Welcome to coaches corner. I'm not really a coach and this isn't a corner, but that's beside the point. As it turns out I'm always right and I thought I'd share some of that high priced wisdom and modesty with the rotationally challenged. Like my pipe smoking friend here, I take a scientiffic approach to figure skating. There is a reason for everything and it's our job to figure out what it is. Technique is not about being able to do an axel. Technique is knowing how to do an axel. There is a big difference. And if all else fails, you can always use your knowledge to pick up chicks. Science Rules.

Every now and then somebody will ask my qualifications. Qualifications? Qualifications? I don't need no steenkin' qualifications. But here they are anyway.

  • I've seen "Ice Castles" 5 times and still think it's a great comedy.
  • I got to ride a Zamboni.
  • I have no life outside skating and work.
  • I did a forward flip over the boards in a local ice show once.
  • I'm the only person I know who ever fell down while testing the Dutch Waltz.
  • I know which skaters are gay and which aren't.
  • I thought of this page first and own my own video digitizer.
  • I'm the skating poster child for Advil.
  • It took me four months to put these pages together.
  • I used to scrounge for loose change under vending machines at the Ohio State University Ice Rink in the early 70s.

By now you're asking yourself, "What mental institution did this guy break out of?" That's not important right now. What is important is I'm a resevoir of information and the dam is about to break.

The Big One

I'm going to skip the preliminaries and go straight to the biggie. This is the most important piece of advice you will ever get. If you follow this advice you will be a much better skater, competitor, and all around swell person. Are you ready for it? Here it comes. Don't forget to take your blade guards off before stepping on the ice. I know what you're thinking. "Well, duh". Do not take this lightly. Sooner or later everybody forgets to take their blade guards off at least once in their lives. And it usually happens at a competition. Don't let this happen to you. But when it does I'm going to give you an, "I told you so", in advance.

This next bit of advice is not as important, but still relevant to a skater in the 90s. Don't eat a full plate of Kung Pao Chicken 5 minutes before stepping on the ice. I have and believe me it's not pretty. My first spin I thought I was going to hurl. Another site that wouldn't be pretty. Taco Bell tacos are also not skater friendly. Has anybody else ever noticed that the color of Taco Bell cheese isn't quite cheese-like? I had to crawl off the ice once after consuming a mad cow infested beef taco. But it tasted good.

Be Mental!

Has anybody ever told you not to be mental? You can forget about that when it comes to figure skating. Eighty percent of figure skating is between your ears and the other twenty percent is in the rest of your body. The number one problem with most figure skaters is self doubt and the "fear factor". It is not a normal thing to hurl your body into space at a high speed. It's even harder for adults. That's not to say an adult can't do just as well or even better than a youngster. You just have to want it more and be willing to pay a higher price.

The single most important thing for a figure skater to have is confidence. If you tell yourself you will succeed, then you probably will. If you have even a little bit of doubt, then you will probably fail. If you have confidence and fail anyway, at least you'll look good doing it.

The question, then, is how to get confidence. The obvious answer is by lots of practice, patience, drive, and determination. Beyond that, I think it's a personal matter and since I'm not a qualified mental health professional I don't have the answer. The thing that gives me the most satisfaction in the sport of figure skating is overcoming these mental barriers. If you stick with it you will find you've become a stronger, more self assured person as well as a good skater. I can think of no other sport that is as personally rewarding and useful in other areas of your life.

I firmly believe that anybody with decent physical coordination can learn to figure skate to a greater or lesser degree of success. For example, if you are a good tennis player, or can run well, or throw a ball accurately you can probably learn to figure skate. That doesn't mean you'll be doing triple axels, but you can at least do the fundamentals if you have the drive and determination. If, on the other hand, you have a tendency to trip over your own feet walking to the salad bar then you're not likely to suddenly gain coordination from figure skating.

Use the Force, Luke!

Darth Vader would have made a good figure skating coach. Come to think of it, there are quite a few coaches out there with similiar personalities. But I digress. Figure skating is all about using the force. Both physical and mental. The mental part I've already gone into. Remember the scene where Luke Skywalker was flying down the trench of the Death Star and Obi Wan says, "Let go. Use the force, Luke!"? Most excellent advice. When jumping, spinning, edging, drooling, whatever, it is important to be able to just let yourself go. Don't hold back. He who hesitates is lost. Holding back is something your subconscious mind does as a normal defensive reaction that has to be overcome. This gets back to the confidence issue. Holding back just a little bit can result in disaster, especially when you get to the axel.

On the physical side, you really do "use the force". It is something you can literally feel in your arms and legs, especially when you spin and jump or hold a deep edge. Force is like clay; you are the sculpture, quickness and strength are your tools. You mold force into motion. Little girls can do triple jumps just a few inches off the ground because they are quick, while adult skaters can do triple jumps a couple feet off the ground because they are strong.
You can often make up for a lack of quickness with strength, or vice versa. In either case, the glue that holds your skills together is sound, fundamental technique.

The older you are, the more likely you are to be tense when working on a new or unfamiliar element. Tension is the body killer. It causes you to do all sorts of weird things you wouldn't normally do. Often the difference between success and failure is simply learning how to mentally relax. That doesn't mean you relax the rest of your body. Jumping and spinning is all about having tension in your body without being tense.

Have Fun!

And finally, after all the money, time, bruises, frustrations, lost gloves, bone spurs, lost sleep, neglected work, unfed pets, dirty dishes, and gray hairs don't forget the most important reason for figure skating. Have fun!! I believe the secret to skating happiness is in the journey and not the destination. The real reward is in learning how to do something. If you can actually do it then that's a bonus. If you're in the sport because you want to win an Olympic medal then not only are you going to fail, but you're going to waste a lot of time in the process.

Complaints should be entered here. All other inquires and offers of marriage should be sent to:

Kevin Anderson / kander@ix.netcom.com

Click your heels together three times and say, "There's no place like home"

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