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June 16, 2022
Spirit Animal: Phoenix
Coach: University of Toronto Varsity Blues
Country: USA & Canada
Key Word: r e s i l i e n c e
You may have noticed that we’ve been a bit absent from social media, delayed in shipping and lacking some communication recently… and if you haven’t, well, we are here to re-introduce ourselves as a brand, our woes and lessons of running a small business launched in the midst of a pandemic, encountering additional supply chain issues (like the rest of the world), and having interns located in Ukraine when the crisis initially broke out.
In addition, and more intimately, I would also like to formally introduce myself as a skater, varsity coach, newly single mother of three beautiful boys, and owner of this business.
I, we, are in no way asking for empathy as a company, but rather simply hoping to be as transparent with our customers, #ChampionsLeague members and community as a whole, as much as humanly possible.
I felt as though it would be insensitive to our Candid Athletics Community to simply begin reposting on Instagram and publishing new features without first addressing the silence over the past few months. While I also very much understand that business is business, and that there is a separation between that and my personal life, I am a representative of the brand myself and I recognize the importance of also sharing my story in its entirety, including more recent events that have contributed to the backlog that we are currently trying to rectify.
Let’s start at the beginning.
So… as the story goes, my mom first took me to a public skating session at the age of four and I fell in love with the sport. Soon after, I began taking lessons and competed in my first competition.
Growing up in Northern Virginia and a member of the Washington Figure Skating Club, I was surrounded by world renowned coaches and athletes. Needles-to-say, the environment definitely served as a source of motivation for me in and of itself.
The rink was my home away from home. A place where I could be myself away from anything or anyone else. I lived pretty far from any major training centers so no one from my school or neighbourhood really skated, at least not competitively, and it was something that made me unique. It was mine, and something that no one could take away from me.
There is no sound or feeling quite like listening to deep edges as you warm up on an early morning session and feel the cool breeze on your face... sometimes making your eyes water, but totally worth it. It’s indescribable.
The feeling of performing an element flawlessly or just absolutely flowing out of a clean jump element on your back outside edge is so satisfying to the body. It almost makes everything feel easier, you know the moment it clicks and you often end up asking yourself, “like why did I struggle on that for so long, it’s so simple, it feels great, I got it.”… and then you fall on the next 10 attempts and want to kick the ice… Or is that just me?
The challenge and sense of accomplishment that I would feel after achieving a new skill or ending up on the podium after an event definitely kept my interest but like most, also lead to cyclical frustration at times.
The adrenaline of competing and performing was also a huge part of my love for the sport. Learning that your nerves are just ‘extra energy’ and channeling that in a positive and constructive way is a skill I think we all have to develop; once mastered, we can exponentially grow as both an athlete and person.
While I trained with a number of coaches throughout the years, Holly Eisenhour was my head/base coach for the entirety of my competitive career and will forever be an important figure in my life. I competed in singles and also trained in the discipline of ice dancing, once in my early teens with my first partner, Patrick Mays, and again in university.
Skating competitively until the age of 14, I acquired a variety of medals but no major titles and decided to take some time off to focus on competitive dancing and cheerleading. About a year and a half later, I returned to the ice.
I began assistant coaching at the age of 15 at a local rink and was hired as a head coach a few months later, right after I turned 16 (the legal working age at the time). I took on my own students and trained them for ISI (Ice Skating Institute) competitions in the DMV (Delaware/Maryland/Virginia) area as well as USFSA testing and events.
It was at this time that I truly fell back in love with skating and began training again myself. I was honestly never more motivated, always the first to arrive in the morning and last to leave in the evening.
At this time, I worked with a handful of new coaches, including Renate Gilroy, who ironically also coached Holly as a child.
During my senior year of high school, I tore my ACL, strangely enough, my first major injury. There’s not even a cool story behind it, but it did happen on the ice. After multiple doctors’ appointments, MRIs and ultrasounds, I received a second option, that approximately 15% of the ligament was still attached and therefore I could try a rigorous physical therapy regimen vs surgery in hopes that the scar tissue would form in a specific way + strengthening my secondary stabilizing muscles would be sufficient enough for me to continue participation in sport.
Luckily, after months of treatment, and literally not being able to jump more than 1 inch off of the ground, I was good to go!
This was definitely a major turning point in my life, and I decided to attend the University of Delaware to study Athletic Training and double minor in Strength + Conditioning in conjunction with Figure Skating Coaching Science… all while training and competing in the collegiate system and coaching on the weekends.
To train under the likes of Barbara Roles-Williams, Joel McKeever and Sasha Kirsanov, I also completed mentorship and observation hours under additional coaches such as the infamous Ron Ludington, Scott Gregory and Jeff DiGregorio to complete my coaching practicums.
Additionally, skaters from around the world would come to train and I had the opportunity to sit in on labs analyzing their elements using biomechanical testing programs to further my coaching education.
On the competitive side, it was at this time that I also decided to focus more on solo ice dance events and programs in addition to freeskate. There were a handful of teams that represented Team USA internationally in dance and it was an honour to be able to not only train with them, but to become a close-knit group of friends.
In 2011, I competed in 4 events at US Collegiate Team Nationals held at the University of Michigan, medalling in each, and contributing to UD’s first national title in 9 years… It also happened to be my 20th birthday… I’m sure you can imagine how much fun we had on that flight home.
Collegiate skating was an absolutely life changing experience and is a huge proponent for my life today.
Not only did it provide tremendous support for my personal university experience and ambition, but it was also the precursor for me to begin searching for more professional outlets to take my skating and dance career.
