Bad Vibes

The sport of figure skating is known for many things.

Two characteristics in particular stand out to me:

1) It requires a lot of mental strength to be a skilled skater. 2) This sport is a bitch.

Bad vibes are a lot more than negativity. Often times they don't even look like someone being "negative". While we meditate, visualize the jumps and programs we're training, and create vision boards dedicated to the success we hope to achieve on the ice, every skaters also has a story about bad vibes they've encountered by other skaters.

It looks like:

  • someone intentionally cutting you off during practice.
  • cliques formed by skaters who can afford the latest trends.
  • white girls warning each other to protect their stuff when black and brown girls show up.
  • boys being valued like a rare treasure and getting away with...basically everything.
  • hard work only being measured by medals won.
  • points being awarded for a woman's femininity and a man's masculinity.
  • "underserved" skaters being treated like "charity" and being held to different/higher behavioral standards
  • questioning a person's food choices.
  • parents and other skaters measuring up your skills before introducing themselves.

And it looks like people—skaters, coaches, parents, board members—calling you "negative" and "divisive" when you bring this stuff up. Or at most, acknowledging these things then preaching a list of their good deeds as an attempted "get out of jail free" card. 

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There are two basic outlooks on this sport:

1) So few people will make it to be globally successful, so you've got to fight for every inch you can get.

OR

2) So few people will make it to be globally successful, so if you're going to work at it then you've got to find a way to love every moment of what you do, to value the sweat that you put into each practice and opportunity, and to contribute to making a skating community that is supportive, welcoming, and protective of every person's humanity and dignity.

I choose #2.

That does not mean that it's our responsibility to fix everything. For those of us with some power–it's our duty to work at it. But mostly, for all of us, our work is to create ourselves and our tribe to be this type of commitment to skating. 

So how do we do that? Here are some ways:

  • Be explicit. State your mind to your coach, your friends. Make a commitment to each other.
  • Be supportive. Make an effort to congratulate other skaters on their big and small wins. From "way to go on that gold medal" to "damn girl, your back cross-overs today were amazing". Help each other up. Laugh together. Carry extra hair elastics.
  • Dare to be joyful. Remember that time Mirai Nagasu became the first American woman to land a triple axel in the Olympics then when she came in 10th overall the papers went off on how she was "too happy"? This sport expects you to earn your happiness and its followers—right down to the journalists—will try and remind you of that. So dare to be expressive and grateful and joyful about every little thing. And never apologize for it.
  • Take some time outside. Do something with your skating friends that has nothing to do with skating. Go to an art class. Have a picnic. Go to the movies. Have a dance party. Find a way to remind each other that you're whole humans and not just skaters.
  • Take some time inside. Take some time to be simply in your own mind and body. Don't even turn on a guided yoga or meditation. Simply hit that mat or the cushion or the floor or wherever, turn on some music (here, I made you a playlist), and just move. Stretch. Breathe. Listen to your own thoughts. Avoid judgment. It may feel weird at first, but as soon as you realize that it's weirder that we rarely have moments where no one and nothing is telling us what to do, think, and feel, the more amazing it is to take this time to just show up to yourself. 

Practicing all of these things (and they will take practice) will help train your mind and behavior to be a better commitment to yourself and to each other. Because if you're fully committed to skating but you lose yourself and we lose each other, then what even do we have?