The Flatirons Sparks are a synchronized skating team based out of the Boulder Valley YMCA. They began eight years ago and I was recruited by the coach to be their volunteer manager.
We started with eight little girls competing at a very basic level. Starting out, the Y gave us some unused ice time, 6:30 AM Saturdays. The Y officially opens at 7 on Saturday, so I had a key to get in the side door in the event that the building monitor was late. From my perspective, as a morning person, this worked very well. Get there early, practice, and go on to the rest of the weekend. For some potential skaters and their families, this early time was a deal breaker.
Since that humble beginning, the team has grown, with 40 or so skaters on 3 or 4 teams, depending on the season. There are still little kids and beginners, and now there are a lot of teenagers as well, many of them quite accomplished skaters. Some of the original skaters are still with the team, which I find a good reflection on the program. After a few years, we had enough skaters that we needed more ice time. Sunday afternoon was it. More ice time, more families able to make those practices, and more time and space in the building for off-ice practice.
All excellent signs of healthy growth and progress. The team started competing more, doing first one, and then two, out of state competitions a season. There isn’t a lot of synchro out here in the mountain west, so if our skaters want to be around more than the same few teams, they have to travel.
Paralleling the growth of the program were my increasing managerial duties. All skaters still had to be registered with the appropriate skating organizations. They also still needed to be measured for costumes. Those costumes evolved from commercially available dresses and tops to custom or semi-custom outfits for each team, requiring prototypes and fittings and delivery deadlines. Travel takes logistics, finding lodging, practice ice, making sure everyone is on the team flight or bus, and has their equipment. Instead of communicating with a few sets of parents (our original team had 3 pairs of siblings), there are now 40 to chase down for signatures, information, finances.
On many levels, I really enjoyed this. I like problem solving, organizing, and its really fun and exciting to see a group of kids take the ice, in great costumes, skates tied, hair and makeup done, and skate their hearts out performing a program they worked long and hard to learn. Having a shy middle schooler tell me in the locker room after such a performance “Thank you, this was so much fun” is heartwarming. I also really appreciated seeing such a diverse group of kids, who likely would otherwise have had nothing to do with each other, becoming friends and true teammates.
All of the above is true, and after seven seasons of this, I was tired. Managing now took more time and energy, and it wasn’t enough fun. I was starting to resent my Sundays spent at the rink and some of the normal group dynamics were trying my patience considerably more than they once had. After a lot of thought, I resigned last spring.
Overall, its been the right decision. I’ve made good use of the freed up time, including taking up triathlon and writing this blog. I love having my Sunday afternoons open. There’s been some loss as well, which really hit me today. The most advanced team is competing tonight at USFS Sectionals, and for the first time in 8 years, I won’t be there to see them skate.
I’m surprised at the intensity of my grief. I’m not at all sorry that I didn’t spend all day yesterday on a bus with the team, and that I won’t be running around tonight getting everyone in the right place at the right time, and I am really sad that I won’t be standing at the boards, cheering them on as they skate. I imagine that this may be a little of what an empty nest parent experiences.
I’ve done my job, the team has grown, and thankfully they are continuing to grow and develop without me. Just as it should be. And so through my unanticipated tears, I send them on with a cheer and my usual exhortation: Have fun, its why you skate! Go Sparks!