Friday, January 30, 2015

The 2015 Mozart Cup in Salzburg, Austria

After a 9 hour flight to Munich, and an additional two hour bus ride, the Saint Louis Synergy Junior team arrived once again in the welcoming city of Salzburg, Austria! Despite everyone's exhaustion, all 19 of us were incredibly excited to be back at the 2015 Mozart Cup for the second time, representing Team USA. After settling into our rooms, we had dinner at our hotel, the Castellani, and then had an hour of stretching and yoga before going to bed after a very long day.
Our first day in Salzburg!
Our first full day started off with a strong and productive 2 hour unofficial practice at the Gmunden Rink, which is about an hour outside of Salzburg. May I mention, the winding drive through the mountains was absolutely breathtaking! The first practice at an international competition is the time that we, as well as most teams, like to get our feet under us after long hours of sitting on a plane. Later that day, we took some time to visit the competition rink as well, the Red Bull Eisarena. It was such a wonderful feeling being back at the rink of our international debut, and it got us even more excited to compete later that week. In the evening, we experienced a taste of authentic Austrian food in town at a restaurant called Zwettlers, which was the first restaurant we went to last year—and it is by far our favorite!

At the Gmunden Rink with one of our team leaders, Lois Long

Early on Thursday morning, he had a very successful second unofficial practice back at the Gmunden Rink. One of our team leaders, Lois Long, gave us a lot of helpful feedback after our first unofficial practice, which really motivated us to work even harder for our next 2 hours of on ice. That afternoon, we visited the Festung Hohensalzburg fortress, which is the iconic symbol of Salzburg, Austria, that looms high over the city. Sadly, the views were obscured by a thick fog that day, but that did not seem to dampen our spirits! We then headed into town for some shopping with our families.  Salzburg is famous for its wonderful sweets, specifically the Mozart Kugel, which is a delicious chocolate candy sold in nearly every souvenir shop and bakery in town. But we can’t ever get enough of them! They are named after Mozart because he was born in Salzburg—you can even visit his house, which is in the center of town. As we walked around town, we saw many other teams, as well, including members from Finland's Rockettes. It is amazing to have the opportunity to meet so many incredible teams from around the world at the Mozart Cup; it is one of my favorite highlights about international competitions. Though we may not all speak the same language, we all feel that sense of unification through our passion for synchronized skating.
Synergy Junior visiting the Festung Hohensalzburg fortress



During our stay in Salzburg, we also visited the Bridge of Locks, where the tradition is to lock a personal pad lock to the fence and toss the key into the Salzach River while making a wish. This way, the lock is locked forever. There are thousands of locks on the fence, which was quite the sight (and photo-opp!). Many of us brought locks of our own, and participated in this unique tradition.


The official short program draw was around 7:30pm that night, when we learned that we would skate 10th out of the 18 Junior teams the next day. The following morning, we had our first official practice at the Eisarena, followed by a lunch back at our hotel.  The Junior short program competition kicked off at 3:30pm, and we were pumped to skate our sassy “Too Darn Hot” and “Cool Cats” program. There is nothing quite like hearing the words "Representing the United States of America.” It is such a proud moment, and you can’t help but smile because all you can think about are the hours of hard work you put in just to get to that very moment. After a solid short program skate, we were in 5th place and ready to attack the long program the next day!

Saturday morning started early with another successful official practice; we felt strong and ready.  For the free skate, we skated in the last group, but unfortunately it was not the best performance of our "African Spirit" program.  We ended in 7th place overall out of 18 Junior teams.  Though we came to Austria with higher expectations, we have learned as a team that it is equally important to support each other in times of victory, as well as in times of disappointment.  We have also learned that it is what we make of our disappointments that determine our success. In the end, the experience and privilege of being a part of Team USA and the pride in representing our country at a major international competition outweighed the score. It was even more special sharing this opportunity with the Lexettes, Miami University Senior, and the Crystallettes. We were overwhelmed with pride as we stood to cheer for all Team USA teams. This is another one of my favorite highlights about international competitions; although we are competitors, we are also teammates when competing outside of the United States, and that bonding moment of cheering for your teammates as they compete is so special. In addition to that, we were so proud to have two Team USA teams on the podium! Something great about the Mozart Cup is that they allow for every team to get on the ice during the awards ceremony. This included all divisions from Novice through Mixed Age. It was indescribably moving to share that experience with so many faces from around the globe.

