Glossary of Skating Falls

Have you noticed this week that even Olympic skaters fall? One of the things I write about in my book, First Day on the Ice: Tips from a Professional Coach (and Mom), is the fact that everyone falls…little kids, big kids, skating coaches, and yes, even Olympians.

As someone who has fallen on the ice too many times to count (thousands?), I can attest to the fact that you get used to it. Skaters fall in just about every way imaginable. Backwards, forwards, sideways, and (sometimes, unfortunately in my case) upside down.

It’s said that skaters “learn” how to fall, in other words, in ways that are less jolting, and it’s true. We conform to it…we slide with the falls. When we are at our peak, we are flexible, our reflexes kick in, and we get our hands out quickly to break some of the impact.

This is not to say that experienced skaters don’t ever get hurt by falls – and of course, you are quite welcome to wince and shout out “Oooooohhhhhh!” in your living room – but if you see an elite level skater fall on TV, the chances are good that they’re far more upset about the loss of points and ranking than any pain they might be feeling.

In my job as a skating coach, I see all kinds of falls all day long. Some of them look terrifying and some of them look downright…well, funny. At some point, I decided to try to catalogue all the different types of falls and I’d like to share them here with you.

The Splat: In this fall, usually best performed from forward skating, you hit the ice like pancake batter hits the griddle. In the more sophisticated version, there is an involuntary flip at the end.

The Sidesaddle: This fall is the one most highly recommended for adults and simply involves sliding off to one side or the other with grace and a bit of dignity. The affected hip and wrist will never be the same, but at least you’ll still have your teeth.

The Bellyflop: This is one of the more exciting falls, often associated with the entrance to a Camel Spin. If the skater has temporarily forgotten that she is at the rink and not the swimming pool, this will surely remind her. This fall is rendered even more breathtaking because it literally takes your breath.

The Geyser: This fall is unique in the way it first shoots you up in the air, causing you to momentarily defy gravity before you plummet back down. In order to get your money’s worth, stick around for the exciting grand finale, which is usually a full-bodied whiplash.

The Jackhammer: In this vertical fall, the tailbone makes first contact with the ice with a velocity and force that shakes the entire building. In response, the spinal chord will continue to vibrate for days.

The Pretzel: Many physicists have tried, but it is impossible to explain how skaters accomplish this complicated fall and likewise detangle from it. This human knot is twice as common and complex for pair and dance teams.

The Slide: This is the fall that reminds you just how slippery the ice is. If there are other skaters on the ice, the challenge is to steer yourself away from them. In other words, you want to avoid impersonating a bowling ball heading straight for the pins.

The Surprise: This fall is not your fault. There is absolutely nothing you can do to prevent it and no way to see it coming. The ice quietly sneaks up on you, swiftly grabs you from below, and pulls you down. All of this transpires in a nanosecond, so any witnesses who observe it will be just as surprised as the skater.

The Slo-Mo: This is the exact opposite of the previous fall. This one seems to take forever and you’ll see it coming from miles away. You’ll try to flap your arms in an attempt to fly out of the situation, but this will only put you more off balance. In the meantime, your life will flash before your eyes. You’ll have time to wish you’d done all those good things like taken better care of your childhood goldfish… tape-recorded your grandmother’s voice… spent more time laughing and less time working.

Mostly, you’ll wish that you’d invested in a set of… butt pads.

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Podcast about the Olympics

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Thank you to the Coffee and Bars podcast for inviting me to be a guest host on this round-up of the Olympic Figure Skating Team Event. This was fun and unexpected.

In addition to chatting with Sylvia and Joe about the performances…I quote Adam Rippon regarding the rodeo, then talk about how my brother Brad and I got started in the sport, my memories of Maia and Alex Shibutani when they were little, and my unwavering faith in Nathan Chen. First time for everything! #FirstDayontheIce.

Coffee and Bars hit my radar recently due to their brilliant 2018 Olympic Figure Skating Drinking Game. If you haven’t read it yet (or played it!), check it out!

If you see something…

Skate Something

I saw this poster in Williamsburg, Brooklyn last week. It’s obviously a spoof on the Department of Homeland Security’s “If you see something say something,” campaign. A closer look at the fine print revealed that it was targeting skateboarders, but…I just can’t resist a little skating wordplay.

(The fine print says: If you see a possible ledge spot, rail, or gap on the street or in a park, don’t keep it to yourself. Don’t tell a cop, tell a friend or an NYC Skate Employee. Or call the toll free Shred Hotline. All calls will be kept confidential, for shredding emergencies call 911.)

And, for the record, I don’t think any Williamsburg skateboard/hipster types were around when I so dorkily snapped this shot. Or if they did see me, they decided not to…say something.

An Ode to my Long Black Coat

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 🙂

Skating with the Stars: Be Afraid

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.

Men’s Freeskate: Insta-Blog


by Jocelyn Jane Cox

[Best read from the bottom, up.]

9:40 Friday morning

This Olympic-viewing is hard work! A little bleary-eyed (can barely see through these bags that have inflated on my face), but digging the post-game interviews with Evan. Very gracious, well-spoken and appropriately in awe of the honor and the accomplishment.

On the flip side, just read a scathing analysis of the results by Elvis Stojko on yahoo called The Night They Killed Figure Skating. Ouch. Click here.

