I tried to send this yesterday, but got a peculiar message in return.
Here's another try (sorry if it turns out to be duplicated)
Someone wrote and asked whether I were planning to put on a report from
precision nationals ..... well, this is a highly personal and partial
report, but here it is ....
This was my 6th Precision Nationals -- my daughter has skated 6, I've
skated 3. It's her last (unless she decides to skate as an ***)
because she's off to college next year at a school with no rink. Next
year I'll only have to look out for my own skating.
Chicago was .... Chicago. Midwestern grey, heavy breezes, occasional cold
spitting rain. The competition hotel was the Hyatt, whose elevators
coped better with nationals than any we've been in before. No hotel can
possibly anticipate the demands that a competition like this puts on
elevators. (of course part of my favorable impression may be due to the
fact that my practices and performances were at such off hours, and I
kept trying to see Scottie at her practices and performances as well) You
can hear about the elevator problems, but you have to experience them to
believe it. In addition, there were plenty of practice rooms in the hotel,
so we didn't have to take over halls or parking garages -- another plus.
If anyone would like to have a rink closed down, get in touch with me. We
were the last skaters on the ice at the practice rink (and the last
precision team ever to skate there, since the rink will be torn down this
year), and the last team to practice on Friday night (well .... Saturday
morning -- practice ended at 2:45 am). Last year we were the last skaters
on the ice at a local rink that began to be torn down the next week.
I arrived on Wednesday, because I was travelling with teams whose practices
began Wednesday night. The rest of my team arrived on Friday pm. The
LOC (Local organizing committee) had pulled up stakes at the hotel and
moved to the rink by then, so registration was a tad complicated.
(first you had to get to the rink .... for which you needed a bus pass
... which is at the rink with your registration packet). Worse, my
team was stranded at the airport without the shuttle pickup that had
been promised (and paid for), and no way to get hold of the shuttle
service (the hotel had no idea either).
The Sweatshirt vendor had mistakenly assumed that most people pre-ordered
their shirts, and came with so few that they were gone by the opening
ceremonies. I had ordered mine in advance through my team, but it took
the vendor a while to find it, since (as I noted) the ***s arrived
later than most skaters. There was much irritation all around,
especially at the one member of the LOC who implied that it was all our
fault for arriving on Friday. (sorry: most *** teams arrived on Friday --
-- and the LOC *knew* when we were arriving, because we had had to
provide that information on the registration forms)
On the other hand, compliments are due to most members of the LOC, who
were hard working and cheerful -- especially the Jazz Baby mom with long
grey hear who was at the practice rink almost full time, the woman in a
red sweater who was stuck in the ba***t of the Hyatt for 3 days at
registration, and the guy in charge of shuttle service, who maintained
a friendly and helpful demeanor in the face of many confused demands.
Those of you who read my report last year may recall that my daughter's
team had multiple injuries last year at nationals. This year, as each
practice was completed, we ticked off one more survived. One skater
arrived with a badly sprained ankle, but skated without much trouble.
The worst injury to be sustained at the competition was Scottie (my
daughter), who kicked so high in the first practice that she took her
skating foot out from under her and landed on her tailbone. The next
day she was slammed into the boards by another skater ... again mashing
her tailbone, so she was moving pretty gingerly, and lying on ice packs
a lot, but was able to skate. When they finished the long program, we
all cheered with relief -- no ***, no falls, no breaks, no hospital
My team, the Cutting Edge, had its unofficial practice at 8:20 pm .... it
was a dreadful practice, with completely unexpected people falling all
over the place. I missed seeing Scottie skate the short program, because
practice conflicted with it. We went back to the hotel, had a floor
practice and a brief nap, and went to the other rink for official practice
-- scheduled for 1:45 am, but delayed til 2:30. We got back to the hotel
at 3:00 am. The ice was horrible -- as bumpy as gravel, but the practice
went pretty well. At the 3 nationals I've skated, the Pacific Coast ***s
have been the last teams on the ice. I believe that a note to the
competitions committee is in order. I can't swear that it *always* happens,
but 3 times out of the last 4 years is a suspiciously high percentage.