After winning Nationals in 2011, I auditioned for the NHL Philadelphia Flyers Ice Girls and made my first professional team! Now, while we all know that you do not need to be an Olympic medalist to participate on teams like this, it is an all-encompassing role that not only takes your skating skills into consideration, but also your self-discipline, time management, self-care and personality when interacting with others, all skills to which my competitive skating career attributed to.
This quickly led to me additionally auditioning for and participating on the AFL Philadelphia SoulMates Dance Team and later the NHL New Jersey Devils Dancers. Again, still while coaching in rinks in and around Philadelphia and Delaware. At the end of my season with the Devils, I lined up a new coaching opportunity at the Florida Panthers Ice Den in Coral Springs, Florida so that I could make the move to Miami, where I planned to audition for the NBA Miami Heat Dancers… the best dance team in the NBA. IYKYK.
After months of literal blood, sweat, tears, throwing up in the ‘feel better bucket’ (thanks Peter Marrero), balancing a new job and moving to a new state, I am proud to say that I had the opportunity to represent both an NHL training center and NBA dance team simultaneously.
I had the pleasure of working with world renowned coaches such as John Zimmerman, John Kerr and Jeremy Barrett only to leave the rink and dance on court with performers like Flo Rida… all while having D Wade stand 10 feet away with his stunning wife, Gab Union, in the stands watching us.
Yes, I am 100% name dropping, but wouldn’t you?!
Now, you may be asking yourself, how does this all tie in together?
Well, it was all of these experiences combined that would truly set my life up when I made the move to Canada in April of 2015…. little did I know.
Upon my arrival, I returned to school and received a degree in psychology from York University. I also worked with Skate Canada to transfer my credentials from USFSA and UD to meet appropriate coaching requirements and was blessed with the opportunity become the new head coach of the University of Toronto Varsity Figure Skating Team as well as to begin coaching at Burlington Skating Centre in 2018.
Up until that point, I was coaching at non-sanctioned clubs, privately rented ice, and teaching off-ice classes in Burlington as well as choreographing for competitive dance programs throughout the GTA.
Now entering my 5th season with the Varsity Blues, I am proud and honoured to say that I was able to coach the team to a 6th consecutive OUA title in March of 2022. While we definitely experienced our own trials and tribulations as a team, re-adjusting to training during COVID, balancing the re-introduction to in-person learning with a rigorous practice schedule, on top of behind-the-scenes trauma that I was experiencing, I have to admit, and I believe the team would join me in saying, that this was probably the best season yet! (except for that one Friday morning where I slightly lost my mind…we’ll get there.)
While being the head coach of the team, I’ve learned one of the most important rules, better yet, responsibilities of all. Delegation.
It doesn’t matter how amazing of a coach you are, you cannot do it all! You do not see it all! You often hear of skaters, perhaps yourself included, having coaching teams, and I think that this is the most important knowledge any coach can have. The varsity team would not be as successful as it is today if it weren’t for our specific event coaches, lead assistant Sophia Shim, and renowned guest coaches that have had the opportunity to work with our skaters and focus on specific needs of individuals all while benefiting the team as a whole.
We all work cohesively together toward a common goal; remaining undefeated while providing an exceptional experience for the student athletes… maybe we can have some fun too.. just not during synchro practice please!
But seriously, the members of the Varsity Blues Varsity Figure Skating Team, supporting faculty, and all of our coaches, are a true example of how teamwork truly does make the dream work. I cannot thank all of the individuals involved enough for not only trusting me with this role, but also always believing in me, dealing with my antics, and ultimately leading me to develop Candid Athletics.
Additionally, the combination of being on a National Championship Team, my diverse experiences when working with multiple professional franchises, as well as my university education have all played an integral role in structuring my coaching style as well as Varsity team structure over the years. On a larger and more relevant scale, this combination is also responsible for conceiving the notion behind the #ChampionshipMindset and everything that Candid Athletics stands for.
If you’ve ever watched the documentary, “The Weight of Gold”, you would know that beyond addressing the post-Olympic blues and depression often seen in athletes’ post-competitive career, it also does a great job at introducing the concept of HyperFocus; which often leads to some of the more severe cases noted in the documentary.
As an athlete, it is very common to be consumed with sport. This can either lead an individual to feeling lost and indecisive when deciding what to do next in life once they are done training and competing, or it can have the opposing dramatic effect of transferring that same level of HyperFocus onto a new path.
In my case, I have experienced a little bit, perhaps a lot a bit, of both.
I would like to preface by saying that while I do have a degree in Psychology, I am not a doctor. I am simply sharing my experience in conjunction with a diagnosis that I have been given in a hope to normalize the discussion around these experiences amongst our community and elsewhere.
For the entirety of my life, I can say that when I want something, truly want something, I commit myself to it and will essentially stop at nothing until I achieve it. On the flip-side, if I’m not 100% committed, you could basically say that I am uninterested. This goes for all aspects of life; sports, a class in school, choreography for a new program that just doesn’t fit my personality, and yes… even people and relationships.
Now I think we can immediately identify how unhealthy this can be, but it has also proven to drive success; not only for myself, but probably yourself to some degree.
While my success driven through HyperFocus has been displayed in attaining certain professional roles, becoming a mom of 3 under 3 before 30, maintaining my physical health post sport and pregnancy, and developing a thriving business during COVID, it has proven to be an inhibiting factor when initially deciding my career path during university as well as in some of my personal relationships. Simply because,
I do not fear failure, I refuse failure...