An Ode to my Long Black Coat

February 14, 2011

Long Black Coat, how do I love thee?

You’re puffy with feathers,
And run from my neck past my knees.
You keep me warm while coaching,
When the rink is below 25 degrees.

You’re big and you’re shapeless,
Like a sleeping bag.
Your only bit of decoration,
Is that North Face tag.

I know you make me look
Twenty pounds heavier than I am.
As I skate down the ice,
I look as wide as the Zam.

You’re so bulky and cumbersome,
I can’t demonstrate a thing.
But the frostbite alternative,
Would certainly sting.

We’ve been together,
For at least seven years.
You’re starting to show your age,
And this brings me to tears.

How will I ever replace you,
What will I do?
I get more concerned,
With every feather you lose.

I’ve worn other jackets,
They just don’t compare.
I need to find your twin,
The question is, where?

I’ve searched the web,
And you seem discontinued.
If I don’t find something soon,
I’ll just have to coach in the —–!

***

Apologies for the disturbing imagery at the conclusion of this otherwise beautiful poem.

Turns out North Face still makes something similar. The stitching is slightly different and it isn’t as ridiculously long. I ordered it online, here, but I just haven’t been able to bring myself to “take it for a spin.”

BTW, lots of great new “skater quotes” in the column over to the right. Thanks to everyone who has been giving me these 🙂

It’s official: ABC’s Skating with the Stars will premier Monday, November 22. You may remember that Fox tried something like this – called Skating with Celebrities – back in 2006, and, though it had its interesting moments, it was considered a flop. This time around, the Dancing with the Stars producers are taking a stab at it. Already, the show is being criticized because the stars they lined up aren’t all that famous. I think the three most intriguing are probably Vince Neil of Motley Crue, Olympic “freestyle” skier Jonny Moseley, and actress Sean Young. I’m not very familiar with the other three – Bethanny Frankel, Brandon Mychal Smith, and Rebecca Budig – but I applaud them for taking the lunge…I mean plunge.

So I am excited to see this. But mostly I’m afraid….very afraid. And here are 10 reasons why I think you should be too:

1.Inspired by what they see, viewers across the land are going to flood their floors with garden hoses and turn off their heat, until they reach a deep freeze. This way, they can attempt those exotic skating tricks at home.

2.Vince Neil can apparently do a Waltz Jump. He claims to have been figure skater back when he was age 12. Actually, this is endearing. What is scary is that American skating coaches are going to be inundated with calls from other aging rock stars, ushering in a whole new breed of adult skaters. Better start offering tequila at the snack bar.

3. The skating will be so HOT that the ice will melt. Caught up in the glory, skaters and pros alike won’t reach for their guards quickly enough, and the one and only sound that is worse than fingernails scratching across a chalkboard will be broadcast around the world: blades against cement.

4.When viewers see how gracefully all these stars can skate, they are going to think that skating is easy, that it’s a snap. (Of course I’m kidding. It is sure to be an awkward-fest with lots of bent free legs, lurching, and terrifying falls. This will in fact emphasize exactly how difficult this sport is.)

5. Seriously, I predict three severed limbs, and no less than two body casts. On Skating with Celebrities, Bruce Jenner tripped while trying a spin and had to get 16 stitches on his face. Keep in mind that he is a decorated, Olympic decathlete, therefore presumably somewhat coordinated. A few other stars from that show required emergency medical attention. Just be ready to wince for this one. I suggest covering your eyes and peeking through your fingers. In light of the dangers, it’s understandable that they couldn’t lure bigger names: what Hollywood hotshot would risk disfigurement (not to mention the embarrassment factor)? On the flip side, it’s amazing that top U.S. pair skaters Brooke Castile and Keauna McLaughlin agreed to be pros for this, considering that they are still competition material. For them, I recommend what I always wanted to wear as a pair skater: full body padding, maybe some hockey equipment with sparkles.

6. During Skating with Celebrities, actor/hockey player Dave Coulier was so frustrated by those pesky figure skating toe picks that he filed them off. What if Olympic skier Jonny Moseley seeks similar comfort by attaching skis to the bottom of his skating boots?

7. If indeed, as is rumored, Johnny Weir and Dick Button are both judges, there will undoubtedly be a catfight. Fur will fly.

8. The producers of Dancing with the Stars have taken schmaltz to new heights on that show. So brace yourself for cheesy music, hideous costumes and general tackiness on ice. Of course, most skating programming already contains these qualities in spades. Isn’t that why we keep coming back?