We need to make sure that the ***s from the other sections get to share
in the delights of doing the very last wee-small-hours practices.
We were up for a 9:30 floor practice, followed by makeup and hair, and
then off to the arena. (Scottie had gotten up at 6 for her morning practice).
Our competition was at 1:30. We skated 8th! A really good skate order
-- second in the second flight. Unfortunately, we didn't skate
wonderfully. We had a fall at the beginning, and a fall at the end. The
skater who fell early had a bit of trouble getting back into line, and
the skater who fell late didn't try, because the formations at the end of
the routine have so much pull and stress in them that it would have been
tough to break the line to let someone else in. I understand that
someone else had a trip/fall, but I didn't see it (I didn't see much
..... I skated without my glasses, and with my vision of 20/300 in the
good eye, and 20/500 in the other, a lot escapes my attention). In fact,
things went pretty well in my "region" of the routine, so I was a little
surprised to see in the video that there were parts that usually went
well that were having problems.
With the falls we finished 10th, but oddly I don't think people were
terribly upset (except, of course, for the people who fell, who always
feel horrible) -- because we wasted so much of last year (we didn't have
a routine till mid-September, our coach had us spend at least 20 minutes
of each practice doing things other than the routine, and then left us
five weeks before sectionals). So, if we wasted that much of the year
and still did a much harder and faster routine than the year before,
this makes next year look a lot more hopeful.
Scottie's team ended last again. They got the highest ordinals they have
ever gotten, but it was still disappointing. I'm hoping that the
combined experience of the skaters and the parents will NOW bring about a
change of heart and purpose, and that everyone will come to realize that
we CAN be more demanding, because the skaters want it, and will stand for
it. (this is a bit of a change .... out here in the low-population
hinterlands, we've been through lots of years in which we have trouble
finding willing warm bodies, so the temptation is not to ask too much of
people for fear they will quit) -- and the judging explicitly favors
larger teams, and there is also a minimum you can't go below, and every
time you lose a member you have to readjust the routine for everyone, so
having people quit is a serious concern.
Every year the teams from the Midwest and Eastern sections get bent out
of shape about the quality of the Pacific Coast teams, and suggest that
the first two sections get to send more teams than Pacific Coast. Well,
we can't help it that we have so little population (life is basically
unfair). If skaters in Boston had no one to compete against closer than
Tallahassee (and then, only one or two teams), and if they had
no competitions to attend closer than Knoxville, and ended up competing
only at sectionals and nationals because of the expense, and thus not seeing
any other teams until it was too late to learn from them, and not being
seen by any judges until the qualifying competitions they'd perhaps be a
little more understanding of how tough it is to make progress out here.
But that's too much to hope for. People who live in one part of the
country really can't imagine that it's all that different anywhere else.
USFSA could help some by
-- moving more states to Pacific Coast -- for precision
-- hosting (and subsidising) a pre-sectionals precision competition
somewhere west of the Mississippi, or
-- holding a pre-sectionals competition just before sectionals,
and at the same rink, to give the teams one more chance at performance
-- reinstituting the qualifying rounds at nationals, to give
Pacific Coast teams one more performance experience
-- providing subsidies and other encouragements to USFSA clubs to
form precision teams and to hold precision competitions (or to include
precision in their regular competitions). In my draconian moments I
think they should REQUIRE all their clubs to have a precision team of
some sort -- in my less draconian moments I know it's not possible.
AND, perhaps more importantly, reconsidering the current
structure of competitive divisions, which, being based on age mainly, and
NOT on size, even though size is a critical factor for judging. In my
mind, the current structure discourages teams from starting, and is
destroying the grassroots growth of the sport outside the centers of
concentration that already exist.
My long-time favorite team won juniors (The Starlets from Wagon Wheel FSC
near Chicago) -- they spent a lot of years not getting the respect I
thought they deserved, but this year they were great. The Ice Mates from
Hayden won ...
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