Most of us have heard the saying, “Does the athlete make the coach or does the coach make the athlete?”
In many situations this can go either way. My wife, Michelle Mills, and I have both been privileged to work with Nathan Chen over the years. Michelle was his ballet teacher for seven years and I had the pleasure of choreographing two of his show programs.
Nathan’s talent is unquestionable. Did you know that Nathan is also a classical pianist? His figure skating training, directed by his mother, Hetty, is unsurpassed. This extremely gifted and disciplined young man could have been a professional ballet dancer with his extensive foundation from the School of Ballet West. Michelle often wondered just where his dance talents could have taken him. This training undoubtedly assisted him to become the first man to execute five outstanding quad jumps at the U.S. National Championships in Kansas City last month.
To work with such greatness is such an honor. Michelle and I feel blessed that Nathan touched our lives. I realized the extent of his talents even when I first choreographed the program, “Home” by Phillip Phillips for Nathan at Ice Castle in Lake Arrowhead in 2013.
Then this year, I choreographed “Golden Slumber” by the Beatles for him, which he performed at Sun Valley during the summer. I was struck again by the greatness inside this young man.
What brings such talent to the forefront? It takes amazing dedication, a focused and deep work ethic, and a coaching team like Rafael, Vera, and Nadia to make this happen. Our hats go off to Nathan, his mother and coaching team for a job well done.
As coaches and choreographers we must cherish and protect all of the amazing young people placed in our care and try to help guide them to achieve their goals. When it comes down to it these are their triumphs and we are just fortunate to be able to contribute a piece to help them achieve their dreams. It’s our privilege.
The session is over and the Zamboni is coming out.