9. Love affairs will ignite; marriages will be torn asunder. Lloyd Eisler and Kristy Swanson (who infamously hooked up on Skating with Celebrities) will make guest appearances as relationship counselors.

10. If the ratings are really shoddy, critics (who are just jealous because they are neither skaters nor stars) will use it as proof that skating popularity is declining. Others will go so far to say that it’s the nail in the skating coffin. As a result, rinks will be boarded up and rental skates will be sent over to the troops in Iraq as combat weapons.

Truthfully, I’m just afraid of all the household and organizational tasks I’m going to neglect on Monday nights for the six weeks that it airs. I’ll surely be watching. Will you?

***

Please share your deepest fears on this subject by leaving a comment below.

Notice that there are lots of new Skater Quotes in the column to the right.

The “Wounded Star” artwork above is by the talented Mr. Rob Strati. To see more of his work, click here.

Kiss and Cry Alternatives

January 15, 2010

The 2010 U.S. Championships are underway in Spokane, Washington and the Olympics are right around the corner. In the next six weeks, the sport of skating will reach its graceful tentacles into the minds of millions. During this time, we insiders may be called upon to answer some difficult questions, such as: What’s up with this judging system? And: Why did beautiful so-and-so get beat by that robot who fell twice? Or, one of my favorites: Is there actually such a thing as a “Kiss and Cry” area? Is that what you guys really call it?

Yes, as a matter of fact, this is where skaters and their coaches anxiously await their scores then react to them. This rinkside nook is usually decorated with black or royal blue carpeting and a few fake plants. The term Kiss and Cry apparently originated in Finland in the late 1970’s and was bandied about while they were setting up the rink for the 1983 Worlds. Believe it or not, Kiss and Cry is now an official term utilized by the International Skating Union.

I have mixed feelings about this term. As someone who grew up in the sport and has now made it my profession, I naturally want skating to be taken seriously. After all, we know this is a challenging, rigorous, and sometimes dangerous sport and this terminology makes it sound like fluff.

Then again, as someone who grew up in the sport and has now made it my profession, the term also seems…well, fitting and quite funny. After all, what everyone loves about skating is the human drama – witnessing the reactions afterwards is a big part of the show. Who can forget tiny Tara Lipinski leaping around like a baby kangaroo? Or the shock and awe of Sarah Hughes? I myself cried when the elegant Alyssa Czisny and her coach Julianna Berlin found out she won last year. When a synchro team discovers that they have won, the ensuing jumps for joy in the Kiss and Cry register on the richter scale; conversely, bad news can raise water levels for miles around.

Because the Olympics are looming, the emotions in the Kiss and Cry at Nationals this year will surely be amplified. True, some skaters won’t reveal much (they’ll hold it together until the camera moves onto someone else) and others will let it all hang out.

I’ve been wondering recently if there could be other names for this area and started to do some brainstorming. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far…

• The Hug and Sob

• The Smooch and Sweat (FYI, research has shown that Botox injections can calm down the sweat glands.)

• The Huff and Puff (This moment proves that you either just put in the extra effort, or that you probably should have done a few more run-throughs.)

• The Tears and Tiramisu (Submitted by my husband who I think is onto something: if the scores aren’t good, there should be complimentary tiramisu…)

• The Celebration/Devastation Zone (Doesn’t really roll off the tongue…)

• The Sit Tight-n-Smile (How much of your personality has been dampened by a media trainer?)

• The Squint and Try to See Your Scores (It may be time to get contact lenses.)

• The Land of High Fives and Regrets (I think this will be the title of my novel.)

• The Put Your Guards on Before You Ruin Your Blades Area (Sure, you can be a good girl or boy and put them back on right by the door, but isn’t it easier to do so while sitting down?)

• Gateway to the Rest of Your Life (After all, there’s always next year, or college, or coaching, or just some good old fashioned rest and recuperation… It seems like those previous four-ish minutes were the most important of your life, but there’s a whole world out there, and fortunately most of those experiences won’t be caught on camera…)

***

Well, I’m not sure I’ve come up with anything better than “Kiss and Cry” but perhaps you have suggestions? Please click on “comments” below.

Thanks for reading and good luck to all the skaters in Spokane!

