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The Big Change
May 6th, 2016 was a day that I would never forget.
It started out as just another regular day of figure skating at the Graf Rink in Newburyport, Massachusetts. I was practicing a new program for the Spring Show that Saturday at my home rink, The Rinks at Exeter. My music was from High School Musical 3 - The Spring Musical. I had big, glittered pom-poms and a red and white cheerleading outfit that my mom purchased from some poorly designed website. Man, I loved my program! My mom and I had been discussing whether to train at a different competitive, elite skating facility. Also, this other rink had more ice times, three rinks to skate on, and more skaters that were at the similar elite level as me.Towards the end of my lesson, my coach asked me the question that I dreaded. She asked me if we had made a decision about where to train. She wanted an answer!
I stuttered, “ I-I-I d-don’t know.” She looked at me with confused eyes, trying to pull the truth out from the tightly, locked safe in my mind.
Terrified, that the whole world was about to explode after what I was about to say, I said it. I told her that I was definitely going to switch rinks. She quickly turned away and scoffed, disappointed in what she heard.
I felt guilty.
Her eyes started to water and her voice became strained, in the way where it was hard for her to say any words. Towards the end of the conversation, I could not have been more shocked by what she responded. She told me that was not the way she does business. I couldn’t believe how selfish and ridiculous her words sounded.
I kept replaying her words in my head. Although, for some reason, it didn’t sink in for me until two days later.
* * * * *
It was Saturday night and the show was an absolute blast. I had a amazing time skating my cheerleading program. Everyone was cheering and having fun, which put a smile on my face. My skating friends and I cheered the other skaters on, screaming “SMILE!” as they stroked to the middle of the ice to start their program. Then, it clicked. This was my last show at the rink. My last show ever at The Rinks At Exeter. My coach’s words replayed in my head from the previous Thursday: “After the show on Saturday, you will be all done with me!”
Oh my gosh! It was really happening.
After I changed out of my cheerleading outfit, I told all of the skaters that I was leaving but promised that I would visit and come to the shows. As my mom and I exited the building, my former coach intercepted us to give us the last bill and hugged me goodbye. My mom and I looked at each other for a few seconds, disappointed in how the situation was handled but we were eager to move on to bigger and better things.
Goodbye, Ice Skating Club of Exeter.
Hello, Colonial Figure Skating Club.
My new skating club is in Boxborough, Massachusetts. 1 hour and 15 minutes away!
Gotta love my parents, man. Gotta love’ em.
I started with my new coach the following Monday. I could tell she was tough but in the way that I liked. She could push me to become the best that I could be. She was nice, funny, and made me feel strong and powerful. Whenever I got frustrated or mad that I couldn’t land a jump perfect (I’m a perfectionist!), she told me that getting mad wouldn’t solve anything and to not be so hard on myself. She wore makeup: purple eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, and classy shades of lipstick everyday. Oh, and of course, her nails were always painted either a lavender shade of purple or a chic, ballerina pink. I loved her already!
The first few weeks of training were going over basics. Learning new techniques on jumps, evaluating spins and programs, and just getting to know one another. By the time June came around, we developed a great relationship. In a few weeks, I had a competition in Lake Placid, New York. The first big competition of the season. Although, for me, it was more of a practice, a “see how you do” type of situation because I had an entire new short program, created by my amazing, energetic new choreography coach. Love you, girl! Let’s just say that the short program didn’t go so well. I wasn’t really ready for this competition. I just got out of school that previous week and I had only been training a couple of hours per day. It wasn’t enough time to properly train. However, I did a lot better in my long program and landed both of my most difficult jumps, the double axel (a jump that takes off forward on the left foot, makes 2 ½ revolutions in the air, and lands on your right foot).
When I returned to figure skating from a vacation trip in July, I started to experience pain in my right foot resulting in me taking time off later in the month. The doctor said that I had a sprained joint in my foot. I was actually quite relieved to hear that it was not serious but frustrated that it would delay my training. It took a lot of patience and time for my right foot to heal. My coach and I had to take our lessons very slowly. My family and I knew that the best treatment for my foot, at the time, was to rest allowing my foot to heal. After a few weeks, my foot was feeling a lot better. I was so ecstatic. I could finally start intense training and work on my triple jumps. I was too optimistic.
At the the beginning of August, I had a competition in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I planned to compete with only my short program because my brand-new long program was in the making and I would have to wait to perform it at the next competition. I was so psyched about finally skating my short program! In this competition, I ended doing pretty well in the short program. I landed my double axel and got first place! Once again, considering that I had not started any intense training the entire summer, my coach and I were very pleased.
Unfortunately, one week later, I started to experience excruciating ankle pain in my left foot. It came to the point, once again, like the last injury, where I had to take multiple days off. I had not skated a full week since I changed coaches. It was so frustrating. I hated being away from the rink, not training and feeling handicapped. This was my third injury of the summer. After weeks of feeling defeated and in pain my parents, coach, skating store guy, and doctors finally came up with the diagnosis of what was called skate bite. This is where the side of my skate boot was digging into the side of my ankle. It was a simple fix! I just had wear a gel pad over my ankle to prevent the top of my skate boot from applying pressure when I jump and spin. This was exciting. I thought, finally maybe now I could get down to a regular training schedule.
We finally come to the month of September. This past month has been awesome for me, in terms of being healthy, becoming more consistent, and improving my stamina. At the beginning of this month, I had competed in The Providence Open in Providence, Rhode Island. It was at this competition that I would perform both my short and long programs. It went very well and I ended up receiving 2nd place in both programs. My coach and I were extremely thrilled.
For me, the past few weeks, have been especially eye-opening and life changing. I have learned to appreciate when my heart feels like it is going to beat right out of my chest and when the sweat rolls off the ends of my brown curls. I have learned that I have the power in myself to overcome adversity. Even though I haven’t skated as much as I should, if I work hard I can do it and I should not be too hard on myself. I am so relieved and excited that everything is finally falling into place: my programs, my jumps, my stamina, everything! My coach has really been pushing me hard, which I love! I love to feel that sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
I feel so satisfied.
In the weeks to come, it will be all about preparing for one of the bigger qualifying competitions of the season, The New England Regional Championships held in Burlington, Vermont this year. Skaters juvenile to senior levels from all over New England will compete over a four day period in October. I am an intermediate level skater which is about in the middle of the levels. I will be competing with seventy-one other skaters. There are eight levels in competitive skating: pre-preliminary, preliminary, pre-juvenile, juvenile, intermediate, novice, junior, and senior. The top four skaters from each level have the amazing opportunity to go to the Eastern Sectional Championships. That is a very special competition and a goal of mine. With hard work, determination, self-discipline, and effort I have put into my programs and training, I hope to be in that top four.
There is not enough words to describe how much I love figure skating or what it takes to be competitive in this sport. Although, one of my favorite figure skating quotes says it all: “blood, sweat, tears, happiness, bliss, hard work, passion, and inspiration in a sport that is more a way of life than a sport.”
A way of life.
My way of life.