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What Does God Have to Do With the 2017 US National Figure Skating Championships?

What Does God Have to Do With the 2017 US National Figure Skating Championships?
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Annabelle and Joel Schneider-Farris
Annabelle and Joel Schneider-Farris

This week, the premiere event for figure skating in the United States is going on.  This is an especially important “Nationals” since the Winter Olympic Games is only a year away.  The true excitement surrounds the Championship events, but before those events young talented skaters compete in the Juvenile, Intermediate, Novice, and Junior levels.

Social media and icenetwork.com connects those of us who are not in Kansas City for this very, very important and special competitition.  It’s not quite like being there, but, because of Facebook, I’ve already rejoiced with parents whose children have placed at the Juvenile and Intermediate levels.

Of course, every year, around “Nationals” time, I think about the past US Championships and other competitions I’ve attended.  What is not shown either on icenetwork.com or on television, is all that goes on behind the scenes.   There certainly is the joy and happiness surrounded with victories, but those who experience the “agony of defeat” may make life changing decisions all because of a placement or because of a fall or a missed jump.  Decisions on whether to keep at the sport may be made and skating partnerships may end.

I especially noticed that this last week, just before the competition began, one parent of a young national competitor asked her friends on Facebook who are “prayer warriors” to lift up her daughter, who was competing at the Juvenile level, in prayer.  She mentioned her daughter was very nervous.  The response was overwhelming.  People from all over the world were praying that the young skater would skate well.  The child did skate well, and placed!

That particular request  brought back a personal memory of when my children were fairly young and competing at national level.  I’d like to share this story with my readers.

In order to qualify for “Nationals,” figure skaters must compete in qualifying competitions.  My daughter Annabelle and my son Joel hoped to qualify for the 2012 US National Championships, and had worked extremely hard during the 2011-12 competition season.  They were competing at the Novice pair level at the time and had made a good showing at previous non-qualifying events that season.  They’d mastered the double twist, the step-up lift and press lift, and their throws were high and death spirals were the best.  We had high hopes for that competition season and for the future.

Every time my children competed, I always silently prayed for a good skate and for a happy outcome.  It is very hard for parents of figure skaters to see their children be disappointed, so my silent prayer was my way of asking God to be there for my children.  I remembered when ice skating legend Janet Lynn silently prayed before she charmed audiences with her beautiful skating in the 1970s, so doing what Janet did, just seemed like a good idea.

I don’t remember all the details of what happened at that particular Midwestern Championships that preceded the 2012 National Championships, but I recall that during the free skate (long program) Joel did not get Annabelle up above his head on an overhead lift that always the pair did easily and perfectly, and that one mistake made the team lose so many points that they dropped from being in medal contention to the bottom of the group.  The mistake devasted Joel, and nothing I could do as a parent could comfort him.  My children’s national dream ended for that season.

At the time, when that happened, I wondered why I had wasted my time asking God to be there for my children, and for a brief time, I stopped believing in God.

I remember telling Joel that I no longer believed, and he responded with the following:

“Mom, just because we made a huge error which blew our chances of making Nationals doesn’t mean you should stop believing in God!”

After the competition, we moved on and we soon forgot about what happened at Midwesterns.  I took Joel and Annabelle to Chicago and we had a wonderful time sight-seeing and when we returned to Colorado, we went on a wonderful family ski trip. When the pair returned to the ice, they began working even harder than ever.  As we drove to the rink, we’d sing “Let’s Get Down to Business” in the car.  And…of course, I began to believe in God again.  I realized that the outcome of a figure skating competition should not change how I lived my life or how my children should live their lives.  I made a commitment to make sure my children had a well rounded life that did not center only around skating.

So, what does God have to do with the US National Championships and why am I telling this story?    The answer to that question is that figure skating can take over one’s life.  A missed jump or any major error can change the course of a skater’s life and his or her family’s life at the US National Championship.  Sometimes asking God for a little help or for support can make a huge difference.

If you are a figure skater or a parent of a skater, take the time and step back and breathe.  Remember there are more things in life than skating.  And…if you want to ask God to be with you or your child when he or she competes, do so!

Happy Skating!

JO ANN Schneider Farris

Jo Ann Schneider-Farris Jo Ann Schneider Farris has participated in figure skating for most of her life as a competitor, coach, and author. Jo Ann was the Figure Skating Expert for About.com for 10 years. Jo Ann began skating as a young child. She won a silver medal in the junior dance event at the United States National Figure Skating Championships and is a US Figure Skating Double Gold Medalist. She coached figure skating and has trained skaters of all ages and levels. In addition, Jo Ann taught hockey players to skate and gave instruction in power skating. She is the author of two skating books: How to Jump and Spin on In-Line Skates, the only book of its kind on inline figure skating, and a personal memoir, My Skating Life: Fifty Plus Years of Skating. Jo Ann also has contributed articles that have been included on the US Figure Skating website and the icenetwork.com website, in SKATING Magazine, Ice Skating Institute's magazine, the Professional Skaters Association magazine, and she also wrote about ice skating for Examiner.com. She is a member of the Professional Skaters Association, The Broadmoor Skating Club, and U.S. Figure Skating. Jo Ann is a graduate of the famous Hollywood Professional School, a school that once was in southern California where many serious figure skaters attended, including Peggy Fleming. She is also a graduate of Colorado College and holds a teaching credential from California State University Long Beach. As a figure skating competitor, she trained under World Ice Dance Champion and Olympic Coach Doreen Denny and also Darlene Gilbert, who has trained international and national teams. From JO ANN Schneider Farris: Hi and Happy Skating! Yes, Happy Skating is my motto. I hope to share my love of the sport and my knowledge of it with you and my goal is to link skaters from all over the world on this site. Happy Skating! Please join me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or follow me on Google+ and Pinterest. Email me at joannfarris@yahoo.com

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