Posts Tagged ‘adult figure skater’

“Get Up” with a wonderful series of books about all kinds of figure skaters – an interview with Joanne Vassallo Jamrosz

Joanne and her husband Greg with Olympic Champion Scott Hamilton, on ice, at his Skate to Eliminate Cancer event at the 2017 US Figure Skating Championships in Kansas City.

I continue my monthly blog series based on US Figure Skating’s popular “Get Up” campaign which shares the message that life, like the ice, is hard, and we can certainly fall on it. But the more times we get up and persevere, the stronger we become.

For October, I interview Joanne Vassallo Jamrosz, an adult figure skater and fan who has published a wonderful series of books featuring dozens of skater and coaches, famous and not-so-famous, who have each gotten up from trials and hardships to grow their love for figure skating. And I am thrilled that my story as an adult skater starting at the age of 59 is included in her newest book just out, “Skating Forward – Olympic Memories, Olympic Spirit.”

Stan: Joanne, first can you share about how you got interested in figure skating as a fan and participant?

Joanne: I began ice skating during the summer of 1988. I was 29 years old. I was home, sick in bed with the flu, during the 1988 Olympics. So I watched a lot of skating! I remembered loving skating as a child and thought, why not take lessons? Adult skating was just coming to our skating programs across the country so I joined our local club The Clinton Figure Skating Club that fall. I started learning the basics then graduated to testing some of the ice dances. As a fan, my husband Greg and I attended our first marquee event in the fall of 2009 when we went to Skate America in Lake Placid. We also attended our first Friends of Figure Skating Breakfast at that event as well. From there we went to our first Nationals in Spokane (it was also the year Skating Forward book one debuted). What can I say? We were now true skating fans and every year we put Skate America and the U.S. Championships on our travel schedule.


Stan: What then inspired you to write your first book, “Skating Forward?”

Joanne enjoys meeting her favorite skaters, like 2015 Men’s champion Jason Brown, who she met at the 2013 Detroit Skate America Friends of Figure Skating breakfast.

Joanne: I am journalism major. I loved to write, even as a little girl, I would spend hours writing stories. But the inspiration really began in 1991. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32, just when I was getting my skating legs under me. It was a long year of surgery, chemo, radiation and recovery-but what got me through was my skating. My coach at the time Jason Dilworth would come in before the morning skaters, at around 6 AM, just so I could stroke around and move on my good days. It’s why I think I did so well and recovered so well. It was being on the ice. Not long after I did a little trial judging and I wrote about the experience and sent it to Skating Magazine. It was published! That did it. I began focusing on the two things I loved most, Skating and writing. I still contribute to the magazine today.

The Skating Forward books began in 2009. I was recovering from an accident (broken hip). I wrote some features for the US Figure Skating web page, and they all coincidentally were about some amazing young skaters who faced some pretty tough circumstances in their lives but kept on skating. I thought what a GREAT idea for a book. So I reached out to coaching friends for names of some inspiring skaters to profile (and received more stories then I could possibly have room to publish). Still do to this day. I think I could write skating Forward books for the next 20 years. We have so many incredible skaters out there and their personal stories are AMAZING, and very few people know about them. So it’s my honor and joy to feature them.


Stan: Do you feature a “get up” theme through the stories you share in the books?

Joanne: All of the stories do indeed have a Get Up theme. Not everyone survived a tough illness (although I have profiled cancer survivors, Tourette’s Syndrome, Lyme Disease, Juvenile Diabetes, hearing disorders, epilepsy) and on and on. But I’ve also profiled a coach who devotes her life to autism awareness because she has a young son with autism spectrum disorder. Another adult skater began a fundraiser in honor of her two sisters who passed away at very young age, and she raises money for the hospital that helped them both. I’ve also profiled current competitive skaters who overcame injuries and came back the following year to compete, and one young skater who went through a lot of finding herself on the ice before returning this year as one of our top senior ladies.


Stan: Do you have a “get up” story of your own you would like to share.

Joanne: It’s funny but I often tell people my hip break was in a funny way my “lucky break.” Had I not been home sitting, bored to tears I probably would not have written the Skating Forward books. I believe my cancer journey planted the seed, and then in 2009 it came to be.


Joanne’s latest book just came out this Fall leading up to this next Olympic season.

Stan: What is special about your most recent book that just came out, “Skating Forward, Olympic Memories, Olympic Spirit?”

Joanne: The readers will meet three incredible Olympians. Jim Millns and Colleen O’Connor were our first U.S. Ice Dancing medalists, receiving the bronze at Innsbruck in 1976. They share their wonderful Olympic journey and what it was like to be on the 1976 team with Dorothy Hamill and Linda Fratianne, Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner and others. Our other Olympian is Jeremy Abbott and he shares that special Olympics in Sochi when he truly had a Get Up Moment. After a horrific fall in the short program he got up and finished his program creating probably one of the best Get Up moments on ice ever. Of course we have wonderful Olympic Spirit stories too. National Coach Darin Hosier is a stage 4 colon cancer survivor. Cara Zanella is a gold test adult skater living with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Staci Montagna-Vail is a silver test judge and a stage 4 breast cancer survivor, and two of our current competitors, Ernie Utah Sevens and Jordan Moeller talk about getting up after serious injuries that kept them from competing for an entire year!


