Years ago, I met a wheat-colored young tomcat, big-boned, generous of stride, open of countenance, with a rich, thick shorthair coat. I was reminded of this cat during Audrey Weisiger's off-ice jumping seminar, watching Tom Zakrajsek (best known as Ryan Bradley's coach) run through the exercises. Zakrajsek is an attractive man, but when he moved with his trained athlete's power, it was a different sort of beauty altogether. Audrey Weisiger underwent the same change: in street clothes, she is chic, but when moving with her perfect carriage, she is beautiful. This was perhaps the most striking thing I took away from an unusually fun seminar.
Weisiger divided her demonstrators into two teams: Frank Carroll and Zakrajsek on her right, and Nick Perna (who works with Weisiger and Michael Weiss) and judge Charlie Cyr on her left. She had them competing against each other to see who could better execute the exercises she teaches to young children to help with alignment, rotational skills, power, and quickness, and triggered gales of laughter whenever she addressed them as though they were five years old.
She started them off with Beanie Babies on their heads to help with posture. Each person folded arms in front of them and walked in a straight line: first forward, then backward, then forward with eyes closed and backward with eyes closed. Each exercise was repeated in these four ways.
Then they walked with arms down by sides, which is a little harder because it can introduce a body lean. Frank Carroll won applause for his stylish steadiness. Then with long strides, in more of a lunge position, and toe walks to strengthen core and calves. Nobody dropped their Beanie Babies.
Then she had them jump straight up, with their arms folded, then in 5th position with arms overhead, then while turning one revolution with arms folded and then overhead. She was looking for them to hit the peak of the jump first, and then turn, and said often people tend to drop their outside shoulders and fall on that side when doing this. She added that initially, she teaches all moves going in both directions, in the ballet tradition of encouraging equal body development rather than the one-sidedness of skating. They finished with one-revolution jumps with right arm up and right hand on left shoulder, left hand on right hip.
She asked Zakrajsek to do a two-revolution jump, which is when I started thinking about that tomcat -- she told him to wind up his shoulders and then *snap*, and his jump was so leisurely and powerful and controlled, landing exactly as he had taken off. At this, the other three couldn't stand it and each had to try it, Carroll even managing 1.5 turns to the delight of the audience.
Then Weisiger really hit her stride. She had them hold their arms straight out and hop up three times -- "Straighten your leg in the air, Tom!" Then hops with arms in 5th position. Then arms folded, jump quarter turn, hold; then half turn; then one revolution in loop jump position ("You wrapped!!!" from the audience). Then in the other direction.
Irresistibly, Weisiger coached Carroll. She had him practice jumping straight up with his hands slightly behind the top of his head: "This is a good exercise for Frank," she said, as if he were five, "because he tends to hold his head forward, and we can try to open up his back." (This may have been the point when she noted that she owed her demonstrators lunch and drinks for being such good sports.)
Then she had them crossing the floor in jetés, forward and back. She wanted them to explode up and hold it, pointing their free toes, using their arms in various positions, to help train for lift on axels and loops. She will sometimes add weights to skaters' ankles for this exercise. Then standing broad jumps on both feet and then one foot, with arms folded, then backward hops on one foot with arms folded. Squat jumps, tuck jumps for explosion on flying sits (Zakrajsek demonstrated), standing splits facing left and then right, then Russian splits (Carroll's drew applause).
For quickness and coordination, she had them do Riverdance-like steps crossing and uncrossing each foot in front of the other.
Weisiger shared some approaches she's developed. Some coaches have great success teaching actual jumps on the ground, but she doesn't because she finds that when skaters don't have the blade to work with, they will invent other ways to turn. She uses radar guns and jump sticks (you jump up and touch the highest point you can) so skaters can measure their progress. And she tells them that she wants them to learn standing still in the air, to achieve clean rotating positions.