Saturday, February 25, 2017

Guest Blogger: Attending the Paul Wylie Seminar

While I'm off ice this week, I have a returning guest blogger who previously posted "Why We Skate". This is a long post, but enjoy.
Learn What You Know
I attended an adult skating seminar led by Paul Wylie.  PAUL freakin’ WYLIE!!!  It had excellent points and aspects that could be improved; overall, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.  (Or, as soon as my legs are working right again, whichever comes last.)  My main victory in skating life now is that Paul Wylie told lil ol me that my spreadeagle was nice.  He saw me use it as an entrance into a flip.  He complimented me on it *internal jumping up-and-down* and called me out to do it in front of the group *instant regret*.  This is when I made an example of myself.  (Not the good type.)

I took off from where I was and went and did my thing.  However, where I was and where I was going meant that I ended up doing my spreadeagle with my back to the group.  As I go by, I hear him say "Really?  You're gonna do it with your back to us?  REALLY??" 

I was committed at that point; so, yep, really.  I made my turn, stuck my tongue out, and with a "TTHHHHPPT!!" picked in and took off.  It was a good flip (for me): Nice & high, comfortable rotation, soft landing; I glided out, and with a back outside 3-turn I triumphantly faced the crowd, who was cheering.  And a stern-looking Paul Wylie, who was all-the-way not cheering.  "Did you do that in the right direction?" he asked me in a tone that conveyed the answer.  "At a Technique, Artistry, and Presentation seminar, you're gonna do a trick with your back to us?"  He wasn't impressed with my Technique of Artistically Presenting my backside.

Me:  [sheepish mumbling]

He pointed back to where I jumped.  "Again."  Paul is a small-ish person; he is friendly and personable.  However, I would have to find someone else to trifle with, if that was my intention.  So, I picked up my embarrassment and tucked it away in a pocket to savor later on, and I got on down there.  All right, what the hell:  Let's perform this one.

 I hit my spreadeagle & stretched it out.  *Go, go, Gadget ballet arms!*  (Hey, look, there are people here!  Hi, People!) Turn, pick, jump, rotate, land, kick out & back, stretch it out, aaaaand, finish.  My leading foot had a little shimmy at the start of the spreadeagle.  Air position on the flip wasn't as good as the first, so the landing wasn't as solid.  (Perhaps the embarrassment in my pocket was throwing off my balance.)   But, I felt that I had sold it.

I turned to face the crowd, who was cheering (more).  And Paul, who was cheering.  I like happy Paul.  That's a Paul that's much more fun to be around.

I'm glad it happened that way.  A cornerstone of the seminar was that the 'selling it' is such a big part of a performance.  Paul's visual device was to have us all come to center ice and visualize all the elements and tech stuff as taking one side of the ice, and that the performance was the other half.  The tech side is judged strictly and according to rules, but the performance is all up to us.  And they count equally.  Well, of course, there was no disagreement there.  Nobody had an epiphany about it; it makes sense.  It was a good reminder, though, and it bears stating often.  BUT nothing makes a point like experience, and I got this experience to prove it.

The feedback I got was the best kind:

1)  It was immediate.  Timely feedback is best, and you don't get any timelier than immediate.

2)  It was given by my peers.  Anyone in a supervisory position can tell you that peer feedback is the most powerful.  You know an audience is going to at least be polite.  You know your family and friends are going to be kind.  You know your coach is going to be … well, your coach.  *clears throat; moves along*   But here were a bunch of adult skaters.  These were my people.  I came into a room full of strangers, but by being an all-the-way grown-up and setting down a figure-skating bag at an adult skating seminar, I had told them at least half of my story.  They’re not going to shine me on; nor are they going to cut me down.  A thing I love about the adult skating community is that a person’s win is always a team win.  And everyone knows you don’t get them with fake praise or negative energy.  So therefore:

3)  It was genuine.  There was no doubt that I was seeing honest reactions.

4)  It was undeniable.  My second effort was technically inferior.  But the room was happier.  No doubt about it.  I was happier.  Isn’t that why I’m doing this in the first place?  I’m not a showman by nature, but I like being happy.  (Odd, I know.)  That’s why I’m doing this, right?  Right.

I appreciate how a concept that I’ve heard so often gains much more heft when you experience it.  I learned something I (thought I) already knew.  I’m also excited to work on improving the performance. 

Oh, and by the way, *laces fingers behind head; leans back and puts feet on desk* did I ever tell you guys this thing Paul Wylie once said about my spreadeagle?...

(Yeah, I’m gonna get some mileage outta that.)


  1. Yay! Here's cheering you and Paul Wylie for a great spread-eagle-flip moment that is now captured for all of us!

  2. He is adorable. He coaches at my rink. And everytime I see him, I just want to put him in my pocket. A compliment from him? yea, I could go for years on that...