All smiles at the Mozart Cup awards ceremony
Lastly, we owe a great deal of thanks to our wonderful team leaders, Lois Long and Colette Nygren! Though some competition outcomes end up being better than others, my team is so proud of our hard work and dedication this season. We will never forget the time spent and experiences shared in the beautiful city of Salzburg, Austria.

Best of luck to all teams for a successful rest of the season, and go Team USA!


Mary Carnal

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Managing Injuries and the Leon Lurje Trophy

Synchronized Skating is preparing to become an Olympic sport, and with that, there comes injuries. All teams are raising the bar, performing new and high risk lifts, elements, transitions, etc. With this, injuries are common. Injuries can be tricky, frustrating, and painful. The recovery of an injury is vital for any athlete, especially synchronized skaters.

Personally, I have dealt with a few injuries myself. I first injured my back while skating in 2012. I fractured my tailbone, had a herniated disk, and some nerve damage. After physical therapy, I was back to skating after just a month. After re-injuring my back this December, I learned the importance of managing an injury; it is difficult, but it is possible! For any injury, it is so important to listen to your body. You must know where your limits are. Yes, you want to push yourself but if your body is saying no, then listen! With injuries, progress can take time. Stay positive and remember that injuries are something all athletes go through.

Hockettes short program official practice
Try to find something else that may need improvement in your skating that doesn't require you to be on the ice. During the time I was unable to skate, I would sit in front of a mirror during my team’s ballet classes and practice only my arms. It made my arms become muscle memory, so I could focus on other things when I was back on the ice. I asked my physical therapist to write a workout that would improve my injury, and help the transition from getting back on to the ice easier. I would do this workout at strength training with my team. While my team was on the ice, I made notes from each practice I missed and made sure I wrote down new changes, corrections, timing, etc. Just because you are unable to be on the ice, doesn't mean it can slow down your skating! Although some injuries are different than others, there is always something you can do to be proactive even if you aren't on the ice.

Being injured is a process, and it can be tricky. After recently re-injuring my back, I am recovering as well as many other skaters out there! With the competition season really picking up, rest, physical therapy, and positive thoughts are very important for my injury and my recovery. I was able to skate with my team at the Leon Lurje Trophy and I am thankful I was able to do so.      

This past weekend, my team and I were honored to compete at the Leon Lurje Trophy in Gothenburg, Sweden with Starlights senior. Representing Team USA was an unforgettable and extremely rewarding feeling. My team and I focused on staying in the moment and skating from our hearts. We were pleased with our performances in Sweden, and are excited to work hard in preparation for the upcoming competitions. Managing and competing with injuries are challenging, but with patience and positivity, it can be done.
Captains of Hockettes before the draw!

Wishing everyone good luck in the future competitions! Go Team USA!

Lindsey Maynad


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Competition Preparation and the 2015 Colonial Classic

As we dive into the peak of synchro season with international and qualifying competitions, the act of preparing oneself to compete both mentally and physically is becoming more and more relevant to our training. Competition preparation can be key to the quality of a performance, but is often easier said than done. As athletes, our bodies need to be in the best shape possible, but it is also expected of us to be completely focused on our team and the competition, no matter what happens outside of the “competition bubble.” Competition preparation is essential not only in the days leading up to a competition, but also in the weeks beforehand as well.