If you receive the Professional Skater Magazine, check out my highly-informative article regarding the Olympics on page 11 of this month’s 25th Anniversary issue. 🙂

Charlie Brown: The Skater

December 26, 2009

Every holiday season, I re-watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and every year it both warms and breaks my heart. I can’t help it: I love Charlie Brown’s existential woe, his thwarted attempts to direct the Christmas play, his pitiful little tree, and the way his friends pull together at the end to make it all nice.

Of course, I especially like how the whole thing starts with a wintry skating scene. The Peanuts Gang does an impressive synchro-esque splice right at the beginning. Though Snoopy doesn’t have on a pair of skates, he manages a gorgeous spread eagle (or should I say spread beagle?) After a weaving round of crack the whip, Linus’ blanket somehow gets wrapped around Charlie Brown and flings him into a tree trunk. A pile of snow proceeds to plop on his head. Good grief, I just can’t get enough.

So, naturally, I was thrilled when Charlie Brown himself contacted me a few weeks ago for skating lessons. Turns out he has decided to try and make it to the upcoming Olympics. This has presented me with a dilemma: knowing that Charlie Brown isn’t exactly overflowing with self-confidence, I don’t want to be too discouraging…but.

Well, here’s the first draft of my response.

Dear Mr. Brown,

Thank you for contacting me about my coaching services. I am a big fan of yours. As per your request, I have analyzed the skating footage from the opening scene of your iconic holiday special in order to assess your stated goal of making it to the upcoming Winter Games.

The news is mixed. First, let me say that your ability to skate (and even stand up) amid snowflakes the size of baseballs is impressive and demonstrates a great deal of balance. Second, I have noticed that you are a simple man with simple needs, in terms of equipment. Most competitive skaters these days transport their skates in bags specially designed for optimal performance. Many of these bags even have wheels that put on their own laser light show. Your method of carrying your brown skates old-school style with the laces knotted and looped over your shoulder is unconventional yet refreshing. I presume that since you have no guards over your blades, they are in pretty shoddy condition. I like this: it shows that you are not a diva.

Your costume choices are…interesting. The hat with earflaps is an excellent pick, especially considering that it will be pretty cold up in Vancouver. Your yellow shirt, on the other hand, is a bit problematic: you may want to switch out those zig zags for something with softer lines in a color scheme more flattering to your skin tone.

Your musical selection, by Vince Guaraldi, as rendered by Schroeder, is to be commended.

Now to the skating. Your ability to bellyflop then spin on your stomach with that much momentum tells me that you are more aerodynamic than the size of your head might otherwise suggest. Of course, it is more ideal to rotate in a vertical position, but this is something we can work on.

Granted, in skating, as in life, it’s not always about how much you fall, but your willingness to keep getting up. Unfortunately, I noticed that after you careened into the tree, your recovery was inconspicuously absent from the film.

Before this event, I did spot a few split-seconds of competent gliding on your part. Truthfully, though, you would need many more hours of practice, in fact perhaps thousands of hours of practice, in order to make your Olympic dreams come true. This means that you’ll have to give up your extra-curricular activities, namely your role as the unappreciated Director of the Christmas Play. With all the work we would need to do, you simply don’t have time to be out looking for the most pathetic Christmas tree you can find.

Most importantly, Charlie, you’ll have to make some serious changes in your attitude. Your constant claims of depression and bellyaching about the meaning of Christmas will have to cease immediately. Likewise, statements such as, “Good grief, everything I do turns into a disaster” and “Everything I touch gets ruined,” are not indicative of a gold-medal mentality. Furthermore, you’ll have to wipe that worried look off your face; judges prefer smiles. I urge you to discontinue your use of Lucy’s psychiatric services despite her convenient location right in your path and her bargain price of 5 cents. Instead, I can recommend a few excellent sports psychologists.

This brings me to your mother: I can’t understand a word she is saying! And when I telephoned your teacher to see if we could “tweak” your school schedule in order to get some clear, mid-day ice time, I couldn’t understand her either.

Finally, to make it in this sport, you’ll need to abandon your anti-commercialism stance, as you will probably need corporate sponsorship in order to afford my fees. The good news is that right now several companies happen to be looking for a new athlete for endorsements.

Minor detail: the U.S. National Championships start in about two weeks and you have unfortunately missed all of the qualifying events. However, your association with the legendary, late Charles Schulz could hold some sway with United States Figure Skating.

