PSA 2001 Member Meeting, Draw Class

I attended part of the general business PSA meeting. There was a recap of business from the USFSA Governing Council meeting that had taken place in Las Vegas a couple of weeks before. The big issue there had been redistricting, or splitting the country into new sections. Currently, the Eastern and Midwestern sections have 42% each of the country's skaters, and the Pacific only 14%. In the future, the USFSA will keep a closer eye on these kinds of numbers, to prevent such an imbalance from occurring again.

This is the first year that coaches can vote at Governing Council! PSA coaches were encouraged to reinstate so they can be on the Board of Directors, or be a delegate, if they so choose. Hey, athletes are getting a bigger voice in the USFSA -- why not coaches? It can only help. And I'm all for anything that'll help familiarize coaches with how "the USFSA" works, so they can understand, participate, and not be afraid of the organization as a monolith.

There have been budget cuts, because "TV contracts are petering out." The Sports Science committee was cut 60%, and Athlete Development about 34%. My personal guess is that the sport will survive. There's been an ambivalent attitude toward skating's new riches since 1994 anyway, and the call within the coaches' ranks is often for training funds to go to individual, lower-ranked skaters, rather than R&D.

Finally, electronic filing on the USFSA website will be available for competitors for regionals this season, and this is recommended.

The PSA has moved into new headquarters. Now, as some on rssif can attest, I am very difficult to amuse. But I admit that I found the video introducing the new headquarters to be a riot. The shtick was that Carole Shulman, outgoing PSA president, had forgotten the video at home in Rochester, Minnesota. So she ran out of the conference room to get it. Then onscreen, we saw a video of her running into her Mercedes parked outside the Rio Suites (to the tune of the William Tell Overture), flying back to Minnesota, running into the new PSA lobby with all the bronze sculptures (soundtrack changed to harp music for that section), and grabbing "the video" off her new desk while waving to her coworkers. On the way back, the camera followed her to a pit stop at the airport restroom, showed shots out the plane window as she "flew" back to Las Vegas, followed her being wheeled in a wheelchair in exhaustion back to the Rio, playing a slot machine and gulping water en route back to the conference room, and finally taking off her shoes in a last-minute sprint (whereupon the real-life Carole Shulman burst back into the conference room, waving an envelope).

I didn't expect to find it funny. But I did. It was adorable.

Directly after the meeting, we met for one of Kathy Casey's famous draw classes. These are classes in which she draws tracings on poster paper with magic markers, and explains what they mean. This way, if you know your skater is having trouble on a certain jump but you're not sure how to fix it, you can check the skater's tracing against Casey's guide and that'll tell you what body positions need to be adjusted to make for a correct jump.

This is one of those infuriating times when I've decided that I simply cannnot convey the lessons of this class through a written report. I can tell you that at least in the past year, Professional Skater magazine has had an article from Casey about this, complete with drawings. Other than that, though, I can only try to give you an idea of what the class was like.

Among the many things she said about axels, she said the important thing is to maintain your line of travel into the jump. You step forward slightly outside the circle. If your step is directly on the circle, you'll land in a U. Inside the circle, you'll end up landing back where you came from (I've seen those -- it looks like a colossal waste of energy).

A jump moves in a parabola: it goes up, curves, and comes back at the same angle going down. She noted that she was surprised -- somehow, she'd expected that the skater might travel so far climbing into the arc of the jump, and then travel less and come down sooner after reaching the peak. I realized I kind of had that notion, too! Once in the air, the jump's turns will go in a straight line until landing.

She said she dreads teaching salchows to small children who are coming of age after figures, because she has to teach them first how to do the 3turns, and keep sustained movement. If she doesn't, she said, "they'll just go winging around without checking." Because students are not learning to control their edges as well these days, she's seeing more salchows and flips coming from mohawks and back three mohawks, which are easier to check.

The media and judge focus on the flutz, as opposed to other jump errors, caused more than one coach at this conference to roll her eyes. "I guess I don't have to comment on the most common mistake on the lutz," said Casey, other than that judges are getting way harder on the flutz. Speaking of flutzes, Casey said, "I guess the best example I can think of, and a few of us in this room have been through this," and then she did something a little shocking, thoroughly funny, in the "it's not mean if it's true" category: she asked everyone present who had ever coached Nicole Bobek to raise their hand! And at least three did! That's when you really know you're at a coach's conference! Casey is part of that élite, and reminded everyone how they would toil to correct that lutz entry edge of hers, and then when she was under pressure, boom, there it would go onto the inside edge again.

Anyway, no one was saying that a flutz is easy to fix. Casey singled out Elena Sokolova as someone who used to have a wicked one, and has fixed it completely under Mishin. "I really take my hat off to her," said Casey.

Perhaps those wanting a better understanding of the draw class can contact the PSA and ask for a back issue containing Casey's work.

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