More than 100 synchronized skating coaches gathered in San Diego, California this past week for U.S. Figure Skating’s annual Coaches College, breaking a U.S. Figure Skating record for the number of coaches attending a conference. This year was the first year the Coaches College was not held in conjunction with Training Festival. Coaches spent three days hearing from top U.S. Figure Skating officials and other guests about ISU rule changes, mental toughness, judging, and training.
The conference kicked-off with a key note speech from Olympic synchronized swimmer Kim Probst. Probst drew many parallels between synchronized skating and synchronized swimming as sports and as businesses. She shared her experiences as an Olympic athlete and now head coach of her own organization, as well as some tips to improve synchronization, and some insight on Olympic participation.
Probst stated that synchronization takes time, patience, and repetition, but repetition is not enough unless you are performing correctly. You can’t just do something 20 times; you have to do it right 20 times. She noted that it’s important to use off-ice to simulate on ice as closely as possible and to keep pushing boundaries when it comes to what you can accomplish on land. Some of her ideas and suggestions for off-ice run-throughs include:
• Face each other
• Do it without music
• Count out loud
• Wear different color gloves on right and left hands
• Repeat 100 times
• Turn the music off halfway through
• Use mirrors
• Watch slow-motion video
Probst reflected on loving the daily grind of training. Although synchronized swimmers on the national team train upwards of 10 hours per day, Probst noted that there still needs to be more conditioning at the grassroots level—something that also rings true for synchronized skating.
Since there’s already a lot of speculation about how a U.S. Olympic synchronized skating team would be selected, coaches were curious about the selection process for synchronized swimming. Synchronized swimmers are selected through an “All-Star” process for elite teams and adopt the style of the elite team’s coach to train for the Olympics. These teams often remain intact, or close to intact, for four or more years. Elite swimmers are typically in their 20s. Some postpone college to swim while others go to college first and swim on elite teams after college.
An important message the Probst shared with the audience directly related to the Olympics. “The Olympics is one competition, it’s an awesome competition, but it’s only one event in the overall journey,” said Probst. Training swimmers and skaters at every level, from grassroots through elite Team USA, needs to be a focal point. We need to love the daily grind. We need to love spending hours at the rink every day. We need to help more skaters fall in love with the sport. We need to train harder than we’ve ever trained before. We need to appreciate the full journey.
Probst’s key note speech was followed by ISU rule changes led by Karen Wiesmeier, Jeanette Davey, and Karin Sherr. Exciting things to note include:
• 2016 was the first time the Haydenettes’ program was called at the World Championships without needing a review
• Junior Worlds will now be held every year (instead of alternating with the Junior World Challenge Cup)
• World rankings will not be used for draw order (U.S. teams don’t go to enough events to get enough ranking points)
• GOE’s might change to +/-5 instead of +/-3 in the near future (not for the 2016-2017 season)
• The call to start remains one minute, but teams will now only have 30 seconds after their name is called before the music starts
Joshua Medcalf, founder of Train 2B Clutch lead off day two and three of Coaches College. Medcalf talked about mental toughness and its application in athletics. He shared his journey as a Division I collegiate soccer player as he discovered the importance of visualization and metal preparedness. Consider the following, all quotes from Medcalf’s presentation:
• “What you do is going to impact generations of your family to come.”
• “Our greatest fear shouldn’t be in failure – it should be in succeeding in things that don’t really matter.”
• “What do you want to be remembered for? Winning and losing? No – it’s the person you became in the process.”
• “Control the controllable. Focus on the process, not the outcome. First things first, the rest will come.”
• “Love people. Serve people. Provide value.”
• “Resources are not the issue, it’s how you use what you have to make a difference.”
• “When you put first things first, second things aren’t suppressed, they increase”
• “Inside of every problem is an opportunity”
• “Be intentional and deliberate about who you want to become”
• “It’s easy to misunderstand the amount of influence we have on someone’s life”
• “A sincere compliment can change the trajectory of someone’s life”
• “Greatness isn’t *sexy*. Greatness is the mundane. It’s the day-to-day small efforts that make it achievable”
Each day’s programming concluded with an on ice session. Suzy Semanick-Schurman taught power and edge drills on the first and second day. Pairs of coaches attempted stroking and power pulls using resistance bands. Semanick-Schurman taught weight balance and upper body positioning using basic skating and crossovers all the way through brackets, rockers, and choctaws. Coaches twizzled down the ice pressing tissues to their sides with their arms.
Karen Wiesmeier led the final on ice session with help from her senior and novice Team Del Sol skaters. Wiesmeier coached her team through a traveling wheel, a pivoting block, and spiral positions. With input from Josh Babb and Heather Paige, coaches observed common mistakes and how to fix them in order to get these elements called.
As we head into August many teams are about to jump into choreography camps and pre-season training. After a successful week at Coaches College, coaches have a new understanding of the ISU rules and are ready to hit the ground running with enthusiasm.