Many skaters brought their coaches to the 2008 U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships in Lake Placid, New York. A skating coach nowadays is a teacher, psychologist and friend (and sometimes Mom) all rolled into one, so they play a very important and multi-faceted role. Generally, the skaters pay for the coaches' expenses, such as travel and lodging, so the coach is definitely there to work and help their skaters put on the best performances possible. I spoke with two coaches at the event, Graham Payne and Sue Schmitt, about their experiences having adult students compete at this event.
Graham Payne (see right), a coach at the Atlanta Figure Skating Club, is a former British senior national and international ice dance competitor. With 30 years of coaching national and world competitors, Graham told me that adult skaters as well as their coaches have a camaraderie that is not typically seen in the competitive arena. I also had a chance to chat with Graham's ice dancing students, the husband and wife team of Michael Marcanio and Nancy Hoblack. Although Michael and Nancy live in Charlotte, North Carolina, every Saturday, they drive FOUR HOURS to take lessons with Graham in Atlanta, Georgia! They wake up at 3:30 a.m. to get on the road and are on the ice by 8:30 a.m. to skate with Graham and his wife Janet. What loyalty and a testament to the power of a great coach.
Graham will be an instructor at the Ice Dance Weekend in Alpharetta, Georgia from July 11-13. This is an event hosted by the Atlanta Figure Skating Club to promote ice dancing and what better ambassador to introduce skaters to this sport than Graham!
Sue Schmitt (see right) has been coach in the Chicago area for over 40 years. She was a USFSA senior ladies competitor and is currently also a technical specialist under the International Judging System (IJS). She had six students competing at Adult Nationals, in all different levels, ranging from Championship Masters to Bronze. Sue describes her coaching style, especially towards adult students, as "very flexible" and "having empathy." With adults, it's important for her to work with certain restrictions within their bodies, and it's equally important that she feels empathy towards her students. She explained that, "They have to know that you feel for them. If something doesn't go well, you're disappointed for them. Not with them, but for them."
Sue has attended every Adult Nationals since
it's inception, except for one. She coached and competed at last year's event (where she came in second) because it was held in her
hometown of Chicago. She also had her younger students come to watch the skaters because
I wanted my "kiddie skaters," teenagers and younger students, to know that this is a great venue for [them] to look forward to outside [their] competitive skating career when [they're] older. Keep skating because it's really good for you, it's good for your health, and it's good for everything you do.
Sue currently teaches at the Crystal Ice House, Glacier Skating Academy
and the Silver Leafs Facility. She also designs and makes skating
dresses and costumes for a lot of her students (adults and nonadults)
so she's a busy coach year round. Over the summer, she said she will decide whether to enter an event at next year's Adult Nationals, which will be held in Grand Rapids, Michigan.