by Liz Leamy
Leslie Graham, U.S. Figure Skating Director of Synchronized Skating and Skating Programs with Josh Babb, Director of Skyliners who was also a conference presenter and nominee for 2017 Developmental Coach of the year.
Tammy Gambill with Rohene Ward
(12 June 2017) In May, Nashville, the American country music capital, was the main place to be for many in the sport of figure skating, as more than 450 coaches from all over the U.S., Canada and other countries gathered at this beautiful and fast-growing urban area to attend the 2017 Professional Skaters Association Conference and Trade Show.
This celebrated and highly anticipated annual event, known to be the only educational forum of its kind to exist in the sport, hit the mark in every type of regard.
Coaches at this event were friendly, focused and clearly excited, sat in on dozens of different classes that covered such topics as technique, business practices, periodization, choreography, hockey, synchronized skating, dance and professional shows, among other things.
Ultimately, the energy and commitment by this contingent was viable and also testament to the spirit and current state of the sport itself, particularly in the U.S.
“Everyone works so hard,” said Susi Wehrli-McLaughlin, U.S. Figure Senior Director of Membership who was named as the 2017 F. Ritter Shumway Award winner for her great dedication and contribution to the sport. “That’s what it’s all about.”
PSA figureheads also agreed this conference was a big success.
“It was a great conference and ‘one of the best’ we have had in years from the many comments received,” said Carol Rossignol, PSA Education and Accreditation Director. “My goal is that through the PSA Conference, we have made a difference in the education and lives of our fellow PSA coaches.”
That certainly seems to have been the case based upon the mood and energy among all of the coaches during this event, which was held at the Franklin Marriott Cool Springs, located in a pastoral and bustling suburb 20 miles south of Nashville and the Ford Ice Center, the home training base of the 2017 National Hockey League Stanley Cup finalists, the Nashville Predators, based in Antioch.
Throughout this event, seminars both off ice and on were packed as coaches paid close attention to the speakers, with many taking notes and videotaping with their phones and other devices to further lock in much of the information.
“Even though I’ve been skating all my life, I always learn when I come here,” said Karl Kurtz, a World and Olympic PSA Master-rated coach based in Jacksonville, Florida. “It’s a great opportunity for everyone to share information.”
This year’s roster of conference presenters included World and Olympic coaches such as Patrice Lauzon, the coach of Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir, the 2017 Canadian World champions and Gabrielle Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron, the French 2017 World silver medalists; Christy Krall, who had coached Patrick Chan, Tom Zakrajsek, Tammy Gambill, Jim Peterson, Amanda Evora, Sasha Cohen and numerous others.
This group also included Josh Babb, the internationally acclaimed synchro coach and Adam Blake, choreographer for the Haydenettes, Disney on Ice and the Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus, whose seminars were also a big hit with attendees.
All in all, the collective mix of coaches, presenters, PSA staff, Trade Show vendors and all others on hand at this conference were what helped ultimately make this event such an inspirational and memorable experience.
“This is a great reunion for all of those who are involved in skating,” said Kevin Wu, West Coast Representative for Jackson Ultima, one of the busiest vendors at the conference and trade show. “Nashville is a great city with fantastic music and a rich culture and the hospitality of the people here has been amazing, as has everything else.”
Of course, the fact that Scott Hamilton, the 1984 Olympic champion and 2017 PSA Conference Honorary Chair was so involved with this year’s event also added to the excitement, energy and spirit of the whole environment.
“The energy around the PSA is always invigorating, but this seems to be even more so because of Scott and his personality,” said John Coughlin, the two-time U.S. pair champion (in 2011 and 2012) and member of the International Skating Union Athletes Commission. “He is so selfless with the sport and also inspiring and humbling to be around.”
Coughlin said the role the conference plays in relation to the sport is paramount, particularly in regard to the skaters.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about going home and giving skaters the opportunity to chase their dreams.”
Truer words could not be spoken, for sure.