The 2015 Colonial Classic was held at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, MA

Competition time can get really hectic with turning in assignments for school, fitting in those last few hours of training, packing everything you need, and remembering to take care of your body. Balancing schoolwork and skating can be challenging which is why completing schoolwork beforehand is a key component to focused concentration during competition. In the weeks leading up to a competition, I’ve learned to get ahead by turning in large assignments beforehand, eliminating the impulse to worry about completing an important essay or studying for a test during the competition.  With this approach, I can alternate my focus between schoolwork and the competition.

Although it may not always appear as the top priority, I’ve learned that sleep is, hands down, the most important part of taking care of your body in preparation for a competition. Training can be both mentally and physically grueling, and sleep gives your muscles and mind a chance to restore themselves and recover. In the past, I have gone to some competitions averaging 6 hours of sleep per night, and others averaging 8 hours of sleep per night. The difference that just two hours can make in both performance quality and my own enjoyment of the competition is huge!


Haydenettes competing our short program to James Bond at the Colonial Classic

Taking care of your body also means paying attention to nutrition and hydration. This past weekend at the 2015 Colonial Classic, we had what’s become our classic last meal before getting ready to compete: sandwiches. I love this choice because it incorporates whole grains, vegetables, and protein, keeping us full without feeling like the food is just sitting in our stomachs while we skate.


A big part of competition preparation is just being prepared for anything. Rink conditions can be completely different from practice to competition. Last week we were practicing at the Rodman Arena wearing 4 jackets and earmuffs and then the next day we competed at the Tsongas Center for Colonial Classic where we were sweating and it was very dry. Hydration definitely played a big role this weekend to combat these conditions.

In the locker room after the freeskate with DREAMmate
Ashley Tomich and DREAM alum Tessa Hedges.

At the end of the day, it is the attitude that ultimately determines the quality of a performance. No matter what obstacle is thrown your way, a focused and determined attitude can get you through almost anything! Good luck to all teams in their qualifying and international competitions, and GO USA!!


Eliana


 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Competitive Performance and “Again”: Why You Should Thank Your Coach

“Again”…. By this point in the season we’ve all heard it countless times and we will all continue to hear it. As I have been home for the holidays I’ve been happy to get to visit my old teams, and the theme is always the same. At Precisely Right practice I watched John and Suzanne say it all the time, “Ok again..” At Skyliners, I listened to the same from Josh and Jenny, “Again” and of course when I’m at school Carla is always saying it, “Again." So… why is “Again” such a popular coach battle cry? The obvious answer is that by doing it another time, we have a chance to improve upon the last time we did it. But is there more to it than that? Turns out there is.
Visiting Precisely Right Practice

Being the nerdy psychology major I am, I tend to think a lot about why we do things and how the way we train prepares us for competition. In one of my classes this semester we read about Bargh & Chartrand’s idea of Intentional Acquisition of Automaticity (1999), which basically states that the more we practice a task, the more muscle memory associations are created, and the less we have to think about it, freeing up our mind to consciously think about other things. In a competitive context, having a mind that can be “free” to engage in thought can be beneficial. For me, I concentrate on selling the program to the audience and just enjoying the time on the ice. My mind is usually quiet. I do not have to think about the steps of the program because they are automatic from all the “Agains” at practice. This gives me the freedom to truly enjoy the skate and not have my inner voice screaming the steps, counts or reminders at me. I can truly take in the experience of the performance. If the program is not automatic and requires conscious thought, in theory, there would likely be no “room” for our thoughts to be about enjoying the skate when we are so worried about the steps. By doing things again and again it is not just so we can do it better the next time. Repeated action makes it so programs become automatic for competition and gives our minds the freedom to appreciate the moments we all work so hard for.