In all, I think your chances of making it to the Olympics are slim, but I’d hate to say that your goal is impossible. If nothing else, I’m sure your skating career will not pan out any worse than your attempts at becoming a kicker for the NFL. (Again, Lucy’s services might not have been the wisest choice.)

There is some extremely exciting news in all this: while your skating talents are really only mediocre, some of your friends I saw skating on the tape look to have great promise. In fact, Snoopy seems like he could be a real podium climber. If he does not already have another coach, please have him contact me so that we can start training immediately.

Best,

Jocelyn Jane Cox

                                                                  ***

Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays! If you have any advice on this letter or any suggestions I can pass along to him, please click on “comments,” below.  🙂

If you haven’t already seen it, check out my article on page 30 of this month’s Skating Magazine. It’s about sibling ice dance teams. I know: it’s shocking that I’d report on that subject…

Swine on Ice

October 21, 2009

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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.

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Focus: Preparing for the big event will require boatloads of planning, some obsessing and lots of mental visualization. You may find that you therefore have less time for other pursuits, such as blogging about your sport.

The Dress: Sure, the skating is important (i.e. an entire year’s worth of training culminating in one performance) and so is the fact that you’re getting married (i.e. committing to someone very very special for the rest of your life) but these are such minor details compared to How You Look. Whole hours, days, weeks and months can be consumed while considering the silhouette, decorative elements, and shade of the costume. For example, there are evidently 1 million different versions of white. And the fittings! These can comprise a second job.

Sportsmanship: Due to thousands of different variables (rain, acne, stomach flu, dull blades, sore ankle, ruts in the ice), things don’t always work out as planned. But nobody wants to root for a brat and nobody really wants to catch Bridezilla’s bouquet.

Balance and Coordination: In both realms, it is ideal to not trip, fall, or injure yourself or your partner. Then again, this could increase entertainment value.

Entering and Exiting with Style: Locker room equals Dressing Room. Ice equals Aisle. Kiss and Cry equals Receiving Line.

Nerves: Sure, beauty sleep is nice and it results in optimal energy levels for training, but it’s not completely necessary. Is it?

Flowers: In both cases, this element is fleeting. If you skate well, they might be thrown on the ice, handed to you over the barriers, or awarded to you after climbing the podium. If they make it back to your hotel room, you can try to balance them in one of the water glasses or maybe even the ice bucket in order to enjoy them for the few waking hours before your flight leaves in the morning. When planning a wedding, you will somehow get caught up in the wild misperception that the success of the entire event hinges on the exact mathematical ratio of calla lilies to dahlias to chrysanthemums. Or will it be gerber daisies to roses to poppies? Or maybe zinnias, to alliums to…    

Music: The better the music, the better the party, the louder the ovation, the bigger the smiles, the higher the scores, the funkier the boogie-ing. In other words, there probably shouldn’t be any ice dance music played during the reception, despite any and all threats or promises to do so. (Brace yourself for the Dutch Waltz!)  

Getting in shape: Hours of cross-training and conscientious dieting will result in exhaustion, malnutrition, irritability and very little perceptible change in your physical dimensions.  

Choreography: In skating, a program should tell a story filled with drama, emotion, and excitement. A bride and groom’s first dance should bring the audience to tears…of laughter? Perhaps lifts should be avoided if the dress is poofy, the shoes are slippery and/or if the lifter has never participated in this activity? Nah, might as well go for it!

Vacation: That week off after Nationals was always such a beautiful thing. This time? Honeymoon: palm trees, waterfalls…and no homework or exams to make-up. 

Cake: Okay, well I suppose this is more of a difference between a wedding and a competition rather than a similarity. But really, there should be more cake in skating, don’t you think? Judges, skaters, coaches, parents: let them eat cake! Or maybe smoosh it in each others’ faces…?

                                                                       ***

Thanks for reading!

I’ll be back in the fall…that is unless I decide to stay in Hawaii and teach skating lessons on ice rinks composed of daiquiris. 🙂

 

In the mean time, here is some other stuff I’ve been up to:

 “Bridezilla Phobia” for DIY Bride. Click here, then click on the article title to read it…

“Downturn Trends in Decorative Throw Pillows” for Yankee Potroast. Click here.

More adventures from the Upper East Side Informer. Click here.

