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PSA Conference Draws Big Crowd,
Coaches Urged to Cultivate Good Skaters in All Ways

by Liz Leamy

(8 June 2012)  The future of figure skating looks rather bright at least based upon the strong turnout and optimistic mood among those who attended the 2012 Professional Skaters Conference at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel and Skating Club of Boston at the end of May.

Nearly 580 attendees from throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, Central America and Scandinavia participated in this this popular annual event, held May 24 - 27, 2012, and known to be the only formal coaches figure skating educational forum of its kind to exist in the sport today.

In usual fashion, the conference revolved around educating, inspiring and guiding coaches to cultivate and develop exceptional skaters from the grassroots through the elite competitive levels.

At the same time, there seemed to be a greater intensity among all of those at this particular event and nearly all of the coaches, presenters, organizers and officials who were on hand here seemed to have a purpose and laser-like focus in regard to making magic happen for American figure skating.

“We’re doing this to make the industry of a high quality and to insure that it is all about the professional image,” said Jimmie Santee, Executive Director of the Professional Skaters Association. “We want to support the coaches and sport as much as we can.”

This philosophy is evidently working based on the high numbers of the conference. This year, attendance was markedly higher compared to that of the 2011 Dallas event, which drew a little more than 300 coaches, indicating that things definitely appear to be on an upswing for the sport.

“We’re really pleased with the turnout,” said Carol Rossignol, PSA Education and Accreditation Director. “Our mission is to educate and we want to motivate everybody.”

Kathy Casey

By all accounts, motivation was the main theme here all weekend. Speakers such as Paul Wylie, the 1992 Olympic silver medallist, Kathy Casey, U.S. Figure Skating Director of Performance Enhancement and Tracking for Elite Athletes, Christy Krall, who helped Patrick Chan of Canada claim the 2011 and 2012 World title and Dr. Mahlon Bradley, a former U.S. contender and U.S. Figure Skating Medical Advisor, were just some of the domestic skating luminaries who shared their experience, strength and expertise to educate, guide and inspire those coaches in attendance.

“This has been a great conference,” said Santee. “It’s all about refilling the emotional tank of the coaches.”

Certainly, the PSA appears to have succeeded in fulfilling their mission. Coaches seemed excited all weekend long, and amidst catching up with one another, seemed genuinely happy at the prospect of being further educated on their profession.

Tammy Gambill

“Every time I come I’m always excited and rejuvenated, I hear somebody say something in a different,” said Tammy Gambill, the prominent California-based who won the 2012 PSA Developmental Coach of the Year Award and who works with Richard Dornbush, the 2011 U.S. silver medallist, and Vincent Zhao the 2012 Novice Men's Champion. “The PSA is such a great tool to keep on learning."

During the conference, seminars ran round the clock that focused on topics such as the athlete’s mindset, physical strength, artistic quality, technical skills and preparedness for high-pressure events. Nearly all of these seminars, held at both the hotel and at the Skating Club of Boston, were packed, indicating a strong initiative by the sport’s coaching community to keep bettering itself.

Christy Krall, the champion of Dartfish computer technology who coached Patrick Chan for more than two years and helped him capture two consecutive World titles, presented a cutting-edge seminar on jump technique was exceptional.

In her discussion, Krall, a former Olympic contender, covered the eight basic steps of jumping. She explained that there is the step, load, explode phases that occur in the takeoff, a first and second gathering and then air position in the air, and then the impact and the follow through on the landing. She went the technique for each step in detail that explained why she has become known as one of the most exceptional jump coaches in the world.

“The execution of jumps is based upon universal principles,” she said. “There are lots of ways to do jumps and the ability to be calculated and measure significantly changes and athlete’s development.”

Pasquale Camerlengo, the 2012 PSA Paul McGrath Choreographer of the Year Award winner, was also an outstanding presenter. He discussed the importance of selecting music, editing it and matching it to the skater’s requirements, personality and style to fit the rhythm exactly.

Camerlengo, who last year choreographed programs for Alissa Czisny, the two-time U.S. titlist, Adam Rippon, the 2012 U.S. silver medallist and Daisuke Takahashi, the 2011 World silver medallist and 2010 World champion, among others, stressed the importance of understanding how to work the International Judging System in accordance with artistry.

“You want to capture the right thing, right moment and pay attention to detail because details always make a difference,” he said.

Paul Wylie, the 1992 Olympic silver medallist, also had some vital words of wisdom to offer coaches in his keynote address. The enigmatic former U.S. contender and long-time Smucker’s Stars on Ice performer, who now coaches and lives with his family in North Carolina, urged coaches to remember the joy and the fact that it is possible to always recover from a setback.

“I had a lot of dips in my career, and if there’s anything I can say, it’s that it is never too late,” said Wylie, who became known as a comeback kid when he scored silver in Albertville. (Up to that point, he had never placed higher than ninth at a World Championships.)

According to Wylie, it is vital that the coaches always have faith in their students.

“The coach has to persevere, it can be frustrating at times, but it’s necessary,” he said. “My coaches, Evy and Mary Scotvold, always believed in me and that was what really helped to keep me going.”   

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