Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Not your typical summer

As I sit here with a large cup of coffee (slurp), listen to my 90s music playlist (coveted by many), and ponder life in the most cliché way possible (we all do it…), the most prominent thought on my mind is one week. One week stands before me and the beginning of my senior year. My last year of college in addition to my final year of skating at Miami. Everyone tells you that the real world sneaks up on you but you definitely don’t believe it until it’s staring you straight in the eye. (Wait, there’s a world beyond skating?!) I know, I didn’t think it was true, but, yes there’s a whole world out there beyond our lives in the rink and I got a BIG taste of it this summer.

The daily grind... literally
Blood, sweat, and tears. Ok maybe not blood, we can swap nouns and replace that with espresso. Espresso, sweat, and tears. That almost sums up my summer. Sounds rough, huh? It was… but let me tell you why my first step into the “real world” was so worth it.

 I did an internship with a national marketing and advertising firm, but my job as an account executive was in sales, working directly with business owners of both small businesses and large corporations with the goal of getting them to buy advertising with our company. If you can picture yourself going into 30+ businesses per day and talking with owners while essentially living out of a car with a 15 min interval day planner as your lifeline and taking calls from your boss once an hour at minimum, then you can get a pretty good glimpse of my typical day. It was excruciatingly difficult. I got rejected. A LOT. No matter how much I thought I was going to get up and just kill it, sales is RUTHLESS. In the first couple weeks of the internship, I was laser focused on making profits and was extremely hard on myself when I didn’t have a good day of sales. (I would later learn that generally you would get rejected 20 times before you hear one “yes”.) But the feeling I had when I did hear that “yes” was like no other. 

The rink I skated at while working in Louisville, KY... such great people!
This was easily comparable to skating for me… you may have to go through multiple competitions, maybe even multiple seasons with your team before you are on top. But, when you finally get there, success tastes so much sweeter because of the fact you stuck with it and persevered even during those hard times when you may have wanted to quit.

It wasn’t until a few weeks in that I realized the real reason I was there and what I was really learning in this internship. I wasn’t learning how to be a good salesperson or how to cut deals and rack in profits. In retrospect, this summer was actually not about sales AT ALL. I was actually learning and building upon some of the most simplest yet most important life lessons that are the ones vital to success.

Fun side trip to Nashville, TN with Miami friends
Empathy: The ability to put your self in someone else’s shoes and genuinely understand where they are coming from and why they think and feel the way they do. This is something most of us have heard since we were young but I was able to see this summer more than ever how important it actually is, especially in the business world. As one would imagine, in talking to roughly 30 business owners a day, I saw and heard it all. The minute I stopped my sales pitch and started expressing an interest in the business owners and listening to their stories, the minute my sales went through the roof. This was no coincidence. They began to trust me and could see that I wasn’t there to just push a product on them; it wasn’t about me making a sale. I was there to help them and their business and I could only do so by taking an interest in them as people, not as potential revenue generators for myself. I built relationships with these business owners and grew to understand their stories… and they were all unique.

Beyonce concert with Sarah and Lauren in Chicago
Empathy is something that will not only make you successful in the workforce, but in all facets of life, and definitely in skating. When considering leadership, only when you can have empathy and truly make an effort to listen and understand why someone is the way they are and think the way they do can you expect to be an effective leader and make a positive difference. As members of a team, this is something that can benefit everyone whether you’re in a leadership position or not. By genuinely trying to understand each one of our teammates (and coaches) regardless of if we agree with their points of view or style of learning/coaching, we would all be more successful in working together to achieve a goal because of this common bond that is created through empathy.

My roommate Vanessa and I across the Ohio River overlooking Cincinnati

So, in the end, this summer didn’t make me dread the real world, as grueling as my internship was. It made me excited for what is to come because I saw firsthand how much I could accomplish with dedication and work and also how much there is to LEARN. I know now that I can be successful in whatever path I choose after graduation. There is so much opportunity out there for those who are willing to work for it. So yes, life may get more difficult after college, but it certainly doesn’t END. 