On competition day it seems that a quiet mind is best for allowing the elements we trained in practice to show. Thinking about the steps when you are out there competing is not your best bet. In a study I read, experienced soccer players dribbled the ball better when they listened to and reported when they heard a noise compared to just dribbling the ball without a task that distracted their conscious mind (Beilock et al., 2002). The point is that those who were not thinking about dribbling the ball performed better than those who were (Ironic
Parent's Weekend Exhibition
right?). This makes sense though. At our parents weekend exhibition I distinctly remember trying to coach myself through a triple twizzle and I put my foot down… Thinking too hard about what I was doing made me mess up. Ironically if my mind had not been thinking about that twizzle I probably would have hit it just fine. At Dr. Porter, I had a quiet mindset like the one I described earlier and I hit everything I needed to. My skating didn’t really change, but my thoughts did. In many respects the Nike slogan “Just do it.” is my favorite. To me it means, stop trying so hard and thinking about it. Just enjoy the moment and let yourself skate.


So as we all approach the height of competition season, I think we need to thank our coaches for saying “Again” (As tired as we may get…) because in the end, it will make our competitive experience more enjoyable. We need to think during practice, but over thinking in competition doesn’t seem to be the way to go. I look forward to seeing you all cherishing those moments on the ice! See you at Colonials!

Dana

Bargh J.A. , & Chartrand T.L. (1999) The unbearable automaticity of being. American Psychologist, 54, 462-469

Beilock, S.L., Carr, T. H., MacMahon, C., & Starkes, J.L. (2002) When paying attention becomes counterproductive: Impact of divided versus skill-focused attention on novice and experienced performance of sensorimotor skills. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 8, 6-16.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Holidays: From An Athlete’s Perspective



The holiday season can be such a busy time of year for everybody, and for an athlete like me that is an understatement.  With practices, competitions, exhibitions, finals, and everything in between, the past few weeks leading up to the holidays have been quite eventful!  But, even though we all get wrapped up with the things we need to do, it is important not to forget all incredible opportunities and people that make our lives so special.

For me, being away from home at college, I could not be more thankful for my teammates who have become my family.  Every single Haydenette truly is my sister and the bond we share as one unit is unbreakable.  Around this time of year we become even closer than we already are thanks to several different traditions and special events.

In late November, a special tradition for us is the Haydenette Thanksgiving.  This year, Eliana Marostica’s (also a DREAM skater and Haydenette) family invited us to their house for a delicious Thanksgiving feast.  We always enjoy taking the time expressing at the dinner table all that we are thankful for and hearing special messages from our parents via email. 

In early December, we were honored to participate in the Bryant Park Tree Lighting in NYC.  Our quick day trip to New York went by in a flash but was filled with laughs, smiles, and great skating as we helped bring the holiday spirit to the crowd. 
We competed in our second competition of the season, the Cape Cod Classic, in mid-December.  This was a great experience for us, as we were able to put out our two programs for the new season and gain great feedback from the judges.  This was also a fun competition as we stayed right on the beautiful beach of Cape Cod, and got to enjoy amazing home-cooked food from two Haydenette moms at the Albert Family home on the Cape!
         
Before we take a weeklong break from practices for Christmas, we skated in our club’s annual Holiday Show.  Here, it was fun to see all the younger skaters who look up to us and aspire to be like us some day, and it reminded me of the journey that I have taken to be where I am today.

All of these experiences, plus the hard working practices in between, make being an athlete around the holidays that much more special that they already are.  I am so lucky for my team who has become my family and our coaches and team managers who do so much for us.  Lastly, I am incredibly grateful for my family and friends at home who I get to spend time with this time of year, even if it is only for a couple of days.  I wish everyone a happy holiday and new year and encourage all of you to think about all the things in your life that you are thankful for!

Happy Holidays!

Ashley Tomich

Monday, June 2, 2014

Team USA Working as ONE to be #1


This past weekend, some of the top synchronized skaters and coaches from the best teams in the country came together in Orlando, FL to set some big goals for Team USA this coming season. I was very excited to take a quick trip down to Florida with my coaches and a few teammates to participate in the first ever US Figure Skating Synchronized Skating Elite Camp. While I knew that the camp was going to be very exciting, it exceeded my expectations and was truly a huge success.
           
