FINAL: Crowdsourcing-Every Skater Starts Somewhere

Every skater has a story of how they began skating. For many skaters, that first step on to the ice, that first competition when a medal was won, or when that first coach that made an impression, sparked a passion that lasts a lifetime. Many skaters here in Connecticut have shared their first experiences on the ice that they may never forget.

Click around and read the stories of a few of our New England skaters.

Thank you to all of the skaters that shared their stories.

FINAL: Timeline- Declining Viewership

Since 1994, fans of figure skating have been declining in number.  The decline in television ratings coupled with the decrease in live-event ticket sales shows the sport’s struggling fan base.  Since the world-famous Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding episode, figure skating has encountered stumbling blocks that include a judging scandal, a new scoring system, and a lack of up-and-coming stars who have the longevity that older skating fans have enjoyed for decades in names like Scott Hamilton or Dorothy Hamill.

FINAL- Written Component: Sexual Harassment

Skaters and their coaches have a special bond that can be ruined if taken too far.

There are constant boundaries that all coaches, including figure skating coaches, need to follow when interacting with their students.

Figure skating coaches are allowed to start coaching at the age of 16 in some rinks and 18 in others.  However, skaters can start as young as four, which leaves them vulnerable to being brought up in an abusive environment even if they may not realize it.  Lately, organizations like US Figure Skating and the Professional Skaters Association have cracked down on the coaching community at large, mostly because of two infamous sexual harassment cases involving coaches Bob Young and, more famously, Richard Callaghan.

The story of Bob Young may be obscure to most, but to the large figure skating community in the small state of Connecticut, the name brings vivid, horrendous memories to many skaters and coaches alike. He was accused of sexually harassing more than one of his female students when he coached here in Connecticut

“He always seemed so close to his students but, the sport being so intimate, we never thought that the line was being crossed or that the interactions between Bob and his students would be taken across that line we all know and recognize” said Debra Beardsley of Champions Skating Center in Cromwell, CT.

To most families, the problem is exactly that – the student-coach relationship is usually a ten or more hour-per-week interaction that forms the kind of strong bond necessary for the intense competitions that skaters must endure.

“It’s so important for skaters to trust their coaches,” said Peter Kozodoy, also of Champions Skating Center, “because it’s a difficult sport to do on your own – skaters need a close, supportive coach to guide them and put them at ease.”

More famously was the saga between Richard Callaghan and former national skater Craig Maurizi, among others.  In a ground-breaking, nationally-aired interview, former skater-turned-coach Craig Maurizi, now director of figure skating at the Ice House in Hackensack, NJ, came out naming Callaghan as a sex offender, accusing him of physical abuse during Maurizi’s training years.  “It was a long, drawn-out, premeditated process, which I’m sure gratified him in some disgusting way because he had such control over my life,” Maurizi said in a statement released on freerepublic.com. According to Maurizi, the inappropriate touching began at age 13 and escalated through his adolescence until it blossomed into a full sexual relationship when he reached the age of 18, which of course denotes a legal adult in the United States.  Interestingly, Maurizi admits to breaking off the relationship in his early twenties, which truly demonstrates how strong the bond between Maurizi and Callaghan must have been for Maurizi to maintain that comfort zone despite his adulthood.

US Figure Skating has developed an in depth description of what constitutes sexual harassment and their policy regarding this issue can be read on USFSA.org.

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Figure Skating App

I have developed a figure skating app for mobile devices.  This app is a place for figure skating fans to get the latest news and updates on figure skating events. It offers four pages; Events, Pictures, RSS feed from my figure skating blog, and About Us. The Events page has the current and upcoming US Figure Skating events. The Pictures page offers photos from the events listed on the Events page. The RSS feed page is constantly updated with the latest news about figure skating, and the About Us page offers a short background of myself, Jenna Adams.

