Gliding through Obstacles

Written by: Kaitlin Parisi & Helena Mazzarella

It is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically affected all sports teams. Specifically, Synchronized Skating has faced especially challenging times. With team members coming from various towns, states and even countries, the Adrian College Synchronized Skating Team has had to deal with and adjust to new protocols and procedures to get skaters back on the ice, doing what they love. As new protocols and procedures are being adapted to, team members are eager to do whatever it takes to begin practice and hopefully, in the future, compete. 

The six-foot social distancing standard was, putting it best, not ideal for a sport that ultimately rests on the physical connection between athletes. In the midst of the pandemic when skaters were quarantined at home, many found new ways for training off the ice in hopes to retain and strengthen their previously developed skills. 

Getting back to “normal” ice time varied amongst team members who had to follow regulations that differed between states and countries. Some team members were able to get right back on the ice beginning in May, while others did not have the opportunity to skate before returning to campus. Open Collegiate and Figure Skating Team Member Megan Westphal, from Ohio, stated, “Rinks started opening up at the end of May and others opened the first week of July.”

Senior and Figure Skating Team Member Anne-Claude Champagne, from Canada exclaimed, “Rinks were open in Canada but [she] was not allowed to go skate because they were prioritizing people already on the membership and registered to ice time, and normally I just jump on private ice. This summer was definitely different; I didn’t have the chance to go skate.”

While many skaters never fully returned to “normal” practice schedules, skaters were left to find new creative passions and activities outside of skating. Head Figure Skating Coach and Senior Team Member Nikki Czuhajewski explains, “I started off-ice jumps classes this summer to help give me something to feel like I am still giving something to [the athletes]. I had a lot of fun creating and structuring all of those classes, and seeing all of [the skaters’] faces. 

Collegiate Team Member Kelly Lansdell says that over the summer she was, ”…very grateful for [the team] Zoom workouts. I [also] started running and that gave me something to work on and work towards [such as], running longer distances, and faster, and stuff like that.” 

After a long summer of learning and developing new skills, many were eager to get back to campus and begin team practices. The Senior Synchronized Skating Team was the first team to return to campus after hiatus. With safety being the ultimate priority, there were strict protocols put in place to guide the kickoff of the new season. Included in the initial plan was the establishment of “bubble groups” where the team was split into two groups of twelve skaters. Beginning, practices were conducted socially distanced with masks, sanitation, and temperature check for off ice training. 

As the school year began Senior progressed to on-ice training, continuing with “bubble groups” and eventually resumed full-team practice. Collegiate followed the same protocols as Senior when they began to return to campus. Open Collegiate has yet to begin set protocol. All teams are looking ahead into the future, especially the Intercollegiate Figure Skating Team who unfortunately did not have the opportunity to compete for the 2020 National title. 

Collegiate and Figure Skating Team Member Ally Morin-Viall said, going into this season, “Having [Nationals] cancelled has made [her] even more motivated, hungry, and ready to embrace the whole experience and moment.” 

Skaters were not the only individuals affected by the pandemic. Coaches shared similar experiences when it came to both on and off-ice battles. 

Head Coach Ashley Carlson said “For coaches it is a little bit different. It is up to us to find those resources and those connections for support. It is very easy to feel like you are giving and giving until your well is dry. I think it is important that coaches find ways to take care of themselves and do all of the things we preach for our athletes to do.” 

Carlson finished with, “I have seen in our athletes and myself a refusal to give up. I am very proud of our organization that we haven’t just rolled over, we have said this is what we can’t do, now what can we do. It really has pushed and stretched us to grow.”

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