Over the past 30 years, I cannot begin to tell you how many attendees at the various seminars, coaches’ trainings, Judges’ Schools or PSA Conferences have asked me this very question. I always reply in the same way. “I don’t care if a skater gets to Sectionals, Nationals, Internationals, Worlds, or Olympics. But I do care that each skater grows up to be confident and competent with great time management skills, passion, and compassion for their work, fellow skaters, and coaches. It is critical that each student develop admirable character. My goal is to help each skater become successful, wherever their journey leads them.
I have been blessed to work with some amazing skaters over the years. Watching them not only succeed on the ice but also in their lives brings me great joy and a strong sense of accomplishment.
Recently, one of my former skaters reached out to me while she was visiting Orange County. When Hamidah Ahmad was a young skater, I had the great pleasure and honor of working with her for many years. She was not only a beautiful skater, whom I enjoyed coaching and choreographing very much. But she also went on to have a very successful professional career starring in Disney on Ice for five years. Hamidah is currently a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) working actress and model. Never sitting on her laurels, Hamidah also works as an American Airlines flight attendant. During her trip, we were able to visit and catch up on our lives.
After our afternoon together, Hamidah posted a breathtakingly beautiful tribute on Facebook about our time together. I would like to share some excerpts from her post.
“This creatively talented beautiful soul of a man taught me everything I know about artistry. Phillip showed me how to take all the feelings I carried deep within my heart and express them through movement so that viewers could get lost in the story I was telling as if it were theirs.
“Phillip taught me how to hear faint little notes in music that many miss and highlight them with a flick of my toe pick, a change in my edge, or a wave of an arm. My very first experience with him was in his ballet class one summer at Ice Castle Training Center in Lake Arrowhead, CA. He powerfully walked into the middle of the dance studio, clapped his hands twice, and said, ‘Let’s dance!’
“I left that class a changed girl.
“During my first lesson with Phillip, I remember getting to the training center super early because I was so excited to work with him. I was sitting on the bench filled with a sense of anticipation as I watched him work with Michelle Kwan. He was in what I would soon learn was his signature look: Black Ice Castle fleece jacket, a black turtleneck, black joggers, and a giant black boom box tied to a shoestring around his neck. He moved as if it weighed only one pound.
“After my first lesson, a bond as choreographer and skater was created that would carry me through my entire amateur and professional skating career. Phillip, I am so grateful for the many programs you created for me. You taught me how to express my emotions through skating when I didn’t have the ability to express them through words.
“When I create stories on the ice, I carry your words of wisdom with me in spirit.
Your resume of work is breathtaking, but it still can’t begin to describe the impact you have made on many skaters and where they went in life. Thank you for sharing your gift of movement and kind soul with me.”
What Hamidah so beautifully wrote on Facebook after our recent meeting sums up our mutual admiration for each other. Through 6 Olympics, 23 World Championships, and 38 US National Championships, I have had the honor of having my work represented in so many forums. It has always been my mission to ensure my skaters perform at the highest level. I always strive to inspire each skater as well as the judges and audience alike.
The session is over and the Zamboni is coming out.