As the plane climbed up and out from Tallinn, Estonia enroute to Frankfurt, Germany, I was thinking about what an amazing week it was in so many ways. As coaches it is good to reflect on positive competition experiences so we can recreate this atmosphere for our athletes at future events.
We have the ability to help guide our young skaters into being not only great skaters, but more importantly to guide them to become strong human beings who can take care of themselves and learn the highest conduct and character to enhance their lives for years to come.
I always say that every competition is an opportunity to learn something valuable about ourselves. Well, the 2015 Tallinn Trophy did not disappoint. I went to Estonia with two resilient skaters, Max Aaron and Ella Mizrahi.
Ella is a wonderful young lady who is very competent as a skater but is also struggling with her place in the skating universe. Ella moved to California from the East Coast to work with me after my good friend and colleague Peter Burrows become ill. It was such a loss to the skating community to lose Peter and we miss him deeply. Peter had me come to New Jersey to choreograph for Ella a few years ago so she was already familiar with me and my style. She knew how close I was with Peter as we trained Urbanski & Marval, Ina & Dungjen, Elaine Zayak, and Michael Chack together.
I knew I had to push Ella to greater heights because she is so capable. Having dual citizenship with Israel opened a perfect opportunity for Ella to blossom and grow. We switched her nationality as a skater to Israel and soon she was off to her very first international competition. I knew Ella was apprehensive but I also knew this could be a jumping off point to an unknown journey of travel, new friends from around the world, culture and architecture to inspire her.
Ella handled the practices and competition like a seasoned veteran. I couldn’t have been more proud as she competed with 20 ladies and ended up with the silver medal. Imagine her excitement as she stepped up to that international podium in her first international event. At the medal ceremony Ella Mizrahi’s confidence reached heights that even she never imagined.
Back in the United States I had been choreographing a benefit show, “Celebration Gala for Kayla”, for one of my young students whose dad passed away suddenly at age 41 leaving behind a family with four children under the age of 10. Because the show was coming up quickly I needed to return to the States right after the Tallinn Trophy. Unfortunately Ella had to go straight to the Israeli Nationals alone with no coach. Through texting both Slava Zagorodnyuk, her other coach, and I coached her through and she became the Israeli Junior Ladies Champion. We must never underestimate all of our skaters because they are stronger than we think. These experiences taught great character building life lessons. We are so proud of Ella.
My week in Estonia was productive in another way as well. Max Aaron wasn’t able to finish his Grand Prix event in Bordeaux due to the Paris terror attacks which canceled the competition after the short programs. U.S. Figure Skating wanted Max to go to the Tallinn Trophy to help build his resume.
Max and I had never been to a competition together. I was excited to be with him to help him do his best in this hastily scheduled event. As coaches it is our job to help our students, of all ages, make sense out of difficult situations in their lives. We can’t always control the perfect competition scenario. We have the opportunity to show them that through skating the clouds can part and the sun can come glistening through like a beautiful clean sheet of ice.
I was fully aware of how Max’s short program went in Bordeaux and knew that this short program in Estonia must be a good one to help his confidence and standing. I thought his short program at Skate America was phenomenal; Estonia was better! Max wound on the podium earning the gold medal. It turned out to be a great experience for us.
The session is over and the Zamboni is coming out.