A former competitive figure skater, Kathi has been coaching for 18 years. She has been with the ICE ‘Kateers since their inception in 2000 and has coached all levels at the US Championships, including helping to lead the ICE ‘Kateers to their first National medal in 2005 at the Intermediate level, followed by a 5th place placement in 2006 and the ICE ‘Kateers first year as Team USA in 2009. Kathi is a USFS double gold medalist in Figures and Free skating and a pre-gold dance medalist. Kathi feels blessed to work with such a wonderful group of coaches, skaters and parents, but her favorite role is wife and “mommy” to two of the ICE ‘Kateers biggest fans, Dave and Abbie.
How would you describe the process of building your organization from it’s inception to a spot on the podium in the senior division at the U.S. National Championships?
Our first teams were in 2000-2001 and they were ISI teams. We had two teams, a youth team and a junior youth team. (Two of the skaters from our first junior youth team were on the senior team this year. They were the two skaters we had stand on the podium. They are the only original team members left. The rest have graduated and gone on to other parts of their lives.) That year the pacific coast sectionals were held by our club, Glacial Falls Figure Skating Club at our rink. We watched the competition and thought, our girls could do that! So the next year our youth and junior youth teams turned into juvenile and intermediate teams. We entered pacific coast sectionals with no plans to go to nationals, even if we were fourth. Our teams placed second, so after a quick team meeting at the hotel we decided, how could we not go to nationals? Our first nationals was in 2002 in Lake Placid. What a magical place to attend your first nationals. We were so honored to even be at nationals and we were so inspired by the higher level teams. We had never seen so much great synchronized skating all in one place! We enjoyed every minute of our trip and then everyone was hooked!
As the years went on and our girls grew older we would then have to change the level of our teams so that they would continue to have a team to compete on. Over time, we as coaches became more knowledgeable and the girls gained more experience, we became more competitive and began to have more success until we finally had a team at the senior level.
How would you describe your coaching style and philosophy?
Our goal has always been to make memories for the girls. That it is not only about the skating, but creating memories and a family. John, the Director of the ICE’Kateers and assistant coach of the novice and senior teams, has always said that our goal is for these girls to make life long friendships and be at one another’s weddings. So every sectionals, nationals and international competition we have done we try to make it unique somehow. Some trips are easier than others to do this, and sometimes it is something as simple as a unique place we eat a meal.
What made this season different from past seasons?
This season we began with only 10 skaters. We had many skaters graduate high school after the 2011 season and go away to school, so we had a large void on the senior team. Until the first week of September, we were not sure we would have a senior team this year. I am a strong woman of faith, so I put it in God’s hands. If He wanted us to have a team, then I prayed He would send us the qualified skaters we needed, if not, then we would move on with our novice team as well as our open juvenile and beginning teams. Gradually we had former ICE ‘Kateers from many years past return. Some of them brought “friends” . By the first week of September, we had our 16 skaters. Then by our first competition the first week of November we had 19 skaters! We usually start our programs late July and early August, however, because we didn’t have a full team, we got a late start on our programs. This reality really caused us to buckle down and put in more practice time as our international competition and nationals grew closer. The girls really got on board with this idea and committed extra time to make it happen. The key for us was time together on the ice, understanding and patience with one another and a common goal. Last year, 2010-2011, we felt very strong and hoped to not only earn an international assignment, but possibly earn a medal as well. After a fluke accident in the short at nationals, with a disastrous outcome, we saw that dream slip away, so many of our girls were still hungry for that medal.
What were your goals/expectations leading up to Nationals?
My goal was to have two strong performances and although you have no control over your scores and ultimately your placement, I hoped that with two strong performances it would be enough for us to earn a medal.
How did you feel following short leading up to long? What did you tell your skaters?
Relief. I was more nervous for the short than I was for the long. As I say to the girls, you can’t win the competition with the short, but you can lose it, so I was relieved that they had had a clean performance and had skated so well and had put themselves in contention for a medal. While we enjoyed the moment, I did remind them, they had not won anything yet. They still needed to go out and attack the long. We talked about making moments while skating. That they needed to enjoy their time on the ice. To take a moment in their program and remember it. To remember their surroundings, their feelings and to connect with their team while skating.
Sadly , while we were at lunch on Saturday before the girls skated long, we found out that the father of one of our Novice skaters, Candice, and the husband of one of the Novice team managers, had unexpectedly died at home. This was a big blow to the many of the girls as we are a tight knit family and some of the girls had skated with Candice in the past. It was a challenge for the girls to deal with their emotions and then put them aside for a time so they could skate. Almost an impossible task to ask of someone. Ultimately we tried to honor Candice and her family with our performance.
What were you feeling as you watched your skaters take the ice for the awards ceremony?
I am not sure I can describe it. I felt like I was in a movie. The feel good sports movie where the athlete overcomes his obstacles and realizes his dream while the music plays in the background. (I probably felt like this because there really was music playing in the background since they play a team’s music as they skate out.) To watch the girls’ excitement as they skated out and to see the other teams cheering for them, it is something I have burned in my memory. I was so proud, happy and so happy for them. It truly was the achievement and accomplishment of a goal.
What are your goals for next season and the future of the Ice’Kateers?
The first medal at the senior level at nationals is always the sweetest and it is so hard to repeat. While it would be wonderful for us to medal again at nationals, we have such good teams at the senior level that you never know who will end up on the podium. How wonderful it would be to someday have a team at worlds, but you never know what each season will bring. In the mean time, we will continue to try to put out a quality product while making great memories along the way.