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!


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.


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!


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Haydenettes Travel to Worlds

The Haydenettes have made it to Italy! It was quite the trip getting to Courmayeur, but well worth the journey.  The city is absolutely beautiful, tucked in-between monstrous mountains with snow-covered peaks. 

The Alps from the plane (Photo Credit: Abby Goslin)
We began in Boston, leaving around 5pm Eastern time.  Just about 12 hours later we arrived at our beautiful destination tucked in the Alps.
Not long after arriving, we headed to the official rink to practice. After getting a bit confused, one could say lost, we found a nice young man working the competition who was able to help us find our way.
 Walking through Courmayeur on our way to practice (photo credit: Jenna Longo)
It was a solid practice. We ran through each element in both programs, focusing on feeling the ice we will be competing on later this week.

View from the balcony of our hotel (photo credit: Audrey McQuade)

We could not be more excited for the week to come!

-Lindsay and Ashley

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Start of Our Journey!

The past month of training since making the World Team in Colorado has been so amazing.  We can’t believe we have finally started our journey in Pralognan la Vanoise, France.  We arrived Saturday night and began our altitude training the next morning.  On Sunday, we had two practices that allowed us to get used to the altitude that we will be experiencing when we compete in Italy.  After our practices, we decided to take a walk around this quaint little town.  It was beautiful to be surrounded by all of these breathtaking mountains.  We stopped to get some nutella and caramel crepes and after a little shopping, we made our way back to the hotel for some dinner and mingling with Team France.

The next morning, we got up and made our way back to the rink via a nice morning walk.  After some more practicing, we were able to spend the last hour doing skills and drills with Team France and Cathy Dalton.  It was a lot of fun learning some of their drills and for them to be able to learn some of ours.  It was definitely a unique experience that was so much fun for both Team France and us.  It was so cool to be able to come together and share our common language- skating!  Following practices, we grabbed a quick lunch and took a gondola to the top of the mountains.  There, we walked around and took a lot of fun photos.  The view was absolutely gorgeous!  As our day came to a conclusion, we had a little off- ice and then had dinner with Team France.

Tomorrow is our last day and then we will be off to Courmayeur, Italy! We can’t wait to see all the teams that will be competing.  Thank you, Team France (Team Les Zoulous) for all your generous hospitality! 

                                                        Sharon and Katilyn 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Team Braemar in Milan

Day 5: Team Braemar woke up at 6am excited and ready to go! We all got ready, had a quick (and delicious!) breakfast, and then it was off to the competition rink for official short program practice. We warmed up in the sunny outdoors, which was nice with all the fresh air and space. We then went into locker room #5 to get ready for our official practice. Official was great and steady, leaving us confident for the competition later that night. 

We returned to the hotel to start makeup, and then we had absolutely amazing spaghetti! Following lunch, we continued with our team makeup. Once everyone was finished, Team Braemar was transformed into Cruella! And we were off to the rink! Unfortunately, the weather became a little overcast, so we could not really warm up outside, but it turned out that warming up inside was just fine! We became very energized by our warm up as we were focused in on our team and our program. It was then off to the locker room.

We all got ready, making sure our skates felt good and sliding on our long red gloves. We were ready to go, and feeling the benefits of all the run-throughs of our programs at home.  We were no longer nervous because we had done our short program so many times. We were just excited to go out and perform for the audience and judges. We had a strong short that seemed to get stronger as it went on. After our skate, waiting in the kiss-and-cry felt like forever! We finally received our scores, which was a total of 48.30 points! We were so happy-it was the highest short program score we had received all season! We got back to the hotel, had a once again delicious dinner, quick floor practice and we were off to bed, antsy to skate our long program the next day. We are feeling ready and prepared for the long program!

Ciao Bella!

Sage Kelner & Jillian Christie
Captains for Team Braemar Junior

Friday, February 14, 2014

Buon San Valentino (Happy Valentine’s Day) from the Hockettes!

