Saturday, September 1, 2012

USFSA versus Skate Canada

This is a side topic, but for some time now I've had the impression that USFSA figure skaters are a happier bunch as a group than Skate Canada figure skaters. So much so that even individual Skate Canada figure skaters are more comfortable hanging with USFSA figure skaters (as a group) than hanging with their own as a group. Of course, there's no Barb MacDonald or Debbi Wilkes pasted passive-aggressively over every USFSA group situation while at SC, Debbi and Barb are conspicuous. There's a chilling effect.

And the icenetwork interviewing style is less rigid than P.J.'s. I like her, and I think personally she's got a good heart and mind (not something that could be said of everyone else media-related at SC) but her questions to the skaters have become purposefully robotic in recent times, and she clearly doesn't listen to a word they say in response, which makes the mechanical vibe even more blatant. All that comes across is some type of agenda or some terror of actually letting something real slip through the cracks. PJ dictates how they answer ("one word" - or some other formula), speaks rapidly and doesn't seem all that comfortable herself. The interviews are not good, and I can't help wondering why not. What's happened to PJ and why is she interviewing like that?

Figure skaters who appear more comfy with groups of USFSA skaters than SC skaters include Patrick Chan and Jeffrey Buttle. And though he'd deny with his last breath, Scott Moir and his concealing-my-Detroit-Red-Wings-t-shirt self.

Maybe because the USFSA isn't self-obssessed, heavily preoccupied with coming across cool, tough and impressive. They're secure enough to be self deprecating and easy going when it comes to their public image. They're comfortable with their sport, also, which is something SC never seems. Skate Canada always want us to think figure skating is something MORE.

I also think the USFSA should probably elevate Alex and Maia Shibutani to the jointly held Director of Morale position.

Champs Camp produced fun competitive videos of Team USA competing in pseudo rythmic gymnastics routines with the winner right here:

What I like about this video is the winning routine is actually well designed. Of course it's hilarious, but it's executed with commitment and uses the music really well. Wonderful timing and use of the floor. :) And unlike SC, nobody is strenuously working overboard showing teeth to convince us how much fun they're having.*

USFSA skaters in general seem a whole lot more comfortable in their own skin when they're in public, and more comfortable with each other, no matter where they are in the rankings. It's a diverse bunch, so why is that? From Gracie Gold to John Coughlin, despite a closely contested women's division, shake-ups in the pairs, and top ranked ice dance teams training with the same coaches. The Skate Canada skaters skew somewhat older, I think, with not as many hot youngsters coming up, but they're not nearly as comfortable with themselves, or well spoken, genuine and warm as the USFSA, or as comfortable being openly warm and friendly with close-competitors from Asia and Europe. I doubt and would hope there's not a huge difference off camera, but there certainly is on. On, there is sometimes palpable tension as a group - of unknown origin, but tension.

It's impossible not to wonder if the politics, energy and other shenanigans used to keep the sham afloat didn't and doesn't create tension and resentment around Virtue Moir and Jessica/Whomever, no matter how well liked Virtue Moir might be personally. Enough is enough has to be the feeling at some point, no matter how self-interest requires this be suppressed. Especialy since the b.s. had a long reach - from competitions to weddings to promo spots to twitter to fb to photo calls. It's to wonder that when Scott watched Dube and Davison skate at Torino Worlds, he was surrounded by an American posse with none of his presumably close friends/Canadian teammates up for the task of watching fellow Canadians compete the short program with him. Maybe by Worlds other Canadians felt they'd given at the office.

I can't see a SC skater initiating the fun the Shibs organize on skate tours and SHARE with the public, either, or HPC producing any "team building" as enjoyable for participants and onlookers as came out of Champs Camp. What's the USFSA doing right? Maybe the right question is what is the USFSA not doing that Skate Canada needs to stop doing?
 *ETA: personally, I don't often find figure skating below the very best all that compelling to watch. But the way Team USA has presented itself the past few years, they've managed to create overall interest in themselves as young athletes, as team members in a uniquely individual sport, and as very down-to-earth, relatable people.  Champs Camp goes a long way towards creating the image of athletes in summer training, just like any other group of high school or college athletes. That's what these guys look like. There's a slight tinge of the best of reality shows in the stuff we're permitted to see, and I think fans/viewers get invested in the team. When it's competition time, they want to check out the performances to see how the kids do and WHAT they do. I know I feel that way. It becomes about more than who's the best. It's - oh hey, good for Adam - he landed that quad!

Team USFSA is brilliant because its approach creates community, versus a star system, and community is much more in tune with the times. It's much more contemporary. The audience feels included, and welcome. The Shibs with their videos first of all convey the fun of young people who get to tour the world with an international community of friends doing the same thing. Then, it's letting us share the fantasy of being a skater on tour. Don't most of us think making a video like "Call Me Maybe" is practically a wish-fulfillment version of how we'd spend our time as figure skaters lucky enough to travel as a tour group in Japan? And the Shibs want to show us. They're not showing off so much as they're having a good time and have some fun ideas and they're dying for feedback and to make other people laugh too. They find it fun - fans would find it fun. It creates good will you can't buy. Think Mao's fans aren't tickled to see her included and having a great time?

This is all organic. It's not control-freaked. The USFSA has its guidelines, its standards, but inside that framework the figure skaters have a ton of autonomy in terms of how they present themselves to the public. This is the ideal approach for public relations in any sector.