Drug Testing

Drug tests are given for several different reasons each and every day.  As the US Figure Skating document says, US Figure Skating athletes are no different than any other professional athlete when it comes to drug testing.  Just like NFL or NBA games, professional figure skating qualifying competitions expect that athletes are free from drugs ranging from performance-enhancers to recreational drugs like cocaine.  Top-level figure skaters are consistently subject to the public spotlight both on television and at live exhibition appearances, and therefore serve as role models for not only young figure-skaters-to-be, but for all young sports fans who are constantly reminded of the blunders of professional athletes through all kinds of media outlets.  Most contact-sports fans might write off the figure skating community as being ‘artistic,’ but most would be surprised to learn that drugs and alcohol play a major role in the figure skating community given the intense personal pressures that these athletes experience in competition.  For the future of the sport, it has been important for the US Figure Skating association to crack down on those who use illegal substances, and although it sends a harsh message to these hard-working athletes, it will ensure that the sport remains respected in the eyes of its fans.

The following document describes the drug testing procedure for US Figure Skating.

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One of the more acute examples of drug abuse in figure skating involves Nicole Bobek, former US Figure Skating champion.  on July 6th 2009, Bobek was charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. She plead guilty on June 18th 2010. She was sentenced on August 16 2010, to five years of  probation. She was caught in a ring of distributing crystal meth that lead to 28 other accusations.  According to NYDailyNews.com, she was among 28 people accused last year of running a network that allegedly distributed $10,000 worth of methamphetamine per week.

This is a video of Nicole Bobek’s winning long program that earned her a national championship.

Skating Equipment

Figure Skating has always been an expensive sport. It is often referred to as “a rich man’s sport.” Everything that is required to be a competitive figure skater is expensive. From the first step onto the ice as a young child, to the final bow at the end of an Olympic long program, each and every step along the way costs thousands of dollars. On average, each skating session costs 15 dollars, a one hour lesson costs 75 dollars, skating pants cost 82 dollars, skating tights cost 16 dollars, and good quality skates cost $1 thousand.  These fees are the essential fees for any competitive figure skater to skate one session with a full lesson. All together, that skater paid 1,188 dollars just to step onto the ice with a coach. These are everyday fees for many skaters in Connecticut. Local skater Amanda Brant explains how the expense of skating is causing family financial issues.

“My parents constantly remind me that if I didn’t figure skate, we’d have so much more as a family,” says Brant, “Even when I ask my parents for something that doesn’t relate to skating, they just say they already bought me new skates and that was all they could buy me for the time being.”

No skater can skate without boots and blades. From skaters that only enjoy the occasional public skating session, to Olympic skaters that train six days a week, every skater needs a figure skating boot and blade. This is the most expensive purchase that a skater will need to make. The map above points out many of the retail skate shops and pro shops around the Hartford/Hamden area. The low level and low end skates come with the boot and blade already put together. This is convenient for new skaters looking for a quick and easy purchase. These types of skates can be found at large retail sporting goods stores, such as Dicks Sporting Goods and Sports Authority. Skates at these large retail stores can cost up to 45 dollars. If a skater is looking for a better quality skates that with cater to jumping and spinning on the ice, they will need to find a pro shop or a skate shop, such as J.A.M Pro Shop and JenSkates. New or used skates at these stores can cost up to 200 dollars. These pro shops and skate shops are strictly geared to the figure skating  and hockey market. The top level skaters that are training five or more days a week will have no choice but to go to Skaters Landing to get custom fitted boots and blades. The top level skates will cost around $1 thousand dollars. Peter Kozodoy, a Skaters Landing technician, says the cost of the top level and high end boot and blade is only a small fraction of the yearly cost of figure skating.

“Having a quality boot and blade custom fitted to a skater’s foot is so important to creating that successful figure skaters,” said Peter Kozodoy. “A skater is only as good as the equipment on their feet. As the average, competitive skater spends nearly $25 thousand a year, it is worth the $1 thousand to make sure the skater’s equipment is perfect and up to the quality standards.”

The boots that cost a thousand dollars are for competitive and dedicated skaters. Brands such as Riedell, Jackson, and Harlicks, cater to producing boots that are worm by skaters working on triple and quadruple rotation jumps. Softec and DBX are skate brands that include the blade and are worn by recreational and beginner skaters. These skates are much cheaper and more affordable for non competitive skaters.