Traffic Solutions

April 9, 2009

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In last April’s installment, The Traffic Issue (click here), I wrote about an ever-present and perilous issue in Figure Skating Town: crowded freestyle sessions. For those of you who have witnessed or experienced everyday practice sessions in one of the thousands of ice rinks across the country, you know that chaos is the name of the game and that skaters collide often. It’s a challenging situation since every skater out there is practicing something different, and therefore carving out a unique path. There is rhyme and reason to what each skater is doing, but no guarantee it won’t crash them into someone else.  

Well, at the encouragement of many of you, I contacted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to see if they could help us develop new ways of controlling freestyle traffic. Their report, which I was hoping to present at U.S. Figure Skating’s Annual Governing Council meeting in May, is finally finished. The problem is that I don’t think it’s actually very helpful at all. It proves what most of us already know: that this skating thing is completely unique…and, scary as it may be sometimes, we already have a pretty good thing going. 

Here are just a few of their wayward recommendations:

  • Paint two solid yellow lines down the middle of the ice surface. This will separate traffic traveling in opposite directions and prohibit passing. 
  • Install beeping devises in each skater, so that when they are backing up, others will know.
  • Have all skaters wear hats with rearview mirrors so they can see behind them.
  • Outfit each skater with GPS wristwatches, so that they can identify the best route to their next element.    
  • Install stoplights at the blue lines.
  • Hire local policemen to enforce rink traffic laws.
  • Open a skating traffic school and require each skater to obtain a permit before skating on a freestyle session. This would include obstacle courses, methods of parallel parking along the barriers, and learning which skaters have the right of way.
  • Provide each skater with gloves featuring turn signals. These blinking lights will let other skaters know which way they are planning to turn.
  • Give every skater a horn they can honk incessantly when traffic is not moving to their satisfaction. This will save their vocal chords.

Okay, so here are the only recommendations from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that I can really endorse:

  • Outfit every skater with a full suit of foam rubber to serve as bumpers if they crash into one another or the barriers.
  • Have the brakes checked regularly.
  • Coaches should wear neon orange construction suits so they can be better seen by oncoming traffic. (After all, coaching is a construction project of sorts…)  

Finally, here are a few of my recommendations, based on my own studies of rink traffic:

  • Open your eyes.
  • Look around.
  • Pay attention.
  • Be polite. 

These may sound pretty obvious, but we all know these skills are not always, eh hem… fully utilized. Hey, forget those fancy, US government traffic scientists – maybe I will present my own concepts at Governing Council after all…

Anyway, happy rink travels.

Monkey see, Monkey skate

January 21, 2009

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The staff of Current Skate of Mind has noticed that a particularly entertaining skating video is currently in hot circulation around the internet. (The nature, tenor and texture of this video fits the CSOM credo perfectly i.e. “laughter is the best sports medicine.”) Perhaps you have not seen it yet? Of course you are busy watching as much Nationals footage on icenetwork as humanly possible, but we highly recommend you tear yourself away for a few moments to see some extremely impressive skills. We are not Technical Specialists, but it’s pretty obvious that these skaters would do very well under the IJS system (press on the black arrow in left bottom corner to play):  

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For those of you noticing this week’s lack of punctuality (i.e. it’s not Tuesday, scandalous indeed), we must inform you that due to several thousand other projects on deck, new installments will now be posted on a completely random basis. Just keeping you on your toe…picks.    

Dream Skating Students

January 13, 2009

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I’m not saying I don’t love the skating students I currently have. In fact, I already work with a lot of talented, nice, and interesting characters. But, in life, you must dare to dream. So, as part of my New Years resolution, I vowed to take my coaching career to the next level. I’m going to reach for the stars. I want athletes who can go the distance, who climb podiums around the world and win medals. I want to hug them in the kiss and cry. I want to get interviewed about my prodigies after they perform. I want to conduct press conferences while wearing a mink coat!

In order for all of this to happen, I am going to have to identify potential and talent then go after it. This is why I have put together a list of dream skaters. Of course, it’s un-cool and unethical to solicit students from other coaches, but I’m pretty sure no one on this list has a coach yet (otherwise, please let me know). With one exception, I’m not even sure if they’ve ever been on the ice. No matter, I’m going to start them off right and help them skyrocket straight to the top.

It’s a new year and time to shine. So without further delay, I present my list of dream students. (And don’t you dare get any ideas of trying to recruit them for your own.)