Stan: How can someone order this and your other books?

Joanne: Books will be available at the US Figure Skating merchandise booth in Lake Placid at the 2017 Skate America. We will also be at Adult Nationals in 2018.

Also available at (Direct links right to ordering the book)
> Amazon.com (Paperback and Kindle – direct link right to the book)
> Barnes and Noble. (direct link to the book)
> Books123


Stan: Is there anything else you would like to tell us in closing?

Joanne: I feel so blessed to be able to do what I do. To work with these incredible skaters, parents, coaches and fellow fans. My husband Greg and I have made so many skating friends over the years. We call them our Skating Family, and they are a HUGE reason why we enjoy going to the marquee events each year. It’s our Family Reunion. That I can get up each morning and write about this incredible sport is a blessing beyond belief. I am so truly grateful.

Stan: Thanks you, Joanne! I won’t be able to make it to Skate America in Lake Placid this year, but I look forward to seeing you at US Nationals in San Jose!

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My previous monthly “Get Up” blogs can be found on my skating video and blogs page.

My “Get Up” Blog for March – Getting Up after “Career Falls”

When corporate culture where he worked shifted away from Val Boston’s business philosophy, he “got up” to start his own consultant practice where he could be true to his values.

For the March blog as part of my monthly “Get Up” Blog series inspired by US Figure Skating’s “Get Up” campaign, I am featuring people getting up, not from from physical falls, but from “falls” or unexpected downturns in vocations and careers. The “Get Up” message inspires us to get up from the many different types of falls we can have in our lives just as figure skaters get up and continue after a fall on the very hard cold ice.

I have four short stories to share:


Adult figure skater Shauna Lynn Panczyszyn shared: “I moved to my current city for a job that sought me out. They had made promises that they didn’t keep, and hired someone else to share my position without telling me a week after I started. Three and a half months later they fired me with absolutely no explanation. But I “got up” and dove head first into full time freelance illustration (link to her website) and haven’t looked back. Four years later it is the best thing that could have happened to me, AND I was able to fit skating into my day. Before that, I would have to travel an hour to another rink (my current was just across the street from where I live and I could only skate weekends there) just to get some ice time after work IF I didn’t get stuck working late.


After moving internationally and discovering that her past experience was not really valued in the US, Noa Ronan had to get up and forge her own path as a coach and consultant.


A consultant I met at my local SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management) chapter – Triangle SHRM here in North Carolina, Noa Ronan of Noa Ronen Coaching,, shared, “11 years ago I moved from Israel to the US. I had a fulfilling executive career as a change management consultant and HR and Training executive. But after our family relocation to the US reality hit me, neither my Israeli career experience nor my MBA from Israel was of interest in the US when I applied for jobs. I felt very lost and stuck; I didn’t want to apply for jobs that will take me back to what I did ten years ago or go in a different direction. I loved what I did and I didn’t want to let go of who I was in my past. It took me few good years to fall and fail again and again until I was able to “get up” and let go of the story I was telling myself about my “glorious” past and recreate who I want to be right here in the present. Today I am using all the skills I have acquired over my career with new ones, and I coach global leaders and people in transitions. Letting go of my past was about being present with my new reality and recreating a new future for myself.


And from a highly respected consultant who has been an invaluable mentor to me as I started my own business in 2010, Val Boston of Boston and Associates, LLC: “After 5 years with a global organization, they were sold to a much larger firm. With the acquisition came a major cultural and philosophical shift, from a service focus model to a more “bottom line” one. This change in business philosophy was in direct conflict with mine. I then I “got up” and decided to launch my own consultancy focusing on Diversity & Inclusion, and Leadership Coaching. That was 17 years ago!”


And another friend from TSHRM who is so supportive of my figure skating journey, Diane Olsen (link to her LinkedIn profile) shares her story of “getting up” multiple times: “After ten years building an amazing insurance industry career, where I climbed ladders, I turned down the ultimate promotion at a very large company. I decided to move cross country and go back to school, but soon found myself in a financial position where I needed to go back to work full time. I grabbed the first job that came along. When that company shut down, I job-jumped a few times while trying to finish my degree part-time. I had a roller coaster on my resume now.

Then it dawned on me that I created this storm. What was I going to be when I grew up? I didn’t get my answer until years later. I took a job in Raleigh as an Operations Manager for a start-up company, and I was employee number nine. Over the course of eight years, I built four other departments, was promoted to VP of Operations and HR, and was able to be a part of the buy-out of the company at the end of 2015. Each of these departments I created had information pulled from a lot of the in-between jobs I’d had in the past.

Sometimes, you are dusting yourself off without even realizing it. I have since left that job, taking a well-deserved hiatus. It’s a bit stressful being in transition, but exciting at the same time. Needless to say, I look forward to “getting up” and starting my next adventure with open arms.


Life, like the ice, can be very hard, with falls giving us a good jar. But we can rise up, persevere, and move onto something better.

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Links to all my earlier “Get Up” monthly blogs can be found on my skating blogs and videos blog page.

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