This weekend I was delighted to be able to attend a seminar with Olympic Silver Medalist, Paul Wylie, hosted by the Central Carolina Skating Club in Hillsboro, NC. I attended the adult skater portion and it was joy to be in the company of so many adult skaters at once, the information however definitely applies to all skaters. The seminar was broken down into sections so I will share my thoughts on each.
Off ice warming up! By now most of us that static stretching (i.e. holding still in long stretches) is not a warm up, it’s a cool down. It was great to see examples of proper warm-ups utilizing fast and slow movements combined with stretches. Paul Wylie himself led us a series of several warm-ups moving forward across the room and then reversing it and moving backwards across the room. We warmed our quads, hamstrings, ankles knees, a lot of rocking up to our toes and balancing, most importantly got the blood flowing! I would have to say that most impactful for me was Mr. Wylie’s discussion on self-talk before a competition/test/performance. So often we are our harshest critic, own worst enemy – say or thinking ugly things to and about ourselves. He stressed the necessity of talking out loud to ourselves using the most positive, affirming, loving words to put ourselves in the right frame of mind.
Edge class and spins! LOVED this portion so much. It can be easy to be so focused on our goals of learning new moves that we neglect the basics. Mr. Wylie compared practicing edges to a musician practicing scales, something you never stop doing. The edge drills we did across the ice were simple, but by adding arms and focusing on long, full extensions, beautiful pushes, and graceful holds they became surprisingly challenging (says the girl who fell on a crossover and slid 30 feet). We then focused on basic spin fundamentals, that ‘half-heart’ entry we’re all striving for, hold that entry edge until we are all the way back to our axis. His demonstration of the ‘old school’ 5 step entry made me want to teach it that way. Off topic, even Mr. Wylie’s demonstrations of ‘what not to do’ were still beautiful spins. I was impressed by the quality of sit spins by the group, and there were noticeable improvements after listening to tips about upper body position (pressing down) to help lower the spin.
Jumps and Presentation! I was obviously looking forward to Paul Wylie discussing presentation, what a remarkable example he is. We began with jumps and for me personally it was interesting to hear comparisons between the way jumps used to be taught and the language that used to be used to describe what’s happening during the take-off and the way we now teach and describe the same jumps after new perspectives and realities gained from science and study. I was taught the ‘old school’ ways and sometimes feel like I’m learning (or re-learning) along with the skaters I work with. I wish I had Mr. Wylie’s words on the following verbatim, but I don’t so I’m going to paraphrase and hopefully relay the great message. Standing at the boards on the center line we were asked to look to one half of the ice, “this half of the rink is very important, it represents jumps, spins, and technicality. Can any of this be fudged?” “No.” We were then asked to turn to the other side, “this half of the ice represents artistry, presentation, and quality of movement – it is just as important. Can any of this be fudged?” “Yes”. We then learned about selling it. Every move, every breath. The importance of connecting to the judges, the audience. Eye contact, emotion. The realization that by the time we step on the ice our technical ability is what it is. We pretty much know the scores if we skate clean, but the way we move and connect is the difference maker. Our ability to skate in a way that makes people want to watch is invaluable. Allowing our joy of skating to come through will bring joy to others.
We also had two wonderful off ice classes, one cross-fit style geared towards skaters. Strengthening our core and all the muscles that make those jumps and spins happen, perhaps more importantly proper technique that can help prevent injury or at least help us recover more quickly (because there will be injuries). Our second class was ballet for figure skaters. I absolutely love ballet as an off-ice supplement to skating. In this class I loved the challenge of the super slow graceful movement. It was so clear that all of us wanted to speed up that slow ballet walk, we were so impatient, but I think if you’re out of your comfort zone then you’re probably on exactly the right track!
Overview! Paul Wylie’s down to earth approachableness was unexpected and delightful. I heard numerous comments about the gracefulness of his being, regardless of what he was doing and I must agree. The information provided was relevant, understandable, and inspiring to skaters of varying ability, not easy to do! If you are a skater or a parent to skater and an opportunity arises for any skating seminar I highly encourage you to go for it, make it happen!