Kermit the Frog: Granted, I’ve never actually seen him hop, but I gotta believe he has some good spring in those little legs. Come to think of it…I’m pretty sure I saw him run once, in his role as a journalist. Maybe he seems somewhat uncoordinated and awkward, yet he has such a positive attitude. And what about those puppet strings? They’re barely visible, but they’d serve as a constant harness! If we can figure out how to keep those strings untangled, I predict triples within a few months. Maybe even a few minutes.

Lisa Simpson: Due to her dedication to the saxophone, she already has a great feel for music. If she could apply this same focus to skating, I have no doubt she could scale the ranks very quickly. Can’t you just imagine her lining up by the rink door at Regionals? She should probably get a sweater to wear over that strapless dress of hers, maybe a wraparound or a sparkly fleece. Of course, Homer would be clueless, but most dads are, right? And Marge would help her get the job done.

Charlie Brown: According to his Christmas Special, we know he can pond skate. Of course, he took a pretty nasty fall,  including a belly flop, a spin-out and an unfortunate crash into a tree, but that was only because Snoopy flung him into the air. Let’s look on the bright side: thanks to this, and all those times he’s fallen attempting to kick the football when Lucy pulled it out from under him, we know he’s prepared for all the spills an aspiring skater takes on the ice. We’re probably going to have to enlist a sports psychologist for this one, though. The fact that he’s an analytical type means he’s capable of thinking through every aspect of the sport, yet I suspect, for this same reason that he might be an over-thinker…Really, something’s got to give for this guy! I believe that, under the right tutelage, skating could be a huge boon to his confidence. And even though I don’t usually condone this, I’d recommend that he quit school, since nobody can understand what his teachers are saying, anyway. Furthermore, I’m thinking we could snazzy up the zigzag on his yellow shirt with some black sequins…and commission Shroeder to compose some perfect music.

Big Bird: Well, his limbs are a little long and his middle a bit thick, but height is good for ice dance and we’re always in need of new male partners. You know how people are always saying that the constant movement of skating skirts makes skaters look like they’re moving faster? Just imagine how all his feathers would fly!

The Tazmanian Devil: This guy is a natural spinner and he’s already a master of twizzles. For jumps, we’d just have to focus on his lift-off. And we might have to work on getting him a little lighter on his feet, so he doesn’t tear up the ice. In competitions, he’d have to skate last or the zamboni would have to come out and clean up after him (or perhaps they’d have to rebuild the rink…)

Betty Boop: She’s cute, she’s sexy, and she has already demonstrated a great deal of balance in those stilettos. I’m thinking she and Big Bird would make a stellar ice dance couple.

Papa Smurf: Two words…Adult Nationals. Another two words…Club President. Enough said.

I’m intrigued by both Dora and SpongeBob – they might have potential, I’m just not as familiar with them. I do hear that Dora already has a pretty lucrative career as an explorer. And I’m not sure about Spongebob’s rather square-ish body type. He’d certainly come in handy when the ice is wet, though.

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Who did I miss? Who are you gunning for? Click on comments below. 🙂

Do you think those Smart Cars are ridiculously cute? So does The Informer.  Click here.

Running at Midnight

January 6, 2009

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Once an athlete, always an athlete, right? Hmm…unfortunately, this isn’t really the case.

Oh, those muscles, the flexibility, and that cardiovascular strength I took for granted, until they were long gone.

One of the crazy things about growing up as a skater, or perhaps as an athlete of any kind, is that “working out” and being “in shape” were basically byproducts of the larger pursuit. We trained for all those hours and of course did all that off-ice cross-training – weights, stretching, and dance classes – but this focus had very little to do with appearance or even health. It was about getting stronger, faster, better, improving skills in order to maximize our programs (and scores).

When all that is over and done, it’s strange to exercise for exercise’s sake. You want to maintain some semblance of that former shape, yet how to muster the motivation?

Many non-skaters and non-coaches in my life often proclaim, “You’re so lucky to be on the ice, working-out all day!” Granted, it’s true that we coaches probably expend more physical energy than those who are hunched over their computers 40 or more hours per week (exactly what I’m doing at this minute, by the way). Really, though, aside from an occasional (and highly risky) demonstration and some gliding around with students, we’re not “working out” at all. It’s kind of like the jobs I’ve had in retail: you’re on your feet just enough to exhaust you but not quite enough to qualify as exercise.

