaters move so that I am essentially mirroring them. This means I am in constant motion and also means I must teach my lessons through a bullhorn (sorry, other coaches). The tricky thing here is that while I am staying far away from my current student on a crowded freestyle session, I am in danger of coming within 6 feet of other skaters. This has resulted in a lot of paranoid, skittish, darting actions on my part. On the upside, my footwork has therefore improved considerably.

Partnering my students for ice dances has become a challenge. Instead of holding on, we are now shadow-dancing. Preferably, when a facility offers two ice surfaces, I skate in one rink and my partner skates in the other. I am slightly concerned that the judges are going to make comments about our partner positioning at the next test session and say that we are skating too far apart. Frankly, I prefer this consequence to the swine flu. Along the same lines, I recommend that synchronized teams adopt a similar methodology, thereby rendering their entire programs “no-hold.” For run-throughs, they should ideally spread themselves out at rinks across the county.

At first, I started washing my hands after every session. Now, I take a shower after every lesson.

I have contracted a team of doctors, physicists and biologists to construct a Purell force field for me. This I will wear as another layer, outside my coat. I have requested this force field in a pretty lavender shade with a slimming silhouette.

I have contacted an NBA basketball coach to coach my skaters on the finer points of freethrows, so that their used tissues actually make it into the garbage instead of near the garbage. The sea of tissues surrounding the garbage can is not only disturbing from a germ perspective, but is also harmful when one of those tissues gets stuck under my blade when I’m about to step out onto the ice to demonstrate something fabulous.

For a while there, I assumed a “duck and cover” position whenever anyone did a spin. (We all know the little-mentioned side effect of centrifugal force, especially when combined with cold air.) I have now decided to leave the premises, screaming like a crazy person, whenever anyone attempts a spin.

I am going to stop coaching pigs. (For real! This is absolutely not a commentary on the weight of any of my current or past students.) The CDC reports that people who work with pigs are at a considerably higher risk. Truthfully, this isn’t that “big” of a loss. Though I have found most pigs to be extremely intelligent, not to mention very respectful, those bodies weren’t really built for rotation. And their leg extension is never what it should be.

Finally, I am considering teaching my lessons via video stream from a bubble in my living room. Actually, I’ve been wanting to do this for years in order to avoid something else I find disturbing: frost bite.

Oops, it’s been over five minutes – I better go wash my hands. Or maybe I should just go get my hands on some of that vaccine I’ve been hearing about. That is, a few cases of it…


Seriously, everyone be careful and aware! If you don’t feel like your rink is clean enough, talk to the management. And I urge you, don’t go anywhere near those hockey players. (Kidding, of course.) If you have any of your own recommendations or suggestions, please leave a comment, below.

Yes, I’ve been on a honeymoon-ish hiatus from Current Skate of Mind, but I have some new pieces lined up, including an old-school review of the original Ice Castles and a hard-hitting analysis of Brian Boitano’s cooking show.

In the mean time, I have been writing some other stuff:

To read about my pitiful finger situation, the sweetest pineapple you could ever imagine, and the real reason everyone should get their nails done, visit the Upper East Side Informer by clicking here.

To read my  sarcastic humor piece about plastic surgery, (come on, Hollywood, moderation!) visit Yankee Potroast by clicking, here.

Thanks for reading.



  1. june · October 21, 2009

    Ha ha! At least you are maintaining some perspective.

  2. Paula · October 21, 2009

    Thanks, now I’m all paranoid. I think I’m going to go out and buy one of those masks.

    You are funny!

  3. miami · October 21, 2009

    pause. brian boitano has a cooking show?!

    i also agree with the synchro comment. with the 51 of us at miami, we can place a skater in every state, and one lucky one in puerto rico!

  4. Vivian · October 21, 2009

    Once again you’ve tickled my funny bone!!

  5. DVJ · October 21, 2009

    This made me laugh out loud,it is very funny!
    I,too have been worried about the swine flu.esp. since I have a baby at home and a first grader who can bring home germs! there is a lot of buzz about not trusting the swine flu vaccination,that it could be deadly…ugh,lets just hope everyone can stay healthy.
    I think the rinks need to clean out the hockey boxes after the practices/games…have you ever seen all the loogies in there,its so disgusting!!!I think it should all be bleached down on a regular schedule.maybe there should be designated spit cups?or maybe they SHOULD NOT SPIT??

  6. Jenni · October 22, 2009

    This is awesome….I cannot stop laughing!

  7. Porky · October 22, 2009

    I strongly object to the recommendation that individuals of a porcine persuasion be segregated, have their lessons cancelled or otherwise discriminated against. Shame on you.

  8. sitspin · October 22, 2009

    Once again, very funny! Where can I order a purell force field?

  9. archie · October 22, 2009

    I laughed out loud, too! Hilarious. I especially love the image of you shadow dancing with your student in a separate rink!

  10. Strats · October 23, 2009

    So funny!!

  11. Jennifer · October 25, 2009

    EXTRA hilarious – great piece!

  12. Julie · November 20, 2009

    Just wanted to say that I’ve missed your wonderful blog. Please comeback to your loyal, nonpaying, figureskate loving webfans.

  13. zee · January 15, 2010

    don’t forget to request extra rhinestones on your purell force field. and did you receive financial compensation for your fabulous product placement? you should look into that.

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