For right now though, I have never been more excited to return to a place in my life. Red brick buildings and streets, wonderful friends, my favorite bagel shop… Oxford is a dreamland. Here’s to the final hoorah at the most beautiful campus there ever was. I’ll see you all in the rink as Miami gets back to the grind for the upcoming season. Love and Honor.

Over and out,

(Now playing: Miami by Will Smith) 

Celebrating the end of a successful summer with a joy ride on the Zamboni :) 

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Tribute to Sylvia Muccio

This time last week, I had just finished a great day with some very spirited young synchronized skaters, working as a counselor at the Miami Synchronized Skating Camp, when I received the news that Sylvia Muccio had passed away. Initially, I was completely devastated to hear that my very first synchro coach had lost her battle with breast cancer. Once my initial shock had been overcome, I was reminded of how much she had given me throughout my synchronized skating career.
Team Image Juvenile 2001-2002

The synchronized skating world lost a truly dedicated and passionate coach last week. Sylvia Muccio gave her heart and soul to the skating community and touched the lives of countless people within it.

I wish that I could have thanked Sylvia for all that she did for me in my first two seasons of competitive synchronized skating. She pushed me to be the best skater that I could be and saw my potential from the very start. Placing me on her juvenile team at 8 years old, when most people (including myself) didn't think I was ready to move up, was probably one of the best things that could have happened to me. Without the challenges she presented me with, I know that I would not be where I am today. Because of the foundation she gave me, I was able to help my team win a Junior National Championship, compete in two Junior World Challenge Cups, fulfill my dream of competing for Miami University, and compete in my first Senior World Championship this year with her in the stands cheering on the USA.

Team Image Juvenile "Angels"
Although I didn't realize it then, Sylvia gave me more, both on and off the ice, than I could ever truly thank her for. Despite the practices in freezing cold rinks, with screaming frustration that we weren’t doing it just right, I know that it was all out of her extreme love for the sport and her efforts to make us the best skaters and people that we could be. I hope that someday, I too am able to so greatly impact the lives of young skaters and help them make their dreams come true, the way that Sylvia did for me!

I find it only fitting that the 2001-2002 juvenile program that I skated for Sylvia was "Angel" themed. Now, the world of Synchronized Skating has another wonderful angel watching over it!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Why do we do this?

Summer breeds contemplation, my friends. Tighten those laces and put your gloves on.

I took some time off the ice this summer. I didn't touch ice for the entire month of June; no regrets. As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder and I needed some time away from the world of skating.  I started back up in July preparing myself for DREAM camps, training festival and my official season  in August. During that time off, and as I prepared for training festival, I contemplated my time spent as a skater, my role as a Team USA athlete and my identity as a DREAM Team member.

I won't lie to you, often it all seems pretty trivial. On the radio yesterday I heard about dozens of people in the Middle East who lost their lives for daring to attend funerals. I couldn't get myself out of bed two hours early to go to the rink do something I purportedly love? And has it ever occurred to you what you could get done with the person-hours and money you have spent over the years on skating? Shoot. But the reality is that if I didn't skate, I likely would have spent much of that time on my second favorite sport, competitive sleeping. This train of thought leaves me a little melancholy.

These thoughts and arguments are often directed at the time and resources we put into professional sports and pricey art. When in a certain state of mind, they sound valid, like they did to me yesterday morning. To a certain degree they are valid. Are we as a society decadent? Yes. Is that a reason to quit dancing and skating? I'm not convinced and here's why:
Summer trip to Washington D.C.
I am a proud Team USA athlete. I love to represent my country, but there are a multitude of ways to do that, many arguably more useful than on a synchronized skating team. However, this is what I choose to do. I am able to proudly demonstrate my love of country through skating,  because I am able represent myself through skating. When I do it under the name of my team and my country instead of my own, it means that much more. Talking to my teammates and DREAMmates I realize that most of us feel this, though we recognize and express it differently.

In my last few years studying dance at an undergraduate level, an important lesson that I've learned is that “all people are dancers and everyone dances more than one dance”. Skating is an easy incarnation of this principle. Art, sports, you name it, these things are not a waste of our time, but instead define our time. Pushing ourselves in these undertakings are expressions of our human spirit. They test our will and challenge our capacity for greatness. So, do we get a little petty at skating, are our problems rather trivial? Sure. But that by no means makes skating unimportant or wasteful.  Skating is one of the many dances I will dance in my life and I'm lucky to have it.  