Coaching Interview

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Behind every great skater is a great coach. Without the direction of a coach, a figure skater would never meet their potential. As Debra Beardsley explains, “as a coach… you have to build a relationship with your students so that they trust you, not only in the advice you give them as you instruct them, but the advice you give them in life.” Coaching figure skating becomes more than just the instruction of how to do one element from another; coaching is another form of mentoring. Now, more than ever, young children need positive influences in their lives. With all the negative and bad happenings that go on around every child, encouraging mentors and good role models are becoming more and more necessary in children’s lives. According to Beamentor.org, after 18 months with mentors, an evaluation of a selected group of children revealed the boys and girls were:
• 46 percent less likely to use illegal drugs
• 27 percent less likely to use alcohol
• 37 percent less likely to skip class
• 53 percent less likely to skip school
• 33 percent less likely to hit someone

According to an interview between LifeSkate.com and Olympic gold medalist, Tara Lipinski, she agrees that the relationship between and skater and coach is crucial. “Your coach is the person you see every day, the person that is there for you in good times and bad and is your biggest supporter. You will always share that bond.” It’s not unusual from a coach be the skater’s best friend. Lipinski also said her coach at the age of nice, was like a second mother to her.

Coaching isn’t the career for everyone. USFSA has been adamant about making their every figure skating coach has gone through the proper registration steps and screenings. It is also required that coaches, like Debra Beardsley, are members of the Professional Skaters Association. They have a set of ethical standards that are needed to be viewed by every coach before they start building the necessary coach/student relationship.

Justin Kozikowski also discusses his relationship with his coach of eight years. He looks at his coach, Jessica Rouse as, not only his figure skating instructor, “but she’s one of [his] best friends and on of [his] role models.”

According to Amy Watson, Principal, PROfusion Public Relations, “fifty percent confide in their coach as much as their best friend, spouse or therapist, twelve percent confide in their coach more than anyone else.”

Ellie Ta Interview

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Elizabeth Ta has been skating for several years now and discusses the daily pressure that she and her family puts on her. Her ethnic background has played a big role in the amount of pressure that is put on her by her family.  Being Vietnamese, she is expected to receive straight “A’s” during her high school years while becoming a child prodigy. The expectations for the culture of Vietnamese are so high that anything but perfection is unacceptable. Ta tells us that her brothers, although they haven’t quite lived up to the parent’s expectations, are her support. They understand her and appreciate what she has accomplished in the sport of figure skating. When the pressures from her parents become too tough to deal with, she turns to her brothers for support and encouragement.

Kaitlyn M. Interview

 

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Kaitlyn Marunda Is just one local figure skater with the dream of becoming the next Olympic champion. She discusses her journey through figure skating, from starting as a little girl because her mom wanted to be able to skate with her on the frozen ponds during the wintertime, to now as she approaches this year’s Regional Championship.  Figure skating requires hard training all-year around and as Marunda explains, the competition season starts in early spring.  With an endless training schedule, this sport takes up a large part of a figure skater’s childhood.  The hours and hours put into training all boils down to those few minutes on the ice during the qualifying competitions. This is a lot of pressure for children to cope with and as Marunda explains, competing is  very stressful. Although the competition aspect of skating has it’s downfalls, “someone in the world, is going to be that Olympic champion.”

Figure Skating gets Macho Makeover

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The sport of figure skating has battled with the stereotypical thought that figure skating is a women’s sport . Figure skating is known for beautiful, balletic movement across the ice in extravagant costume dresses and beautiful, classic music that makes for an ornate performance. Because of this, it is difficult for men to want to get involved with this sport. With the number of figure skaters dropping, it is important for males to notice that “male skating is really about masculinity, strength and power,” said Canadian figure skater Elvis Stojko.

People often forget about the extreme athleticism and strength it takes to be a figure skater. On average, a top level skater will skate six days a week for two-three hours each day. Along with on-ice training, they will also be requires to complete at least three hours of weight training, two hours of ballet, two hours of off-ice technique sessions, three hours of stretching, and two hours of cardiovascular training a week. This isn’t a training schedule for a sport that is all about frills and sparkles. This is an intense training schedule that only the most dedicated athletes can survive. The physical and mental athleticism that is required to be a successful figure skating is very easy to forget about when movies, such as “Blades of Glory” mock what figure skating is about. As SkateCanada, the sports governing body, tries to boost figure skating’s image, they try to draw in the hockey crowd. This isn’t something that can happen over night. The image that the public has on male figure skaters will continue to be a judgmental issue that will take years to change.

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