Monday, August 25, 2008

Figure skating camp: is it worth it?

Ice Girl’s been back from camp for almost a week. Did she learn anything?

Her flip is better, but most landings are still with two feet. Olympic coach Kerry Leitch called Ice Girl a problem child and suggested that we, her parents, could qualify for some sort of monthly check because of Ice Girl’s problematic two-foot landings. I’m going to check into that…

Olympic coach Alison Smith gave Ice Girl a private lesson, during which she had Ice Girl do seven loops in a row while holding half a hockey stick. The hockey stick’s a good idea because it keeps Ice Girl’s arms moving in the same direction at the same time. Ice Girl said that private lesson on jumping was very helpful.

Ice Girl had a private lesson and classes with Olympian Caryn Kadavy, whom Ice Girl idolizes. Kadavy instructed a class on costumes and Ice Girl has been sketching ever since. I have a dress cut out in my sewing room right now, but Ice Girl has a new design for a competition in November. I’m grumbling, but we all know that I’m going to give in.

Ice Girl had lessons in jumps, spins, and using a rotation trainer. She also raved about a wobble board that Smith used…now we have one of those, too. She learned about costumes, choreography, grooming, edges, power stroking, and goal setting.

Ice Girl ate breakfast at 7 a.m., worked until noon, had lunch, and worked until 5 p.m. Lights went out in the dorm at 10:30 p.m., but the noise continued until after 11. We picked Ice Girl up from camp and she was exhausted. She slept until noon the next day.

Camp wasn’t a magic pill: Ice Girl’s flip is still problematic and her sit spin is more sit than spin. However, she’s energized. Tonight she wants to help me sew her dress so we can begin on the next one (I am a sucker). She wants to do off-ice training in her off time.

She’s hoping to go back to camp again next summer. $500 isn’t cheap, but I’m sure I’ll spend it again next year. Ice Girl made great friends, learned a lot, and came home with drive and energy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

figure skating scoring: that extra something

Aaron wrote about tie-breakers and scoring for gymnastics in his recent Axels, Loops, and Spins Post.

He compared the gymnastics scoring system to the figure skating scoring system. Both were imperfect, he said, but figure skating was somewhat fairer.

This kind of discussion really resonates with me because by day I’m an education writer. I’ve been researching rubrics in education lately and found some interesting dissent.

The rubric in education is much like the figure skating scoring idea. Students receive points for the elements they attempt and even crummy elements receive some points. So, when your kid writes an essay, she’s likely to receive scores for content, organization, and conventions (spelling, grammar, usage).

Rubrics are an attempt to make a subjective process (grading essays) more objective. In that way, you can compare them with figure skating and gymnastics scoring rules.

What Aaron points out in his post is that sometimes a program or an exercise is just better. It’s a quality that goes beyond the individual scores for the individual elements. That gymnast, that figure skater, that student is on during the performance.

It’s the difference between learning the notes for a song perfectly and being an artist. In other words, sometimes the parts just don’t add up to the whole. There’s something more.

In my previous life as a high school teacher, I would give a student a holistic grade before using the rubric on the essay. I combined the two grades (holistic and rubric-generated) to come up with one score.

I don’t think that’s practical for athletics, but someone should put some mind energy toward awarding points for being on or nailing a performance.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Parenting: hovering over figure skating camp

I am not a helicopter parent. I’m not, I’m not.

I sent Ice Girl a text message at camp yesterday.

O.K. Two.

Do I really need to keep track?

Ice Girl has to leave her cell phone in the dorm between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., so she didn’t receive my texts until after dinner. Shortly after 6:30 p.m., Ice Girl called. My cell phone shows we talked for a little over a minute.

“Hi, Mom! Claire! No, I’m not ready. I’m talking to my Mom.”

“So, Ice Girl, are you having fun?”

“Yeah! I’ve met some new friends. We’re going go-karting after my private lesson tonight.”

“Sounds fun. What have you learned?”

“My scratch spin is faster. I’m coming, you guys. Hang on!”

