Doing Hard Things: Tina Doody takes on Figure Skating
I’ve known Tina Doody for more years than I will admit. I first came to know her when I worked at The Century Foundation (it was so long ago, it was then called the Twentieth Century Fund!). Tina was an ambitious new graduate from Rutgers University. She was on a team tasked with getting us into the 21st century on the web! I’ve always appreciated Tina’s can-do attitude and her willingness to tackle challenging projects. Among my points of great admiration is her willingness to take on figure skating as an adult. Last week, I was watching an international skating competition and throught of her. I wanted to know how her life was going, in general, and about her progress as a figure skating students. Here’s what she had to say.
Tell me about your “day job.”
I am the Assistant Director of a medium-sized urban library in Central New Jersey. It has been quite an interesting journey during the pandemic, trying to balance the safety of the staff vs. providing service to a community that has limited access to digital resources. Our physical space and internet access are the most popular things about our physical Library so trying to figure out how to provide service without those two things was quite interesting. Overall I am very happy with how our library has responded and very grateful that I am in a position to direct our response and influence how we treat our staff members. (I can talk about this A LOT but figured you were more interested in the skating than trying to do public service in a pandemic).
When did you become a fan of skating?
I don’t remember not being a fan of ice skating. I grew up in Maine and we did a lot of outdoor skating. I learned how to skate so I didn’t fall on my face but there were no formal lessons and no actual technique. I don’t believe I skated indoors more than once or twice (if at all) until I was a teenager. We always watched it on TV and I remember being fascinated by the costumes and the music.
Tell me about a favorite skating memory.
I think my favorite memory is from the 2014 Nationals in Boston where I was a volunteer. Jason Brown skated his “Riverdance” program and the atmosphere was electric. If you haven’t seen the performance you should pull it up on Youtube, it is amazing to watch. A close second is from Worlds (also in Boston) where I was stationed on a bus that was ferrying skaters/coaches/etc back and forth to the venue. The men’s event had just finished and my bus had two of the top competitors on it. We ended up with a police escort and were driving through red lights in the middle of Boston at night. It was a surreal experience. Nationals is an amazing event to be at in-person as the audience is rooting for everyone. They just want to see good performances and are really happy when the skaters do well. Skating fans in general are pretty friendly to everyone regardless of their favorites and are happy to see good skating, but Nationals is a very different experience. I have volunteered at 2 Skate Americas, 1 US Nationals and 1 World Championships and they have all been amazing experiences. I am hoping we get a US Winter Olympics at some point so I can volunteer there as well. If you have an interest that they do events for I STRONGLY recommend volunteering if you can. The behind the scenes access and being able to see your favorite (whatever) from a totally different perspective is totally worth it.
When did you decide you wanted to take skating lessons? What have been the challenges and opportunities of being an adult student?
I decided to start skating lessons about fifteen years ago simply as something to do and a form of exercise. I am not somebody who generally enjoys exercise and I usually need it masked as an activity. I figured that since I enjoyed watching it so much that I might enjoy learning how to do it in a more official manner. I took group lessons off and on with stints of a year or so of lessons and then 3-5 years off, rinse and repeat. About 4 years ago I started up again with group lessons. I had an instructor I really liked in one class and one I did NOT enjoy at all in the next set of lessons. I had been thinking about taking private lessons for a while but as I was a beginner and the private lessons were more expensive, I had always talked myself out of it. A bad class experience was the last straw and I asked the instructor from the previous set of lessons if she was giving private lessons for my level. She said she was and I have been taking a weekly lesson with her since. It was the best decision I could have made as I made a lot more progress after that, although my general speed of improvement is about that of a very slow snail.
With adult skaters there are 2 groups, the people who learned as a child and are now coming back to skating, and those that are learning as adults for the first time (me). For me the challenges have been the cost (skating is NOT inexpensive), finding the time to skate (I am a childfree adult with a very accommodating job and I still find it hard sometimes to match my schedule with my coach’s schedule, and the rink’s), and fear. The fear part has been the hardest to overcome. I think as adults we are much more aware of the negative consequences of activities and how easy it is to get hurt. I had a few collisions when I was a child and when I first started taking group lessons and it made me VERY afraid of going backwards. I have gotten better about managing the fear as I have become more comfortable on the ice but I am still leary of doing anything backwards. I also worry a lot about hurting someone else. Usually I am the oldest skater on the ice and generally one of the ones at the lowest skating ability. I am always worried that I am going to do something wrong and inadvertently injure a much younger skater and negatively impact their ability to compete. I have gotten better at reading the movement of the rink and being more assertive about claiming my space on the ice (as I have just as much right to be there as the next skater) but it is a work in progress. In terms of the opportunities there have been a lot of improvements in the available options for adults. There are adult-specific testing tracks, special events, and competitions just for Adult Skaters. I was hoping to go to an Adult Skating Week in Lake Placid this year, but 2020 derailed that.
What are your skating goals?
My primary skating goal is to keep making progress. I am not a fast learner when it comes to skating. Part of this is that I generally only skate 2 hours per week, and also that I am not someone who comes naturally to learning physical tasks. It takes me a long time to make something “click” between my brain and my body. I am working on focusing on my personal progress and not comparing myself to the other (usually much younger) skaters and how fast they are progressing. I am also working my way through the USFSA (United States Figure Skating Association) testing levels for MIF (Moves in the Field) and Ice Dance. In 2018 I passed the Pre-Bronze Moves in the Field (MIF) test in the Adult Track (they have various tracks based on your age and whether you are planning on competing at a National/International level). I am currently working on the next MIF level (Bronze) and the first pattern dance at the Pre-Bronze level (Dutch Waltz) and should be ready to test the dance in early 2021. I was off the ice from March-July as the rink was closed so everything has gotten pushed back.
What advice would you have for us ladies of a certain age when we think about taking in a new project or skill?
I would say to absolute try it. Age isn’t a reason to not do an activity or learn something new. Yes I feel a bit awkward now and then when the other skaters on the ice are all of an age that they could be my children (and approaching grandchildren) but the enjoyment I get is definitely worth any momentary embarrassment. Also, don’t be so afraid of getting hurt that you don’t try new things. Yes, there is risk of injury with ice skating (and a lot of other physical activities) but there are ways to help address this (I wear wrist guards, some skaters wear knee pads or other types of padding if they are jumping, and beginners are required to wear helmets) without ruling out the activity all together. I would also say that while group activities can be fun, don’t discount personal instruction as it can be amazing how much progress you can make with one-on-one direction, and it sometimes is helpful to get over embarrassment or fear when it is just you and an instructor instead of a whole group of people.
The last thing I would say is if you feel like you aren’t making progress or improving (and improvement is your goal); take a step back and look at where you started. Sometimes it feels like I am not moving forward at all with my skating as my improvements are very small and minute over time. However, if I look back a year or two at what I was able to do then vs. what I can do now the improvements are much more obvious. Also, don’t let one bad experience steal the joy of learning a new activity, skill or task. Simply take a break and if necessary find a new venue for your particular interest.
Oh, and as usual “when in doubt, go to the library”. You can always find information about activities and many libraries have digital resources available to help you learn new skills and hobbies or the staff can direct you to a resource on your particular interest that you might not have known was available.