As I tweeted yesterday, it was a great event, with great participants, great faculty, great town, great presentations. I'm a PACE junkie, this is my fifth time, and I've had some GREAT experiences, so what made this one so special? Some thoughts and highlights:
• It really made a difference to be able to sleep in my own bed every night. Despite the commute and the 5:30 a.m. start, having the familiar surroundings each night was a boon. Three days, 160 miles round trip commute each day. I know there are people who do that everyday. How can they stand it? In sum it was about the same as driving to the PACE site in Ohio, but somehow, this seemed hard (and I like distance driving).
• I rode every day with my friend Molly, as well, so we got to debrief at the end of the day. It was useful as well as fun to share thoughts and impressions. This was such an important part of this PACE that I would recommend PSA try to come up with a way to offer a discount for two people who sign up together.
• The faculty just clicked. Now, these were many of the same faculty members that I've encountered before, but somehow the chemistry was just sizzling with this group. Furthermore, they checked their egos at the door, and approached the participants as peers. This is not always the case; I have encountered faculty whose mission seemed to be to prove either that the participants were idiots, or that they themselves were on such a high plain you could never hope to achieve it. None of that noise was at this event. (Except at lunch-- it was uncomfortable that the faculty segregated themselves from the participants. Just leave the building folks, that was a little weird.)
• It's easy to find free parking in downtown Milwaukee (in fact, for years we've joked that Milwaukee's tourism motto should be "Milwaukee: It's easy to park!") "Paid" all-day parking will set you back $2 to $5.
• Kern Center is beautiful, but man, their ice surface was poorly prepared. I guess hockey skaters aren't as picky as figure skaters.
• The three presentations on IJS by choreographer and national technical specialist/controller Scott Brown were worth the price of admission alone. It absolutely stuns me that any competitive coach EVER attempts to choreograph a program without attending Scott's sessions, and he does enough of them that they are pretty easy to get to. If ALL you can get to at a PACE are his presentations, it's worth eating the rest of the cost. I have pages and pages of advice for programs from Juvenile through Senior, and I don't even teach at that level. But it helps me in class, where all those skills start, to know what the judges are looking for.
• There were a lot more people doing the Group track this year, and they seemed to be people who weren't just collecting ratings (yes, there are these types), but rather coaches who really believe in Group and aren't just looking for the "easy" rating (it isn't, by the way).
But I think the most important thing that was different this year was my own attitude and expectation. I had a truly terrible experience at PACE last year, so bad that I left halfway through. In fact I decided not to continue seeking ratings because I just didn't need the humiliation (this after actually passing the rating that I took last year). But I came to my senses, decided not to let one bad teacher alter my career, and went in this year feeling like I was at a Master level. This made me act like I was at a Master level, which I like to think came through.
All in all, I'm inspired and excited, and looking forward to continuing the Ratings process through Master Group and, I hope, Registered at Moves, Free Skate and Synchro.