Synchronized skating is a combination of all disciplines of ice skating: the freestyle elements of the singles discipline, the partner elements, spins and group lifts of the pairs discipline, and the edge quality and turns reflective of the ice dancing division. Not only do we incorporate a little bit of something from every skating discipline, sixteen of us do it in unison. Thirty-two legs have to be on the same step. Thirty-two arms in the same position. Thirty-two blades have to be angled precisely the same way, moving at the same time. The combination of precision, athleticism, grace, flexibility and artistry that is required to be successful in this sport is what makes it unique, and at the same time, so incredibly challenging.
A little over two years ago, U.S. Figure Skating launched a campaign called "Get Up." The slogan is "We Get Up." The idea behind the campaign is simple: when we fall, we have to get back up — both on the ice and in life.
I have never known a group of women more resilient than the ones I am privileged enough to surround myself with each and every day.
At the beginning of the year, my teammates and I sign several waivers that state that we recognize that synchronized skating is a dangerous contact sport (even though we try mightily to avoid that contact!). Every day in practice, people fall. People trip themselves and sometimes trip others. People get dropped. At any given point there are eight or more bodies coming at you at full speed or blades inches away from your face.
My team's motto is "Champion Standard," which means that we strive for excellence in everything that we do. Champion Standard, when applied to student-athletes, requires myriad skills. Even with advance planning, all-nighters happen when an important exam impends, but we still bring a laser focus to practice the morning following that sleepless night. Champion Standard means that when you are in the gym and your arms are burning so badly that you cannot possibly do another chin-up, you find the inner strength to do two more. Champion standard means that when you are going through personal trials and tribulations, and you don't think you can possibly face everything the next day holds, you do it anyway.
Where do you find the fortitude to meet this standard? It comes from the knowledge that you are a part of a whole—part of something that is larger than you. Champion Standard is holding each other up when it's needed and pushing each other above and beyond what is expected or even thought to be possible.
The public gets to see the end result of this process. But they do not see the 99.9% of the effort that leads to those results. They do not see the blood, sweat and tears that led to the end result. They don’t see the stitches from being bladed. They don’t see times when we fall just short of our goals — the times when we are just slightly "off."
The public also sees the times when we fail to reach our goals — when we fall short of our best. There are times when we fall literally and figuratively. We fall and take a long time to get back into the program. We get a bad grade on an exam. We lose.
Ice is slippery. Life is messy. Failure is inevitable. We set goals and we don't always reach them. Every day is not great or even good. That is the danger of being in the arena. That is the danger of trying. Sometimes we come up short.
But what sets us apart is that we do not fail for good; we do not give up. Perhaps if we were skating for ourselves, we would succumb to the pressures. But we are not. We skate for each other and for our school. On the days when we find it hard to do it for ourselves, we dig a little deeper and do it for our teammates. When we fall, we get up and we make sure that the same mistake doesn't happen the next time. When we are exhausted and discouraged, we have just to look to the right and to the left. Those are people we do not want to let down. Those are people we will not let down. And so we reach down and find a will do succeed.
Each day is a new day. A new day to give it our all. A day to contribute to a collective goal. A day to fight to win. My team is different.
We Get Up.