We’ve had a jam packed first two days, but we are soaking up the Italian culture and eating lots of tasty food! We arrived in Milan on Thursday, toured the city, saw the beautiful Duomo, and took lots of pictures. We skated a short unofficial practice and got used to the ice. The rink is amazing, and it has an incredible atmosphere that we are looking forward to compete in. After we skated, we went back to the hotel to eat dinner and get some sleep for the next busy day.

To kick off our day we started with an unofficial practice at eight, and received valentines from our loving parents. We then went on a forty-five minute bus ride to Lake Como! As soon as we got there we thought it would be fun to do a little off-ice practice of our program in the city square. With the background of the lake, we had lots of locals watching us run through our short program. After we finished they all clapped and asked what we did, and where we were from. We then boarded the boat and got to see the views of Lake Como and the Swiss Alps. It was one of the most beautiful cities we have ever seen! We did a little shopping, ate a great lunch, and came back for the Team USA dinner.

We started off our dinner with playing a couple games to get to know each other as Team USA. We enjoyed our dinner and talking to the other U.S. teams. One of our favorite parts about international competitions is being able to talk to teams from all over the world. We loved interacting with all of the other skaters. We are so excited to represent Team USA tomorrow as the competition begins! We hope that all of Team USA has great skates and an incredible experience here at the Spring Cup!


Lindsey Maynard and Maddie Shipman from Hockettes Junior

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Red, White and Blue

I am writing to you after returning once again from one of the most incredible competitions held in the Synchronized Skating community, the French Cup! This year was extra special as the competition celebrated its 20th anniversary. Spending time around those who made the competition come to life, it was clear what a special sport La Patinage Synchronis has truly become.
Before the competition began all of the athletes marched through the streets of Rouen following the flag of their country, just as my fellow dreamer Ashely Tomich described earlier.  This parade was no little event. There were local citizens waving from shops and windows as we weaved through the streets chanting for our countries. What stood out was a group of young French citizens who actually followed the United States team, chanting alongside us  “USA, USA”!
After having a blast at the parade it was time to get to business. The next two days were filled with competition at the novice, junior and senior levels. The junior and senior competition each had over 15 teams competing! We took the ice for our short program Friday night, bringing some spice with our “Belly dancing Evolution” program. We were very pleased with our skate and earned a season best score of 67 points.
Saturday night was the long program competition. After preparing to skate we were taken to a small room next to the rink where the roar of the crowd could already be heard. When we began to walk through the swinging doors, the rink came alive. There was not an empty seat in the arena. Even the stairs were filled with people hoping to get a look at the ice. As we lined up, removing our guards we could already hear the chants, “USA, USA, USA”! Absolutely nothing could beat the surge of energy that came from hearing “Next to the ice, representing the United States of America, The Haydenettes”! In that moment there was a wave of emotion and an unexplainable high. It was a moment worth all the hard work, dedication and sacrifice. And after that moment, we got to do what we love most, skate.

Overall we ended the competition feeling very happy with both of our skates. The level of competition is constantly growing in our sport, challenging us all to push ourselves even further.  We can’t wait to get back to the rink and continue working toward our end of the season goals!
Keep on Dreamin’-


Monday, February 3, 2014

Au Revoir, la France! Recap on Our French Cup Experience

What an honor it was to be offered the privilege of being a part of the 20th French Cup Synchronized Skating Competition!  The amazing week started on Tuesday when we landed at the Paris-de Gaulle Airport.  Our tour guide, Desiree, led us to our bus and took us on our tour of Paris. The first stop of the day was lunch at the Hard Rock CafĂ©-Paris. We were then shown many beautiful historical monuments like the Arc De Triomphe, the Notre Dame, the Palais de Justice-Paris, the Lock Bridge, and many more.  Our favorite part of the tour was when we had the opportunity to not only see the EiffelTower, but to also be able to go to the very top.  The beautiful panoramic views of the “most romantic city in the world” were breathtaking.  Soon after our exploration of the Eiffel Tower, Desiree took us to shop at one of the most famous streets in the world; the Champs Elysee.  Before we knew it, we were loading our bus with shopping bags in one hand and a quick Parisian dinner in the other.  It was time to continue to Rouen.

