Nov 21, 2010

Conversations with coaches

A couple of years ago, I sat down with Highland Park Ice Arena show director Sheila Lonergan and Robert Crown Ice Arena coach Jola Wesolawska, who coaches many of my rink’s most competitive skaters, about what parents and skaters should expect when they start to get serious about figure skating, with its costs, competitions, and interesting culture. The following is a compilation of several conversations.

Jola—What parents need to realize is that this is a sport that requires a lot of commitment, and there is no team that creates the structure for you. You have to do it all yourself.

Sheila—Changing in the back of the car on the way to the rink.

Jola—Fall and get up, fall and get up, fall and get up!

Sheila—Freezing feet!

Jola—Wake up every day at 5 a.m.! One mother told me her daughter is not a morning person, but you know, I am not a morning person either and I have been getting up at 5 a.m. more than 30 years! And I am the coach!

Xan— My daughter would get up if I would.

Jola—Yes, that is it. Parents make a big difference and the skaters learn that this is what you must do if you want to be really good.

Sheila—That’s right. And these kids really learn how to set goals and how to make a commitment, and how rewarding it is to do something this hard and succeed at it.

Xan—But, really, how many kids are going to make it to Nationals? What do the rest of them get out of all this time and money?

Jola: Success in skating does not always mean to place first at competitions or go to the Olympics. Success can be not quitting too early—don’t get discouraged! You can set a goal to pass all the ISI or USFSA tests or even set smaller goals along the way like land an axel. It is a wonderful success if you fall three times at the beginning of your program, but then you are able to skate and finish it strong. It is a success if you skate a clean program at competition, whether at your local rink or a big competition.

This is a sport that really builds character, because the skater knows she or he must rely on themselves, and must finish what he or she starts. If you fall in the middle of a soccer game, your teammate grabs the ball and the game goes on, while you take your time getting up. But if a skater falls in a show or competition, it’s all up to the skater, to just get up and keep skating. And they all do it.

Sheila: It can be a very moving thing for a parent to watch—when that skater just gets up and keeps going because skating has helped him or her to develop the character to do this.

Jola: Skating teaches you to be disciplined, organized, to manage your time, to be determined and patient, have a strong work ethic and to be consistent. It teaches you to learn from mistakes, to be humble—you land the jump but it doesn’t mean you keep it forever.

Sheila: There is no quick fix or instant reward in skating.

Jola: Right. It is a long-term sport and you won’t see the results immediately. You have to work hard, consistently and over a period of time, but you will see the improvement.

Sheila—And there is no getting around that the skills are hard, but these kids really push themselves to get to the next level. There is a lot of respect given to the higher-level skaters—the younger kids look up to them, because they know how hard those girls worked to achieve that high level.

Do you like the idea of conversations with coaches?


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. M-- definitely. (And I'm still looking for you in one of the local competitions...)