Collegiate Synchronized Skating | United in the Pursuit of Excellence
by Alice Tarantin
My first two years in college brought about many dynamic and unpredictable learning experiences. Having synchronized skating as a constant during this time has provided me with comfort and familiarity, as well as a way to measure important milestones. I’ve noticed that my perspective on skating, as with all things, has matured as I’ve progressed through my college career. Looking beyond my own experiences, I took time to talk with other skaters who were just beginning or ending their collegiate synchro careers to see if their perspectives varied depending on where they were along their synchro journey.
TAYLOR SPINARD, Team Excel, Senior
“Being on a senior team is intense. More intense than I expected actually. It’s a challenge for me, but I really like being challenged.”
Taylor is a freshman at the Community College of Rhode Island. This year she jumped from the intermediate to senior division while tackling the intense workload of college. Taylor noted that the first few weeks were a bit overwhelming; practices were harder, footwork more difficult, and balancing schoolwork with skating became a greater challenge than before. But having two close friends from a previous team there to share the experience is very helpful, and fellow teammates are supportive of both on and off-ice endeavors. Taylor is looking forward to her first competition of the season and has set goals of improving throughout the season and skating her best during every performance.
GABBY SOUTHERN, Team Delaware, Junior/Collegiate
“I was extremely excited but also very nervous for my first year on a collegiate team, as well as my first year of college. For this season I’m looking forward to having really great experiences and making even more memories with girls who are like my family. I’m also looking forward to seeing what my team can accomplish because I know that we have so much talent and potential on our team.”
Competing on the University of Delaware Collegiate synchronized skating team has been part of Gabby’s plan since high school, when she first listed Delaware among her top college choices. She knew that the best way to prepare for the Collegiate line was to skate with Team Delaware through her junior and senior years of high school. As a college freshman, Gabby is undertaking both the stress of starting college and the demands of cross-skating Junior and Collegiate. She says she is lucky to be able to continue skating with an organization that has become a family to her. The advice and encouragement she receives from the older girls on the collegiate line, whether about skating, schoolwork, or life in general, has been invaluable. The intensity of this skating season is entirely worth it, says Gabby. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
DOUGLAS OBER, Team Excel, Senior
“I used to think ‘I am an individual skating with other people,’ but now I think of myself as one member of a team. Instead of thinking that our team is in direct competition with another team, I realized we are all just people who enjoy synchronized skating, trying to do the best we can.”
Douglas is a senior at Boston University. His freshman year of college was the senior team’s first season, and he remembers the disparity of skating skills and synchro experience amongst the skaters, not to mention the nerves that came with competing against well-established teams. “However, our coach said that with a senior team, it is a long game; you cannot expect to get a good team in a year. Patience and steady development were going to be important, and I remembered that,” Douglas recalled. When asked what advice he would give to the new skaters on his team, he says that there is no substitute for practicing and developing individual skating skills, as they are the foundation of any good synchro team at any level.
JULIE KING, Team Delaware, Collegiate
“One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received about skating is to practice how you perform. Not only with the faces, knee bend and skill, but with the energy that you have when competing… I would definitely tell the freshman and all the girls to really hold onto every moment and give the team everything you’ve got. The four years at UD fly by, and you don’t want to regret a second of it.”
Now a senior at the University of Delaware, Julie fondly recalls the moment she first saw Delaware perform and how she knew immediately that she wanted to be a part of it. Ten years later, she’s entering her final season with the collegiate line, eager to conclude her skating career with a bang. Julie remembers how intimidating it was as a freshman, being new to both the team and the school. Older skaters would help her out by sharing old class notes or driving to the grocery store, and she developed strong bonds with her teammates, who soon achieved the title of best friends. Time flew, says Julie, and now she is the one welcoming the younger skaters and passing on her passion for skating.
After speaking with these fellow collegiate skaters, I don’t know that I can say perspectives are the same for all freshmen and all seniors, or that perspectives shift in the same way for all skaters during four years of college. There are so many factors that influence each individual’s skating career—everyone’s journey is unique. At the end of the day, I think we can all agree that balancing college academics with competitive synchronized skating is a challenge. Collegiate skaters are united in their pursuit of excellence in the classroom and on the ice.