The Coach Came Back

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Back on the ice! Virden, Manitoba last month.

My first language is Figure Skating.

First career language, that is.

I trained, competed, performed, and coached through the first 35 years of my life. I even skated, performed and coached off and on during vet school and after I became a veterinarian.

 

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2007, my Bismarck skaters during a video-review session

I’ve always enjoyed coaching and sharing my knowledge and love of skating with skaters of all ages and levels. The language flows fluently from my mouth when I explain the correct take-off for the flip and lutz jumps, how the skater has to mimic a pole vaulter with maintaining the momentum while vaulting themselves off of that extended toe pick behind them.

It reaches out through my arms and hands as I try to explain “Stupid Big Arms” with wide-sweeping, overly dramatic arm moves.

Its the language I used to speak without words when I could whip off killer flying camels or ridiculously consistent double toe-loops.

 

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1995, Watford City with the first Raise The Roof crew! I could still whip off the skills back then…

As I close in on turning 45 I have had to accept the changes to my body that I haven’t been in control of. Granted, the little extra around the tummy is my doing but my limbs don’t bend like they used to and my feet and thighs were inconsolable after the first few days back on the ice.

But I loved it.

I was given tasks to choreograph competitive routines and tweak ones that had already been designed earlier in the summer. Choreography has been a passion of mine ever since I was a young skater. I had my own routines but I also made new ones up to everyone else’s music at the rink. As I got older my coaches allowed me to have some creative control over my routines and I loved the task as a professional coach.

 

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Showgirl in Japan, 1992

So it was a blast to add swoopy arm moves and running turns to Caitlyn’s instrumental ‘Dog Days of Summer’ routine; I laughed as I threw sword-fight arms and dramatic lunges into both ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ routines for Cambrie and Haley; Abby got some fun footwork and funky arms for the part of her music that was heavy on the drums; I introduced more of an emotional welcome to Kiana’s Michael Buble routine; Charlotte worked on lengthening her reach and getting more dramatic as we repeatedly got down in our knees and held our poses to ‘Batman’; and Kylie’s arms, hands, elbows and feet are that much sharper with her Irish music.

And I learned some bad-ass moves myself when I got to research and then choreograph a pre-novice competitor’s long program…. to ‘Bollywood’.

Gasp!

Who knew there was so much Indian dancing on the Internet?

 

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Not Indian dancing but a fun routine the girls would sometimes do before the coaches hit the ice.

Creating and skating Lynice’s ‘Bollywood’ routine was a blast, particularly when both of us remembered what we were supposed to be doing and even more so when the moves hit the right notes of the music. If she competes well this year the routine could be seen on the national stage in Canada which is a dream for me and the routines I’ve created.

Paige and Rudy, the former Olympian Canadian pairs skaters who grew up in this very same rink with Coach Patti and some of these current skaters took one of my show routines I did for them overseas years ago. It was a Celine Dion piece (how Canadian is that?) and it was pretty fun.

 

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Rudy, me and Paige at the Salt Lake City International competition a few years ago.

As much as I missed UB and Cleo (who I left with their Daddy in Bismarck, ND) and as much as I missed the kitties, Sport, Bebe and Jockey (who Jessi took care of for us in MT), I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in long days of hard training for 2 full weeks in Virden.

I loved the routine of my morning latte at Timmy’s. Where one of the women began recognizing me and told me to “have a great day, my friend.” Just like that… my new tribe!

 

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My morning pit-stop.

Tim Horton’s is as much a Canadian institution as the Tragically Hip is our national band. And about that… my hosts had the radio playing and I got to hear Canadian Content, or Con-Can once again. The Bearnaked Ladies, Jan Arden, Sarah McLaughlan, the Hip, Bryan Adams and even Gordon Lightfoot played in the background.

I’d take my yummy latte to the rink where head coach, Patti, who I stayed with, would hand out our lesson sheets and discuss what we were doing in group lessons for the day and I’d bind my aching, blistered feet into their cement blocks for the day and off we went for 7 or 8 hours to create figure skaters!

 

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1993/94 season with my young protégé, Tyler… who was coached by Patti the following year and, years later, moved to Virden to coach for 2 years, himself! There is symmetry in everything…

Patti also had a handful of dedicated hockey players who had booked a private group all summer for power skating. Thankfully I had my hockey skates to strap on (which weren’t anywhere near as painful as the cement bricks that encased my wounded feet) and my power skating ‘bible’ to refer to and Coach Fyfe was back teaching the four phases of the forward stride, running starts, how to push down into the ice and Russian stroking passes.

Coaching power skating is, obviously, a lot different from figure skating but there are similarities.

The students were all pre-teen through teen years with their own background stories and drama happening away from their coaches’ eyes. They all wanted to be the best that they could be at their particular sport. Each of them had appropriate questions and answers during our lessons or they came armed with them the next time. And they were all high-achievers, dedicating several hours of every single day for 6 weeks to develop and hone their craft while many of their classmates were lounging by beaches or doing whatever it is that normal kids do during their summer holidays.

 

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Power Skating coach for the Jr. A Bismarck Bobcats on the lower left. Not sure this gang appreciated my drills as much as the young men in Virden this summer…

It was different from when I coached power skating to the Bismarck Bobcats in the early 2000’s. Those guys “had” to work with me twice a week thanks to their Canadian coach, John, who understood the value of having some sweet skating skills and speed. No sense being the best puck handler or goal-scorer if you can’t get to the puck first, right?

So the coach came back, as the title says, and the coach had fun.

And I got to explore golf courses in both Virden and Rivers, Manitoba thanks to Patti, Julie, Lil, Cindy and my dear friend, Karla.

 

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Fab, fearsome foursome in Virden!

I also got to play our ND golf course, Painted Woods with Alistair on weekends when I drove the 4 hours to get down to Bismarck.

 

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Painted Woods, just before I went back up to Virden for one more week!

And we’re back to smoky Montana next to the highest priority fire in the nation with hazardous air quality and a Red Flag Warning now through tomorrow night where I can’t quite see the nearby hills and mountains and half the community is on pre-evacuation orders and the horse trailer is hooked up and our foyer is full of important things hubby boxed up for me before he had to leave yet again for ND. And there was a bit of tragedy on the ND Fyfe Farm and our horse herd is one head smaller while I was in Virden but Alistair was able to handle it veterinary-style when he knew nothing more could be done. And I’m back to my online cooking course where I had the knowledge and confidence to make my own chicken stock during the day today and I’m super excited to get going on the Stir Fry course but I’m going to whip up my tasty garlic & shrimp quinoa for supper with my freshly made stock.

But more on all of that another time.

This blog is about me speaking fluent skating again. Its about making friends from other clubs and other communities and even other countries. Its about being cool inside a lovely, big ice rink on hot summer days. Its about enjoying learning about other skaters, coaches and parents and maybe making the time to hit a few golf balls with one or two of them. Or enjoy a fresh-cooked meal in an outdoor kitchen. With a Caesar expertly made by my Canadian friends.

 

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One of Coach Tanya’s specialties! 2010 here in Seeley Lake.

 

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My last day on the ice with my Bismarck girls before I moved to Montana 10 years ago.

 

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Virden skaters (Brekken and Shanna) who had my camera in the locker room my last day there.

 

 

 

 

 

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Shanna & Haley, more locker room giggles

 

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Like an Oscars selfie… how many skaters can we get in here? I love that they did this for me so I will remember their happy faces (and wild hair… it was Crazy Hair Day…)

 

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My favorite skating partner (2010).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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