Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Essay from Grad School Writing Class About How My Competitive Skating Career Ended - Written September 17, 1981

I found this essay I wrote for a grad school writing class in 1981.  It sums up what skating can do to a young person.  Wow...only other figure skaters who obtain the elite level can relate to this...hope this helps others...I was 25 years old and married when I wrote this...it was before I began teaching skating when I was 26.....



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Jo Ann Farris
9-17-81
Essay #3

I was a competitive figure skater for fifteen years.  I retired from the figure skating world five years ago, at the age of twenty.  Durng my years of figure skating, I faced many tests of character.  I was constantly faced with the threat of losing, which tested my attitudes towards myself.  My whole self-worth was based on winning or losing.  I was under extreme pressure.  During my last competiion, in January of 1977, I faced the ultimate test:  we (my partner and I) came in last in the Midwestern Figure Skating Championships.

My partner, Richard, and I skated together for five years.  During our third year together, we placed second in the United States National Figure Skating Championships.  After that, things seemed to be going up and up.  Many officials in the skating world looked at us as Olympic hopefuls.  We too, expected to be top national contenders.

Disaster occured the following summer after our victory at the Nationals.  Richard had an accident. He was off the ice for two-and-a-half months.  We never recovered completely from that time off the ice.

For the next two years, we struggled with many losses.  We worked hard, but many skaters passed us up. We began to fight during practice periods.  Skating became torture instead of pleasure.  I remember crying all the time.  I was being torn apart.

During the summer of 1976, we went to Toronto, Canada, to get special choreographic instruction from a world-famous coach.  Going to Canada was our last hope.  We felt that we needed better choreography than our coach in Colorado Springs could give us.  We left Toronto with many new ideas, movements, and steps.  We were looking forward to a sure comeback.

Competition season in skating is during the winter.  We worked extremely hard that winter.  As the time for the Midwestern Championships approached, we grew excited.  We had high hopes.

We arrived at the competition site, in Ohio, a week early.  We could tell that people were surprised at our progress.  Our competitors definitely looked at us as a threat.  We were confident that we'd make a comeback and be going to the National Championships.

I still don't really know what went wrong on the day of the preliminaries.  All I know is that we placed last.  I remember smiling to keep the tears back.  My partner never left his hotel room until our final performance.  He'd lost hope; his self-worth was destroyed.

After that competition, I decided it was time to retire from skating.  The test I faced was a tough one: Was I worth anything without skating?  I knew nothing else, and I'd lived my whole life basing my worth as a person on my skating accomplishments.

After I quit, an entirely new world unfolded.  Unlike most young people, I had not had much social activity.  The world of people and activity opened up to me.  For the first time in my life, I went to parties, football games, and out to eat with people.  These people weren't all skaters.  For the first time in my life, I was an ordinary person.  I saw that I had some worth without having to prove it by winning a competition and a medal.  I felt as if I'd been reborn; each new day was so exciting.  Life was exciting!

It's been nearly five years since that dreadful competition.  One thing I'll always remember is that we did skate our best that day.  I look back on that experience as a meaningful one.  My life changed that day.  All that the world had to offer came into my life.  I had a chance to learn and find out about what life really is; I certainly passed the test.  I definitely respect myself now.  Winning is no longer everything.

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Here is the response to this papeer from my college professor:

Hooray for you, Jo Ann.  This was handled beautifully: it was both fascinating and convincing. Do you realize you wrote five pages in an hour?

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