October 21, 2012

The Amazing Feat Of Skating & Getting An Education

The idea for this post came to me as I sat here, on Sunday afternoon, aggravating my wrist tendinitis writing out some 50+ flash cards for my on-going university work. Yes that's right (or should that be write... hmmm) - I have given myself tendinitis through studying. Dedicated or dumb, I'll let you decide that one.

I was lucky enough to profit from IceNetwork's "Super Saturday" deal yesterday, and made the most of watching the ladies short program, and the end of the short dance events (I really need to get to grips with translating Eastern time into GMT...) from this year's Skate America Grand Prix.

Now you have to realise this was the first time I'd watched a skating event since I retired out of competitive skating, so I did get pretty psyched up (and a bit nostalgic and sad too, but that's a whole other thing).

As I watched the ladies event, I was simultaneously keeping my best friend (and former competitive singles skater, who is now on the verge of becoming a lawyer, I might add) up to date via email, which she received to her phone as she sped through the French countryside on a high-speed train (no IceNetwork access for her then). And one of my emails said this:

"Just watched a girl called Christina Gao - she's a fresher at Harvard University and just rocked at Skate America..."

And Christina ain't the only one. As the competition went on, the commentator (a woman who's voice I do not know as she's an American commentator we never get on UK sports channels - if someone can enlighten me as to who she was that would be great?) kept mentioning the names of the colleges (I can't seem to say that without an American accent in my head) these rising stars were attending. The stunning Meryl White and Charlie Davis are studying at U of Michigan, having to, now and again, take large amounts of time off classes to fit around their skating schedule.

So how do these athletes do it? 
Juggling intense training regimens with the mental load of completing a college education is no mean feat, but these inspiring individuals are all living proof that it can be done. The physical fatigue felt after running programs, practising lifts off and on the ice, completing gym training, and core strengthening classes are synonymous with the start of their mental day. Next comes a battery of lectures, tutorials, assessments, and endless pieces of paper to digest into memorable facts and figures. I don't know about you, but I'm kind of impressed. It takes all my cerebral capacity just to keep up with my degree, and yes, I even feel physical repercussions of the mental strain. So what are the factors helping these skaters train for the international stage while achieving a college education? 
And more importantly, how can you deal with getting an education while pursuing a full-time skating career, or how can you help your child achieve this double whammy?

An Amazing Support Group
Being judged so easily, not only by actual judges at events, but by piers, fellow skaters, rink goers, classmates, and professors would end up making anyone feel fragile. Support is key in all aspects of the word. Constant encouragement and an unswerving belief that they can achieve their dreams needs to be an integral part of their lives.

Help With The Little Things
You know how at the end of the day you're all tuckered out, and you still need to swing by the supermarket, make healthy choices, see to your family, clean the house, do the laundry, prepare dinner, and somehow find some "you" time? They have to deal with all those real-life problems too. 
Someone to do their ironing? Clean out the skate bag? Buy them wholesome foods? It's the little things, after all...

Financial Support
Yep, I'm not going to skirt around this one: it helps if you're filthy stinkin' rich. Otherwise, sponsorships, bursaries, and scholarships are all your friend. Of course, the more high-profile an athlete you become, the less you will battle to obtain such things. In the mean time, better get clipping those coupons.

Be OK With Not Being Number 1 All The Time
I think this point applies more towards the educational aspect of this lifestyle than it does the athletic one. After all, if you're bothering with this incredibly hard life choice, you're pretty dedicated to your skating. Unless you can spend 100% of your time on your studies, it's nigh impossible to achieve perfection in academic pursuits. You probably ain't gonna be the best student in the class (unless you are a freakishly intelligent brain-box with a photographic memory for devouring text books), and that needs to be OK. 

Chill Out Time
I'm sure athletes who are pursuing a dual-life in this way get a free afternoon about once a year. However, it's really important to find the little things that work for you (or your skater) that will keep them balanced and happy, as people. That might be listening to a particular CD in the car, taking 15minutes on a Sunday morning to read a magazine before heading to the rink (or the library), but whatever it is, it's important to respect those moments for oneself in order to stay sane.

So do you do this, or know someone who does? If so, my hat comes off to you. What are your tips and techniques for juggling a double life between skating and academia? 

Perhaps you are a parent who's child will soon be facing that "shall-I-give-up-skating-for-college?" choice (as did Christina Gao last year, according to yesterday's commentator lady). If so, what are you advising your child, and how do you feel about it? Are you ready to make the commitment to helping your skater through such an intense time in their lives?

In any case for my part, I will stay in humble admiration of such skaters - they want it all, and they are on their way to getting it. Go them! *arm dancing*

Until next time, keep on skatin' on!

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  1. The commentator's name is Sandra Bezic, and is usually on board for all the premier American events and for American coverage of international events. I believe she is a choreographer.

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  2. Wow, you're really committed. Writing with tendonitis is not something I'd want to try.

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