So, over the years, I’ve dabbled with yoga, pilates, power walking, and ice hockey (more on the latter some other time – the tales on that topic are numerous and entertaining, indeed.) For the last few years, I’ve belonged to that dreaded thing called a GYM: the local YMCA. I visit this gym exactly once per week, no more, no less – once is all I can tolerate.

It’s pretty much drudgery. While there, I lift some barbells so tiny you need a microscope to see them; I fold myself in half on the crunch machine certain I’m contracting lice even through the towel I put under my head; I stretch on the mats trying not to think about germs; I ride o’er hill and vale on the stationery bike; and then I force myself to…drumroll, please… run on the treadmill.

I detest the treadmill. The only way I get through it is thanks to the distracting power of People Magazine. If there isn’t a new edition on the magazine rack, I throw a silent yet violent inner tantrum. All I can do, instead, is watch good ol’ Rachel Ray and The View, in closed captioning on the TV looming above, the words scrolling across the bottom of the screen a few annoying seconds after they’re spoken.

I have to be careful: despite all the skating and the balance you’d think would go along with this sport, I am kind of…well, klutzy. I drop things, spill drinks, and trip over invisible seams in sidewalks. For example, during my latest adventure in homemade soup, I managed to overturn a burning-hot portion of it so that it sizzled its way through my hand. Point is, I’ve had a few mishaps on the treadmill. Think about Lucille Ball, if she were going to visit the gym. That would make a great episode of I Love Lucy, but in real life it’s a source of vague terror and potential embarrassment.

Yet, I force myself. What has made it slightly easier in the last few months (even when People Magazine didn’t come through for me) is that I’ve had a distinct goal: I signed up for the Midnight Run in Central Park, a 4-miler that starts at exactly midnight on New Year’s Eve. I did this wacky run five years ago and it was one of the more memorable New Years of my life. It was time to try it again.

I enlisted four friends to run with me and started “training”. Ha! What I mean is that I started running on the treadmill for 15 minutes then increased that by either one or two minutes every week so that for my last run of 2008 I was up to 29 minutes. In other words, an absolute eternity.

I’m not sure if skaters should run. I tend to think it’s a little too jarring on the knees. It certainly makes mine feel somewhat creaky and this bothers me since one of the main things I coach (and demonstrate) on ice is kneebend. But I was yearning for a goal and a New Year’s plan apart from the usual debauchery.

It’s hard to say what’s more challenging about the Midnight Run: staying awake and pumped for it (thanks Beyoncé) or weathering the cold. Our pre-party at my apartment was like a festival of layering interspersed with uncontrollable bouts of dancing (again, thanks Beyoncé). The temperature this year was 17 degrees and with wind chill the radio said it was going to feel like 5 below – I would have said more like 50 below, but who am I to niggle? The winds were gusting at 25 miles per hour. Eek – it was even colder than the rink! The funny thing is that, once we started running, we discovered that there was lots of ice underfoot. Of course, this caused me to think, I should have brought my skates, har har, a notion I would have shared with the group if I hadn’t been panting so hard.

A particularly tall and handsome member of our running group runs this loop in the park all the time so he was preparing us for what was ahead. “We’re going to go up again, then back down, then flat, then up, then down, then that same thing about three more times, and then we’re done!” He made those next 2,000 miles sound so simple. One member of our group was like a lightening bolt out ahead. I tried to line myself up right behind her to see if I could get any benefits from drafting, like cyclists do. One of us had to stop “to re-tie her sneakers” twice, but everyone saw right through that as a resting ploy (and appreciated it). The fifth member of our group boldly took off his mittens mid-race in defiance of the cold. I was certain his fingers were going to freeze then fall off but they apparently stayed attached.

I guess what I’m getting at here is that it was fun. It was kind of like skating with all those other teams back at the University of Delaware when I was a teenager. It was difficult and sometimes painful, but it felt like we were all in it together. Besides, the long-dormant athlete in me enjoyed having that goal: the finish line. Okay, and also the all-night diner we planned to visit afterwards where they would be serving French fries for as far as the eye could see (or that’s how I was envisioning it, anyway, during that tough patch around mile 3.5).

Will I do the Midnight Run again? Yes. After all, I really like fries…

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Happy New Year! Hope you also had an excellent one. What did you do? Leave a comment below.

Thanks to my fellow runners and thanks to everyone for your extremely kind comments in my last installment.

To see some impressive photojournalism and read more scintillating details about the Midnight Run in the words of The Informer (me), click here.