Friday, August 8, 2014

Reunited With My Childhood Skating Coach

Today was nothing short of amazing ... I keep saying it over and over because I can't believe it.  After ... 43 years I reunited in person with my childhood skating coach Tony Howard.  If you read my page on how I got started skating, I talk about my few years on the ice when I was age 9-11.  From age 9 to 10 I was taking group classes and from 10 to 11 I was taking "privates" from Coach Tony.  Many of the skills I now posses are fundamentally things he taught me as a child.

If you don't already know - I am nearly 55 years old (come October).  Tony told me today he is 85 years old. He still coaches 3 days a week and drives nearly an hour each way to do it.  Not for the money, but for the love of the sport.  No wrinkles .. he says because "meat that stays in the freezer lasts longer and he's been in the freezer a long time" - I am sure he looked younger when he coached me 43 years ago, but his general physique is the same and he still dresses in an overcoat, neck scarf and Russian style wool hat...

And it so funny how his voice was completely recognizable as though time had stood still; a charming English accent and the way he coaches, explaining in detail how to do something or NOT do something and peering over his glasses staring into your eyes to make sure you are listening and kind of yelling at you if get it wrong right away and also shouting out if you get it right... took me right back to being 11 years old.  He is a treasure.

If you are reading between the lines, my previous paragraph talks about his coaching technique... Yes I actually got an unexpected 45 minute lesson from the boards and on ice (shoes) when we met today.  He had so much to say about the way I skated ... and it wasn't all good!!  They were things my current coach has told me many times, but in different words and ways.

He watched me warm up and asked what I was working on.  I said I just started my Silver program and was suggesting jump combinations and sequences that would work.  He critiqued all my single jumps (boy did he) ... and gave me great tips to correct my problems.  We worked on my Camel spin and he gave me a new approach with my arms, but above all he said "if there is one thing you take away from this lesson today... LONG-SHORT .... and what he meant was on everything I do.....
every jump entry (except a Waltz jump because a long back outside edge and a big Waltz jump looks good) I am taking too much time on my 3 turn.  For example:  Toe Loop.  Long LFI edge - then short 3 - pick - jump.  My coach Berkley has been telling me this a lot lately when I do my Lutz.  Tony explained to me what was happens when I take too long on the 3 turn or when I take too long to turn into the Camel spin... I am losing all my energy and momentum for the jump or spin.  I really hope I can put the tips to use over the next few weeks.  I love my coach Berkley.  She has helped me achieve so much I never thought possible, but today was really an eye opener for me.

Tony asked me if we started working on it yet.  NOOOOOO I said, of course not, nor did I know if we were ever going to!  He said .. listen.. I want to give you a tip I use for adults learning an Axel.
So he took me to the rail and had me do a backspin and then jump up before finishing it.  (That  have seen a lot on ice, but never tried it.  .... it's scary)  He also had me stand 3 feet from the wall and step hop jump .. straight up and land backwards (waltz jump) to get me used to jumping UP not around.  Hard to explain in writing.  But it was my first Axel lesson in 35 years.  I don't know if it will happen or not... it's like the flying dream... when you put your arms out and take off like Sister Bertrille from the Flying Nun.....  sometimes I dream I can do an Axel.

It was a day to remember I will cherish forever.


  1. Diane this is just so amazing and so sweet... it really is all about the people. Seems like skating again might be worth it just for this.

  2. Great post! Enjoyed reading it. Hope his encouragement gets you your axel!

  3. Time will tell on the Axel... glad you enjoyed the story.... it's quite a special one.



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