Zen and the Art of Speedskating

April 30, 2010

Richmond- Board

Filed under: USS board — andrew @ 8:48 am

A live picture from a freezing room at the Holton in Richmond, VA, full of people incredibly passionate about a frozen sport-

John Dimon was always fond of saying:


“The way people act, speedskating is not life or death, it’s FAR more important.”

You see that a lot at this meeting. All level of the organization engage fully. The folks who really run the nuts and bolts of every level of Speedskating, so many are here.

And it’s all about the athletes yaknow. From Juniors to Seniors, Olympians, Masters, First timers. How can we improve that experience stepping onto the ice. From a first time kid to an Olympic games moment. The organization has an impact.

I’m rooming with Travis Jayner, and here is his Olympic bronze medal, in his hands.

It’s a wild item. The design of each one is completely unique, like the journey of each athlete who has earned one. It’s really, really heavy.

Travis said that at one of Jordan Malone’s webcast events- some fans were asking him “show us your medal”, and when Jordan pulled out his own relay medal. Travis just got chills looking at it, even though he also has one.

I’ve written before from board meetings; an incredibly hard event to capture in words. It’s my 4th, but my first one as a board member.

When I picked this up at the registration table-

it gave me chills too. Not because it’s an award. But because it’s an ethical responsibility. A seal of trust. A pragmatic responsibility.

At what moment does an outsider become an insider? Maybe that dialectic is the wrong one; there are multiple sides, a dodecahedron to each moment.

Many surfaces to stand, I’m watching, finding my footing one this new surface- stay tuned.

April 18, 2010

Orientation

Filed under: USS board — andrew @ 8:21 am

(Originally written on the 18th, pubished on the 30th)

By myself at an empty public skate session, just my battered boots & me.

Drills, easy laps, orientation of the complaining body to the skates again-

Skate politics is filling my brain, as much as my hips are being oriented again to the unnatural pain angles of the skate position, my brain is being oriented to spending hours on the phone discussing, learning, absorbing, caucusing with like-minded.

Sit on the push, back half of the blade, let the right position make the pressure- don’t force it-

So little blade actually bears our entire weight+gforces+muscle power, it’s a wonder short track is possible at all-

So it might be in skate-politics.

There has always been a lot of vehemence in skating politics. There are REAL chunks of money flying around, careers, ego, thriving and dying clubs, Olympic teams, endless investment of hours.

Listening to the new board orientation conference calls, forcing my heart to be as positive as possible. Is this how they really are, or how they want to be

US Speedskating has traditionally been like a 4 year phoenix. Immolating & reborn every Olympic cycle. The attrition among office staff has been frightful.

Lots of empty cubicles at the US Speedskating offices; tracks of who has gone before. I’m looking hard at these trails in the ice, what techniques are tried by what people.

It’s so easy to throw bombs from far off. To kvetch to your social circle; To organize/suggest workable policy is awfully hard.

Early season, just feel the push, dammmmm… Let momentum & level shoulders/hips carry you through ouch+ouch+ouch.

execute from depth.

There were a number of things that have been said by some of the experienced board members to me. In rough paraphrase


The athletes are getting better, faster, of a higher level every year. The governance of this sport needs to up its game as well!

Every 4 year cycle seems to get more intense, there are more demands, more specificity.

Recover—recover between sets makes each effort more- Protect your eyes so you can see no matter the wind (& flying ice chips)

Skate quiet off the back half of the blade, pressure; just skate right.

Then try your heart out–

& fall 10 times, fail 100 times, then get back up again. Understand and execute. Finally.. Fly.. Speedskating. Speedskating policy.

April 4, 2010

The Board-

Filed under: USS board — andrew @ 12:41 pm

The news came on Friday. My peers in the general membership have elected me to US Speedskating’s board of directors.

It is a deep honor.

After reading the election results, RZ and I took a walk down the alley next to our house.

She took every opportunity to stand in the puddles, often looking me right in the eye and saying “WOW!” as the cold water soaked into her sneakers.

Standing in mud & puddles teaches you so much more than looking at them from a distance. You know immediately the temperature of the water and how deep the puddle really is. With patience you even begin to notice reflections, rocks, crinkles in the asphalt, other puddles in the fissured alleyway-

I’m not making any explicit metaphor that speedskating is a muddy puddle, or that board of directors galumphs around like a kid in a fancy parka in the alleyway of small sports.

But I will do my best to communicate what is going on as this soaks into me. I’ve shied away from politics on this blog for SO LONG, I did not even mention I was running here.

But that will not be possible anymore.

Unlike every board member who came before me, I was clearly elected by a constituency of masters skaters. If you want to know the platform of policy items I ran on, here is what I wrote to the members.

What I did not say in the bio is that I have no illusions about the pummeling I have volunteered for. Complaining about things or people is easy; creating decent public policy is dammed hard. Triply so in a sport so many are so passionate for.

And there is this idealistic belief that I hold to; it goes something like-

“if you can make a difference in something you care about, then you have a moral obligation to do so”.

The hard work I have done with International Masters Speedskating has been incredibly rewarding, but this is totally different.

I am friends with many who have served in the Board of Directors. Better folks than me have been chewed up & spat out by volunteering in speedskating.

Despite my words & outlook here, don’t assume I don’t also have an iron set of policy fangs when it’s time to chew on hard issues. I hide them well, but I’m a veteran of many organizations, and my parents are Jedi masters of this stuff.

But I do have this moral belief, and maybe if enough of us stick our feet in the puddle, it will become a better place.

It might even freeze by next winter, and be good skating (short track, a very, very short track).

Stay tuned–

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