Am liking the sizzling NBC commercial for Ice Dance: “Cold winter nights just got hotter.” Pumped for Tango Romantica tonight – I don’t plan to insta-blog. I may do so for OD and/or FD. If you’d like a little guidance on tonight’s compulsory event, check out my article on Ice Skating International. Link at the bottom of this post.

_______________________________________________

12:15

Lambiel, Lambiel. Your name rolls off the tongue. I had such high hopes. You remind me so much of my high school star-crush Robert Sean Leonard (of Dead Poet’s Society and now House).

[The Hubs dozed off but he’s sitting back up again…]

Takahashi is fluid. Like water on skates. Way to come back from the Big Quad. Disagree with the pundits that it sucked the life out of the program. Likewise, way to come back from injury.

Weir: The Fallen angel flies again. Gotta hand that one to him. Great performance. And a beautiful ring of roses around his head.

Plushenko skated shaky. The marks are up–

Evan wins!! It comes down to Grade of Execution. Quality over Quantity. That is awesome. Go USA.

And now. To. Sleep.

Thank you for reading.

_______________________________________________

11:34

Viva Lysacek!! Great performance. Not easy to skate first, but he got out there and got it over with…now the waiting game. Prefer the snakes to the feathers. Looked a tad slow and walky in the middle, but Bravo! Sounded like Hamilton almost slipped up at one point and almost said Petrenko instead of Plushenko.

Oda vaults into the air. Looks like his legs are made of rubber and his knees have springs. Call me a Nationalist, but the Chaplin medley just reminds me that Ryan Bradley didn’t make it. And I don’t like to think about that.

Oops, technical difficulties. Thought he tore a muscle but it was just his lace. He should be awarded a lightening bolt superhero costume (like little Lysacek’s) for how quickly he fixed that. Mixed things up a bit.

_______________________________________________

11:10

Florent Amodio: I missed his short the other night but heard a lot of buzz about him. This Amelie/marionette program was cute. Nice to see a lighthearted Long Program since they usually skew serious.

Patrick Chan: Phantom of the Opera is a gorgeous piece of music and very evocative. Chan skates beautifully to it, but I am so Tired of this song. (And/or maybe I’m just tired.) He has a great smile – look forward to seeing it again next time around.

Michal Brezina: Gene Kelly on skates. Like it. An American in Paris? No, A Czech in Canada.


_______________________________________________

10:40

Well, so much for my predictions that Jeremy Abbott would climb up from 15th to win… way to climb uphill within the program, though.

It seems that Kozuka loves the electric guitar. If he wants to keep skating to this for all of his future programs, I am comfortable with that.  When they zoomed in on his sit spin I realized the benefit of (and perhaps theory behind) these wacky boards: it looks a little like they’re skating outside in a cartoon world.

Denis Ten: 16 years old, wow! Couldn’t keep up with his music medley – traveled across more borders and decades than I could keep track of.

I don’t know the football stars they just showed, but I do love that they are not only watching figure skating but doing so in public.

_______________________________________________

9:50

To my friend who suggested I host an Olympic party: well, this is it! Online and On the futon. Welcome.

Ahh! The suspense. They’re not even going to start showing the skating until after 10. (I am enjoying the snowboarding, though.)

In the meantime, check out this analysis of The Quad in the NY Times, put together by longtime friend Archie Tse, former pair skater turned graphic guru. Off to the right, you’ll see each skater’s success rate with the Quad – I appreciate all the facts and figures, but I especially like seeing how all that rotational pull contorts their faces…..Click here.

_______________________________________________

Here comes the showdown: Feathers, Tassels, and Tears vs. the Swinging Sword. I’m going to type commentary as soon as I get home from the rink tonight.

I know some people were offended by Blades of Glory, but let’s face it, Will Ferrell and Jon Heder nailed it. It’s almost as if the men’s figure skating event is acting out that plotline to a T. I’m looking forward to watching Freeskate but would also really like to see Plushenko and Lysacek make amends then perform a “Very Original Dance” later this week.

Actually, all this bravado, the boustier, and the masterful skating made the Vancouver Short Program on Tuesday night the most fun I think I’ve ever had watching a men’s event. I laughed, I (faux) cried and I marveled. I know I should be applauding all the jumps (and they were incredible), but I think the fact that there were two footwork/step sequences made it very entertaining. Favorite footworkers: Lambiel, Takahashi, Abbott. Least favorite footworker: Plushenko a.k.a. Clod the Quad (and, by the way, weren’t his jump landings rather shaky?) Favorite overall program: Kozuka to Jimi Hendrix. Biggest heartbreak: Abbott. Biggest surprise: obviously Joubert. Best twizzler: Lysacek.

Big shout out to The Hubs for today’s artwork and his unique talent to put skates on just about anything for the purposes of CSOM. To see more of his non-skating but incredibly graceful work, click here.

And…check out these other Olympic-y pieces I’ve been working on. Special thanks to Vicki Merten, Wendy Mliner, Cheryl Demkowski-Snyder, Cathy Reed, Brad Cox, and Liz Leamy for advising me on the article about the Tango Romantica. Click down here:

Thanks for reading and thanks for all your comments on those previous insta-blogs both here and on FB – makes it really fun. 🙂

Charlie Brown: The Skater

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…