US Figure Skating’s Fantastic New Campaign: “Get Up!”

ashley-and-miraiAs a long time figure skating fan and enthusiast, and now more recently as an aspiring adult competitive figure skater myself (yep – started at age 59,) my love for this sport is deepening. And now I am even more excited about the recently announced “Get Up” campaign from the US Figure Skating Association. The main theme is that, in all aspects of our lives, we may fall, but the more times we get up and persevere, the stronger we become.

Figure Skating is a tough sport! (link to article) It may look smooth and glamorous, but those falls on that hard ice are brutal to the body and soul. But there is a lesson here that we can apply to our personal, athletic and even business lives – that when we fall, instead of just lying there feel sorry for ourselves, we need to pick ourselves up, learn from our mistake or from the challenge we were presented, and continue toward our goal.

Here are several examples of skaters (including myself) who picked ourselves up after a fall and continued on to become stronger.

• The first example shared in the December 2016 US Figure Skating Magazine was from 4-time US Champion Jeremy Abbott’s appearance at the 2014 Olympics. He had an extremely hard fall and devastating crash into the boards, but after 13 agonizing seconds picked himself up and completed his short program.

• And then there is one of my favorites, 2016 US Men’s Champion Adam Rippon. After being our 2012 silver medalist, Adam was training hard and primed for his dream of making the 2014 Olympic team, but those dreams were shattered as he fell to his worst finish ever at nationals at eighth. Many skaters would call it quits after that disappointment, but Adam resolved to train harder than ever, winning his first Senior National title in 2016 and then making his first Grand Prix final that Fall.

• Two of my favorite female skaters are Mirai Nagasu and Ashley Wagner. After finish third at US Nationals in 2014 and then be shockingly omitted from our Olympic Team, Mirai took the disappointment with maturity and grace and continue to train hard and improve, and continues to delight fans with her beautiful programs. And Ashley Wagner has had many ups and down in long career, and now as the oldest US female competitor finished second at 2016 Worlds, ending the USA’s ten year drought of winning a ladies’ world medal.

• And not only adults, but young teens can exhibit the guts of coming back from a major fall. Early last year, I wrote of such a young man in what became my fifth most read blog of 2016. Featuring a young teen with great determination, “Lessons from a Young Teen” asks my readers how would they handle going from second place to second from the bottom in one year in a sports competition. This inspirational short piece shares how a young figure skating athlete handled this challenge.
hip-and-hawaii• And finally in my own life. I started figure skating at age 59 and had just passed my first two tests and preparing to enter a major competition in Atlanta. But in August, I fractured my hip. But that is not going to stop me; after being on crutches most of August and September, I am back on the ice and just skated in our local club’s Christmas exhibition, and now preparing to compete in the Eastern USA Adult Sectionals in March.
I do hope this “Get Up” campaign from US Figure Skating touches many people and resonates with everyone since this important lesson of getting up after a tough time applies in all aspects of life – personally, professionally and of course in sports!

A Rant: Figure Skating, The 2014 Olympics, Stereotyping and Prejudice

My mother meets 6-time US ice dance champions, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who have an excellent chance to win an Olympic gold medal

My mother meets 6-time US ice dance champions, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who have an excellent chance to win an Olympic gold medal

I have included a slew of hot links for you to check out in this blog! Do use them!

Sometimes I need to write a personal blog and rant a little.

One of my favorite past times is attending national and international figure skating competitions as a fan. I love both athletics and art / music, and the sport of figure skating uniquely combines both. The top skaters train for hours per day both off and on the ice, and they need to be in top physical shape to perform the difficult routines that includes jumps, spins and intricate footwork sequences. And the skaters need to perform these physically demanding tricks on ice while skating to music and looking nice.

The 2014 US Figure Skating Nationals in Boston were particularly exciting since this was the key competition to help name our 2014 Olympic team going to Sochi, Russia. The men’s competition was a thrilling showdown between 3 time (now 4-time) national champion Jeremy Abbott, last year’s champion Max Aaron and a brilliant young skater Jason Brown. Associated Press published a great article about the competition which I read on line. But very disheartening were the online comments that people posted. I was disgusted that nearly half the comments were speculating about the sexual orientation of the skaters with derogatory hateful comments about gay people, and about how figure skating is really not a sport… comments like “what is so difficult about dressing in pretty clothes and prancing around on the ice.”

I got to meet a leading woman skater and Harvard student Christina Gao, and the new 2014 US mens silver medalist Jason Brown at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs last summer.

I got to meet a leading woman skater and Harvard student Christina Gao, and the new 2014 US men’s silver medalist Jason Brown at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs last summer.

And now my two key points:

1. If I were a hiring manager and looking at candidates’ social media postings, I would never hire any of these people who posted these derogatory comments. First, anyone who is this outspoken about their irrational prejudice and stereotyping of any group would be unable to function in a diverse workplace team and would instead hinder teamwork. Second, people who make statements (like figure skating is easy and not a sport) about which they know nothing, could wreck major damage to work projects by providing faulty information and jumping to conclusions before studying data and facts, or providing customers invalid information. Those macho dudes (yeah – I know I am now myself stereotyping – see my blog on stereotyping) would probably collapse on the ice and die after 15 seconds of doing what elite figure skaters do in complex 4 minute programs.

2. The 2014 Olympics have been overshadowed by some Russian leaders’ draconian positions on gay and lesbian people and their human rights. (See my blog from last fall on this, “The Psychology of Bullying.”) I commend some very positive developments from the US in addressing this Russian issue. First, President Obama’s move (link) to include a number of very respected out gay and lesbian former athletes and Olympians to the American delegation to Sochi demonstrates to the Russians (and the world) that truly enlightened leaders value all contributions from all groups within society. And second, I commend one of our top women skaters, Ashley Wagner, for her vocal support of the LGBT community (link to article) in a most articulate and mature manner.

To close this blog, here is a special treat – a link to the phenomenal long program delivered by one of my personal favorites Jason Brown. Not only is he an outstanding skater, but a fine young man and a role model for treating all fans with respect and kindness. Congratulations to Jason, Ashley and all the other fine men and women figure skaters who will be representing the USA in the 2014 Olympics!