Over the summer she had a problem with her hamstring and her pelvis was twisted – overuse. Finally, finally she’s landed the puppy. It’s been a little over eight months and she finally has it consistent. For now.
For those of you parents who have been through the stupid axel, maybe twice or three times, you know what I’m talking about. For those of you parents who haven’t been through it, let me tell you what to expect.
- Crazy obsession. When she first started the stupid axel walk through back in February, Ice Girl was obsessed. She was determined to land that jump and move on with her life. She cleared out my living room. She jumped everywhere, but still, no stupid axel.
- The grocery store. Once I got over the embarrassment factor, I supported Ice Girl’s weird habit of practicing off-ice axels in the soup aisle. Hey, at least she’s practicing and I’m not paying for the ice time. The grocery store is one of her favorite off-ice jumping venues because the floors are so slick. Of course, I can’t move on to the pasta aisle until I watch just one more jump, please, Mom.
- Fear of falling. Ice Girl doesn’t like to fall. As a parent and a non-skater, I don’t blame her. However, falling is a part of the process. There are ways to minimize the pain, but it’s my understanding that rotating the jump and landing on the correct foot are pretty tough. Most skaters can do one or the other at first, but not both at once. That's why skaters fall.
- Crash pad drama. I bought Ice Girl crash pads. Two sets of crash pads. Did she use them? No. She thought they made her rear end look enormous. She changed her tune when a coach showed her the dent in her thigh she created from trying to learn the double axel without crash pads. I will say that there’s some debate about crash pads. You can find people who dislike them because they worry a skater won’t perform a jump without them. For Ice Girl, they really helped her with her fear of falling, so I like them.
- Waltz-jump-itis. For months, Ice Girl swung her right leg wide like a waltz jump instead of forward like an axel. She had some wicked pain in her hip from that. She also overworked her hamstrings and twisted her pelvis. Stupid axel.
- Anything but the stupid axel. The stupid axel’s hard. Ice Girl had some pain from muscle overuse and was discouraged because that stupid axel was taking so long. She’d practice all kinds of things – neat spins, combination jumps, and moves in the field – rather than that stupid axel. Aw, darn. The practice hour is over and no stupid axel attempts.
- Bejewell that harness and call it a day. Ice Girl has landed many fine axels in the harness only to land many lousy ones off of it. I swore that I would make her a fake harness and put crystals all over it just so she’d land that stupid axel without ropes and pulleys.
- Two feet. Geez. She’s so close to landing that stupid axel and it’s always on two feet. For months it’s on two feet. Two feet really aren’t that bad, are they? I mean, it’s just one more than one foot. It’s not like two feet and a hand. Really, how bad can two feet be?
- Ankle weights? Really? When Ice Coach requested I purchase ankle weights, I did, but I thought it was weird. The weights I bought have long Velcro straps so they fit over both Ice Girls’ boots. I’m not a coach, but the weights force Ice Girl to use more power for her rotation, so without the weights she really rotates that jump. That’s what Ice Girl told me, anyway.
- Core strength. It takes a lot of core strength to spin around in the air like that. Ice Girl does regular off-ice with Ice Coach once a week. She does it sporadically otherwise. This is definitely an area for improvement.
- Many, many hours. Ugh. I thought the sit spin was bad. The stupid axel takes many, many hours off-ice and on. Bring a book. Or a library. Me, I steal others' crossword puzzles (I'm cheap. And pushy.)
- Where did you put your Lutz? Ice Girl has her stupid axel pretty solid today. Her Lutz? Where did that go? Honestly. She’s had a Lutz for over a year, but today she didn’t have it. I understand that this is the same with the stupid axel. I’m anticipating the day that she misplaces it, too.
- Honoring the occasion. It’s not uncommon for parents to give their skater a nice gift to honor the hard work the skater has put in on the stupid axel. You know me, though. I’m cheap. But, I also know how much work went in on that stupid jump. I got her an iPod. O.K., technically it was a re-gift, but it was still new in the box and she loves it, so there.
Another gal in the rink was so nice and congratulated Ice Girl this morning. But the mom warned me: here come the doubles.
Update: From reader Helicopter Mom: But.... now we're stuck in the double salchow zone!!! I keep hoping it won't take as long as the axel did but so far it's looking eerily familiar... Sigh...
Update: From reader Anonymous: as a skating coach and mom, that stupid axel is gonna be the biggest accomplishment in her skating career [...]Falling is a must and until you are daring enough to do that, the axel will elude you, so I say be bold, be daring and have enough courage to just fall on your tush!
Update: From reader Anonymous: For me [the stupid axel] was more difficult than the doubles I mentioned above because I thought the forward takeoff was scary.
Update: From reader Ateam on the Edge: Okay - Axels are a half revolution more than any other jump. It is also the only one that takes off forward (meaning that ALL other parts of skating are "backwards"). We went through agony with double Axel. If you follow skating, you KNOW the triple axel saga. [...] Axel Paulsen was the person who "invented" the Axel jump. I don't think he did any of us a favor, do you??
Update: From reader Jillybean: My daughter preferred the frozen section of the grocery store, I guess it felt more like the rink. [...] The axel is a HUGE accomplishment! I've known skaters who work on the jump for many years and still never land it.
Update: From reader Anonymous: If I had a blog of my own, my topic would be 'That Stupid Loop Jump'. I'm an adult skater who does not even want to attempt the stupid axel - I just want to master the stupid loop jump!
Update: From skate coach and reader Xan: Hang in there everyone! My skating princess holds a rink record for learning the axel-- 2 1/2 years. Worst time of my life, lol. And she eventually managed a trip to Junior Nats and now skates professionally. I tell my students that if they aren't falling, they're not trying to learn an axel, they're trying not to fall!
Update: From reader Jozet: Gain an axel, lose a lutz. Double Salchow is axel's sister? She must chop off her sister's pigtails at night, because we weren't feeling the family love.
When people ask me what's the big deal with learning an axel, I use this analogy: going from leaning single backward jump to learning an axel is like going from driving an automatic car all your life to suddenly being put in a car with a stick-shift manual transmission and clutch and then trying to pull-out on a steep hill. There's just that much more you have to coordinate to make the car go without stalling. Or falling.
Update: From reader Anonymous: Well, I thought offering a "reward" would be a good incentive for my daughter to practice her axel...backfire! She became consumed with what she would get when she lands the axel that she got frustrated each time she tried and didn't land it!
How about you? Have a stupid axel tale to tell? Share your stories in the comments!