Over on fsu there are occasional out-of-it-snarks that "Call Me Maybe" was effeminate. Perhaps they feel the 2-guy conjoined somersault in the winning Champs Camp video was too gay too. What they miss is that Team USA appears to be completely past that type of hang-up. They're not self-serious enough. They're not insecure about their sport or about their image (SC reeks of both unearned arrogance and unshakeable insecurity). Everybody gets to relax and be themselves. Everybody is accepted.


  1. US figure skating creates a positive and fun environment for its athletes, realizing that OGMs are a spin off benefit and they have the OGM count to prove it. Skate Canada does not.

    US Figure Skating trained Skate Canada's only OGM (V&M) in the last 50 years (complaining until they give you a OGM doesn't count) and the US trains both of Canada's OGM hopes (V&M and Chan) for 2014. Bronze too, back in the 2006 with Buttle at Lake Arrowhead. They even sent 2018 Dance hopefuls "Paul Poirier & " to Detroit for training.

    The question really is why does Skate Canada even exist? Is it just a tax payer sink hole? A make work project for aging figure skaters, arrogantly confident lawyers and religious propagandists who would otherwise not be able to find gainful employment?

    1. Come now, 8:51, there are good things happening at Skate Canada, especially at the regional levels. They have a very good learn-to-skate program (CanSkate) and for the most part, all the local clubs under the SC umbrella are run well and are producing decent skaters.

      All these issues with SC that are mentioned in this blog seem to be more specifically about the top 2-4 people who are the face of Skate Canada (Barb, Debi, Thompson, Slipchuk, etc). Naturally, the top PTB are the ones most closely associated with the elite skaters and the gross incompetence at those top levels directly affects the National Team (the elite athletes). I do agree that as a group, the Canadian National Team appears less genuinely spontaneous - more robotic - than the USFS team. In all organizations these things come from the top, so it's easy to conclude that some very negative vibes are being passed to the team from the top executives. As a fan, it's confusing because individually I admire and like all the top Canadian skaters, but I don't care for the way Skatebuzz/Skate Canada promotes them. It's as if there's some kind of disconnect when they know they're closely followed and watched by Barb and Debi and other executives from SC. It's quite odd.

    2. I think at regional level SC works very hard. I don't know to what extent the Moirs enable the top 2-3 Directors at SC - if at all - but all indications are they run a terrific program at Ilderton and have been nothing but a plus for figure skating in that region. Even before Scott and Tessa hit the big time they were a success. This hard work is repeated throughout Skate Canada at club level.

      Which makes what's going on at the top all the more revolting. Yes, I do believe what 8:51 said hits the mark at national level - at that level, SC IS a "make work project for aging figure skaters, arrogantly confident lawyers and religious propagandists who would otherwise not be able to find gainful employment".

      How much harder has this situation made the job at club level? no major sponsorship money. Pissing away the promotional and exposure opportunity created by Skatebuzz to instead showcase Debbi Wilkes and, inadvetantly, showase the breathtaking fucking laziness of Barb MacDonald and everyone else with a say so in how Skatebuzz is employed (still waiting for Skatebuzz to take note of MTM's exciting summer results). Using the energy of other skaters and conscripting other outreach opportunities to promote the most arrogant, self-aggrandizing, ass-kissing, meanspirited, grandiose, self-obsessed fake romance EVER, while showing blatant disinterest in promising skaters who can't provide Debbi, Barb (and previously, Bill) with a self-aggrandizing quick fix? If you can't provide a showcase for Debbi and Barb or there's no quid pro quo for them, they're not going to give a shit about you. Where do we go to learn about non-celebrity but appealing up-and-coming Canadian figure skaters? Freaking

      It's horrible. Hard working people with a genuine love for the sport, not just the rewards of the sport, have to work that much harder and stretch scarce resources just to compensate for the bullshit up above. If Benoit, who stays relatively low key, is responsible for finally kicking Thompson out the door, he has a lot to answer for. Sadly, I suspect that Thompson went mostly because he took Skate Canada's crap mainstream with his out of it remarks about London Worlds. That became an embarrassment, so he went. If he'd continued to tool it up in-house or when he had the ear of only the "skating community" and know-nothing or groupie skating journalists, he'd still be there, I suspect.

      I looked up the logo re-vamp months ago and that thing was expensive. How does the organization justify spending money like that when it's in the financial straights it's in? And then on top of that, they figured the way to amortize the money spent was to promote the LOGO. What was the rationale? That people would fall in love with the fucking logo? Attend events and watch TV because of the fucking logo? A logo has to stand for something. Their logo fetish certainly highlighted SC's inability to see connections, inability to comprehend context (pretty much EVER), lack of understanding of how all of this works, and highlighted the agenda of the directors, which is personal, not professional, and not about figure skating, but celebrity and self-promotion.

  2. Skatebuzz doesn't promote anything, It is a comical creation and a reflection of the gross incompetence in charge at Skate Canada today (as is the new "Sinking Maple Leaf" logo). The USFSAs, promotes skaters professionally. It even promotes Canadian skaters better and more regularly than Skate Canada (as it is training them anyways, so why not).

    Skate Canada is producing nothing. All their elite skaters are trained by the USFSA. All their big Corporate sponsors fled and they are now taking desperation sponsorship from German and American companies, at 2 cents on the dollar.

    Just give Tessa and Scotts gold metals to the USFSA.