I took a little break this summer and I'm excited to join back up with my team in Los Angeles for my final year as a Team USA competitor and a member of California Gold senior. I won't lose sight of the problems of the world, they keep my life in perspective. But nor will I lose sight of why I take a break from my second favorite sport of sleeping for my first favorite sport of skating in the early hours of the morning. I have to dance my dance. 


Goofing off with DREAMmates in Minnesota

Monday, August 5, 2013

Summertime Fine

Hi Everyone!

I cannot believe it is already August. It seems like this summer has just flown by, but I can honestly say I am extremely excited to head back to school and begin my second year at Miami University (what?!). Along with that, I am even more eager to get back into training with my teammates in just a few short weeks!

Avalon Bay
This summer I had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time with my family, which is something I am very thankful for. At the beginning of the summer my entire family and I took a vacation to Santa Catalina Island; a small island located off the coast of Southern California. We rented a condo in the small city of Avalon, where everyone uses golf carts for transportation and you can swim with fish in the ocean one day and go up to the mountains to see wild bison the next. It seems as though my family is always running around in different directions most days; so it was great to have this short break where we could all relax and spend some quality time together.
My sister and I on the Catalina Express

Though time on the beach is nice; a great deal of my summer has been spent, as always, in an ice rink. I went back to my previous job working at my local rink; which is also where I carry out most of my summer training as well. This year our rink hosted the ISI World Team Championships (which invited over 2,000 skaters into our rink!) and is currently holding the Glacier Falls Summer Classic; a competition held each summer for skaters from Surfer (no tests) through Senior Men and Ladies. It was great to see so many different types of skaters in all of these events; each of them expressing their love for the sport in their own way. I also got to spend some time with Glacier Falls Figure Skating Club Junior Board; a group that I was involved with for several years and was previously the president of. It was really awesome to see the girls running their booth at the competition and continuing to stay involved with their club throughout the years.

From Left: Sharon, Holly, Lauren, Sarah, Ashleigh, and myself
Another great thing about being a DREAMer in the summertime is being able to participate in the US Figure Skating Synchronized Skating DREAM Camps and Training Festival. This year I was invited to the Midwest DREAM Camp in Vernon Hills, IL. I was able work with a great group of young skaters, alongside my fellow DREAMmates Ashleigh Ostin and Sharon Neff, as well as DREAM alumni Lauren Bracken and Sarah Arnold. Leading the camp were Team USA coaches Jill Cipresso, Lisa Darken, Holly Malewski, and Heather Paige.

Zumba class at Training Festival
Two weeks after the Midwest DREAM camp, all ten DREAM team members and coaches from all over the country gathered in Prior Lake, MN for the National Coaches College and Synchronized Skating Training Festival. This was my second time attending the Training Festival as a DREAM team member, and it was great to meet all of the new DREAMers when we arrived and so much fun to bond with them over the weekend. Training Festival is a great experience because it gives us the chance to work one-on-one with young athletes, as well as assist some of the greatest coaches in the country, all while sharing our love for the sport that brings us all together. I really enjoy being able to interact with younger skaters; seeing their love and enthusiasm for the sport and I hope that working with the DREAM team athletes only inspires them for their skating in years to come. The DREAM Camps and Training Festival were definitely a success this year and I hope that everyone who participated in them had as much fun as I did!

Training Festival 2013
Following the Training Festival, I was able to spend a few days in Minneapolis with one of my close friends who lives in the city. We spent most of our free time strolling around Uptown Minneapolis; which is a fantastic area filled with lots of cool little shops and many interesting people. On my last day there, I was unfortunately unable to get a ride from my friend to the airport. So because of it's close proximity to the Minneapolis–Saint Paul Airport; I spent a few hours on my own at the Mall of America and then took a short taxi ride to my terminal. Needless to say my wallet did not stand a chance… J
DREAM Team 2013
Anyways, I hope everyone’s summer is going well and you are all getting excited for the 2013-2014 competitive season!

Love & Honor,


Photo Credit: Sarah Arnold Photography (