As Wednesday arrived, we headed down to the lobby for a nice team breakfast.  Soon after, we were off to the competition rink for our first practice.  It was really nice to be able to get familiar with the ice and our surroundings.  We were really happy with what we had put out there especially after an eight-hour flight and a long day of touring.  Dinnertime quickly approached and we went to our favorite pizzeria, Pizza Pai, where we also celebrated a teammate's birthday.  We surprised her with a cute card and some really good cake.  It was a fun night. 

Wednesday quickly blended into Thursday and we were up at breakfast and quickly at the rink for the next practice.  With another solid practice under our feet, we were feeling very confident in what we had to offer.  We were so excited for the competition to finally begin.  With a two-hour break, we headed back into the city of Rouen for a quick lunch and some more exploration and shopping time.  We had another successful practice that same day that left us feeling better than we did at our earlier practice.  It was nice to hear our coach, Holly, telling us how proud she was of our consistency and teamwork.  With those last practices under our belt before competition, it was time for the competitor’s parade.  It was exciting to walk the streets of Rouen with all the other competitors from different countries around the world.  It ended with a fun flashmob in front of the Palais de Justice-Rouen.  It was a blast! When that was finishing up, Katilyn and I made our way into the building for the draw ceremony with Holly.  After the welcoming speeches, the ceremony began and we found ourselves walking up to this adorable little macaroon stand where we picked a random blue macaroon. The number we’d be skating was on the bottom.  We were ecstatic that we picked twelfth to skate in the short.   We then joined our team at dinner and told them the news about the skating order for the short program.
Competition day quickly snuck up on us and we were boarding the bus for our official practice.  We met up with our team leader, Rick Perez, our team doctor, Carrie, and helping hand, Lois Long, who all gave us encouraging speeches.  Our official practice left us with positive vibes and feelings of readiness and confidence.  We were eager to show everyone a great short program.  We returned to the hotel for rest time, a quick lunch, and then got ready for the competition.  When the primping was finished, we put on our beautiful dresses and hit the road.  We took the ice and the atmosphere was incredible.  It was filled with school children, families, teams, and other spectators.  The two minutes and fifty seconds flew by and before we knew it, we were in the kiss and cry receiving our scores.  We were extremely pleased with our performance and couldn’t wait to show everyone our free skate. The long day ended with a quick dinner back at the hotel and everyone was so happy to get to bed.
Saturday was more or less the same as Friday.  We woke up and went to official practice after our breakfast.  With a quick warm-up, we were lacing our skates for our last practice in France.  Although it was not a perfect practice, we felt good about saving our best performance for later that night.  Like Friday, we arrived back at the hotel for some rest time and a quick lunch.  It was then time to primp for our unique long program.  With our crazy makeup and zig-zag parts, we walked out of the hotel to our bus.  It was time to take the opportunity to show everyone how much we had improved.  While we still did not have a perfect skate, we were incredibly proud that we had two clean skates, and overall, a successful week.  As the competition ended, we ended the day with a quick celebration with our families at dinner.  It was nice to see them after the long week. 
Congratulations to all the teams who competed this week, it was truly a great competition!  We were so thrilled that we were able to compete with some of the best teams in the world.  We want to thank Rick Perez, Lois Long, Cathy Dalton, Carrie (our awesome team doctor), our coaches, managers, and families for all of their support and love.  The Crystallettes are proud of all the immense work everyone has put forward and we cannot wait until the next competition.  Next stop, NATIONALS!!! Can’t wait to see everyone!

Au Revoir,
Sharon and Katilyn