“How’s the food?”

“Great, Mom.” Ice Girl switched to a gentle voice: “Listen. I love you, Mom, but I gotta go. Call you tomorrow, though, O.K.?”


Um. O.K. Bye.

You know all that concern I had about Ice Girl going stag to the camp and not having fun? Well, I think she’s O.K.

It’s just, well; I wanted to hear about what she was learning. How useful it is. How much she’s improved. I was excited about the call and prepared for a nice long account about the whole day at camp.

Ice Girl’s making friends, though, and having such a good time that talking to Mom was on her list, but not the goal of her whole day.

I’m fine with that. I think. It’s just that my helicopter’s engines were warmed up, its blades were spinning, and I spent all that time washing and waxing it…

Monday, August 18, 2008

Figure skating camp: the long drive Up North

I have the warm, drowsy feeling of a mom who drove four hours up to Winners’ Edge Figure Skating camp in Spooner, Wis. and also drove four hours back. I’m tired. Ice Grandma came on the trip, too, because there’s no way I could drive eight hours by myself – especially at night when I’m supposed to be sleeping, not driving.

Ice Grandma was pretty worried about leaving Ice Girl, 12, alone at a camp full of strangers. Ice Girl didn’t sign up for camp with a bunch of folks, like the nine or so girls and adults from Traverse City, Mich. did. Ice Girl just went by herself. She’s the kind of kid who can make friends anywhere, though, so she didn’t seem intimidated by the idea of being there solo. In fact, she had her bag packed and ready – a week ago.

At 5 p.m. we checked Ice Girl in and saw the dorms. They’re shabby, but clean with new mattresses. The guy in charge seems normal and the coaches seem professional, credentialed, and accessible.

Ice Girl received her jam-packed schedule and vowed to get up at 6 a.m. to walk the track and warm up every morning. She can only use her cell phone in the dorm at night, so I’m not sure how that idea went.

Sixty girls are at the camp from the upper Midwest (Minn., Mich., Wis., Ill., and N. Dakota). The coaches split the girls into ability groups last night and will work the campers’ legs off until Wednesday night.

Here are the classes she’ll be taking:
Off-ice: conditioning, rotation/balance, jumping exercises, grooming, goal setting, international judging system, costuming, conditioning, Pilates, flexibility/stretching, theater, and plyometrics
On-ice: spins, turns/footwork, jumps, exercises, stroking, edges/power, artistry and presentation, spirals, choreography, and balance stroking

Ice Grandma and I watched Ice Girl skate last night for an hour and returned home at 1 a.m. this morning. I’m tired, but happy that Ice Girl is having such a great experience. Ice Dad is going to make the eight-hour trip by himself on Wednesday.

I get to stay home Wed. to work and then let the dog out. Yeah. Dog surprises at 1 a.m. are not pleasant. I thought Ice Dog could make it for 12 hours on his own, but I think he got worried as the night grew late and he just couldn’t last. Poor Ice Dog.

I want this post to be useful, so here's what I learned:

1. Some parents took off work for four days and are staying in a hotel to watch their kids
2. Some parents brought their kid, plus some of their kids' friends
3. Some parents stay in their nearby cabins while their kids skate
4. Some coaches accompany their students to camp. This might be obvious to you who have been in figure skating for a long time, but it was news to me!
5. Very few girls (I didn't meet any) go stag to a camp like this. Ice Girl will be fine, don't worry.

I also learned not to whine so much about my ice time. I met a gal from Mich. whose rink closes in the summer because there's no hockey. Her kids skate an hour away three times a week in the summer. This is not uncommon. A gal from the Milw. area also said that her rink closes from May through September and she has to cart her daughter all over to find ice. One gal from Wis. takes her daughter to Minn. on the weekends to skate.

Trekking all over Dane County from the many rinks that offer summer ice now seems like small potatoes, indeed. I promise not to whine so much. Really. Unless Ice Dog leaves me a gift. *sigh*

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Altering figure skating dress patterns

Those of you who sew often know this little alterations trick, but as I set out my soup cans, I thought that some of you who are new to sewing might not know about it.