This training camp was designed with various factors in mind, but one of the most important was to grow the sport of synchronized skating in the U.S. and increase our competitiveness on the international stage. This was the very first camp created especially for Team USA skaters and coaches. Each Team USA coach was able to select four of his or her skaters to represent the team at the event and bring everything they gained from their experience back to their fellow teammates.

The skaters and coaches alike got the opportunity to work with some very talented faculty who don’t typically get to work directly with the synchronized skating community as a whole. This amazing group of people included John Coughlin, Alena Lunin, Kelley Morris-Adair, Scott Brown, Suzy Semanick-Schurman, and Kat Arbour, just to name a few. With these people as a resource, we had the privilege to work on pairs elements, skating skills, power, strength and flexibility, and choreography, to prepare us for the challenge that the 2014-2015 season is sure to bring.

Team USA skaters with John Coughlin
This was such a unique experience because it truly brought together all of the strongest teams in the country as one unified Team USA. Although we get the opportunity to compete together overseas, we are still simply “competing against” each other, the way that we do when we are on home ice in the United States. I believe that John Coughlin, Team USA pairs skater, said it perfectly when he gave his opening remarks at the event, saying that at this camp all of the skaters around us were our teammates for weekend and we make up Team USA together. He also commented on the fact that without full commitment and the will to work as one, we would not truly be able to accomplish our goals of moving up the ranks internationally and working towards getting synchronized skating to be an Olympic sport. Overall I found the drive of the skaters, usually competing on different teams, to make each other better and work towards a common goal to be one of the most inspiring aspects of this event. It was also amazing to see just how many people are standing behind us as athletes, to help us to improve and believe in what we are capable of achieving.
Miami University Junior and Senior skaters

I am so lucky to have been a part of this phenomenal experience and feel a new excitement for next season to begin. I can’t wait to see what is in store for Team USA in the year to come as we push the boundaries in the synchronized skating world, while striving for greater speed, power, and flow to raise us up to where we want to be.

With Love & Honor, Go Team USA!

Ashley Mulhern

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Buongiorno di Courmayeur!


We’re having an amazing time in beautiful Italy so far.  We got the day started early with breakfast and headed straight to the rink for our first unofficial practice of the day.  We had a solid skate at the competition arena with many friends and family cheering us on proudly. 

Past and present DREAM Skaters Lindsay, Ashley, Audrey, Noelle, Jenna, and Tessa with
Leslie Graham, Manager of Synchronized Skating at USFS
After having a delicious lunch at the rink in an athlete village setting with many classic Italian options, we boarded the bus to practice in Aosta.  The second practice of the day went very well.  We focused on just a few elements and applied some last minute corrections from Saga. 

Lindsay channeling her inner Edmond Dontes, the main character from our long program music:
"The Count of Monte Cristo"!
Ashley and her parents outside the practice rink in Aosta
We had a few minutes to visit with our parents and then we loaded the bus with our fellow American teammates, the Crystallettes, and headed back to the  stunning mountains of Courmayeur.

            -Ashley












To conclude our day we headed back to the official rink for the draw and opening ceremonies. Audrey and myself represented the Haydenettes, lacing up our skates and taking the ice with representatives from each of the 23 teams competing. 
           
The quaint shopping streets of Courmayeur
When it came our turn, Audrey and I were lead around the ice by a very sweet Italian girl from a local synchro team. We were taken to a table covered in giant chocolate eggs. I was handed a beautiful red egg, about a foot tall, and we were then lead to the draw bag.  Audrey pulled number 18! 

Then began the opening ceremony. There were many extremely talented Italian skating stars, but one number I'm particular stole the show. All the male skaters in the show took the ice in synchronized swimming apparel. By the end of the number these skaters in nothing more than tight spandex shorts with the words "Why not Synchro" written out on their bare backs!
           
Representatives from each team on the ice for the draw ceremony

We are very excited to be skating first in the last group of teams! In bocca lupo (good luck) to all the teams competing and GO USA!

-Lindsay