What you see in the photo on the left are my soup cans, a multi-sized pattern (but a regular pattern will do), a see-through ruler, and sew-in stabilizer.

The stabilizer is the key to this trick. Buy the cheap stuff ($1/yd), nice and thin, and make sure it's sew-in. (When you wrinkle the pattern pieces, you can iron the sew-in variety. The one with little glue dots will stick to your ironing board.)

Hold the stabilizer and pattern down with soup cans. Trace the pattern using the see-through ruler and Sharpie markers; make your alterations right on the pattern pieces. You can see on the left where I've extended the bodice as well as increased the width of the seam for the bodice. The panties, I know from sewing this brand of pattern before, fit fine, so I'm altering them just where they hit the bodice.

I used to think that altering patterns was a waste of time - I'd just cut that bugger up and save myself a bit of time. What's 10 bucks for a new pattern? Yeah. Only some patterns are close to $20 and gas is close to $4. Ice is $10 an hour and I've come to my senses. I've already cleared the table to cut; I might as well spend the extra 30 minutes to trace the darn pattern and alter it.

Then, when Ice Girl grows, the pattern will live on and I can make it again without wasting money, gas, trees, etc. Oooh. I feel so green. :)

Side note to new figure skating dress sewers: I used to be frustrated that the patterns didn't feature measurements or symbols at key areas like bust, waist, and hip. That was me in normal sewing mode. There shouldn't be any ease on a figure skating dress pattern because it's supposed to fit like a second skin. When I realized this, I bopped myself on the forehead. It seems obvious, but it wasn't to me. Just measure your skater's actual hip, waist and bust, and measure where those places hit your skater. Find the waist on the pattern (where the pattern cinches in) and locate the bust and hip on the pieces. You can then measure the pattern with accuracy. Best wishes for success! Ice Mom

Friday, August 1, 2008

Stretching towards Biellmann: the Maxiflex tool

When Ice Girl competed at Skate Milwaukee in July, I was really surprised at how many girls at limited beginner level were hauling their feet above their heads. They weren’t completing a Biellmann spin yet, but I was impressed.

Ice Girl is a gymnastics dropout. She wasn’t fabulous, but she wasn’t horrible, either. However, between gymnastics and figure skating, Ice Girl hadn’t done much stretching at all.

She’s been working on it, though, so I bought her this Maxiflex. We’ve hung it over our front door and Ice Girl uses it while watching Nickelodeon or Disney Channel and/or talking on the phone.

The principle is this: hang the end with the knob on the outside of the door and let the cords trail to the inside. The cord forks. One fork holds the skater’s foot in a harness, the other helps a skater yank her foot higher and higher.

The Maxiflex should come with a brochure when you buy it. In fact a bit of the brochure is part of the Maxiflex photo that I posted. Heavy on photos and light on text, you can get the general idea of what the stretching tool does in the brochure. Beware! In search of a bargain, the first Maxiflex I bought was off of eBay and it was cheap - $20. No brochure, though, so I had a tangle of cords and no clue what to do with them.

The Maxiflex will set you back $25-$35 bucks online, not including shipping. It’s lightweight, though, so shipping shouldn’t be too bad.

Ice Girl hasn’t achieved the Biellmann yet, but she’s doing it incrementally, which is good. I can see a kid forcing her leg way up too soon and not working up to the level of flexibility she needs. To make sure Ice Girl didn't hurt herself while super-stretching, I brought the Maxiflex to the rink one night. Ice Coach gave Ice Girl advice that I, Ice Mom, couldn’t give (well, couldn’t give and be believed.)

Rating: 3.5/4 stars. I think the Maxiflex itself is a good product, but the brochure is not fabulous. The tangle of cords can be intimidating at first, but the results from working with the product are good. If you don't have one and your figure skater wants that Biellmann, I'd pop the $30-ish for it.