Lesson on ice: From out of confusion, a shining finish

Posted 1/18/23

If it is said that adversity is simply opportunity in disguise, the following account can be thought of as a perfect example of just that notion…

The rink was cool on November 19th, 2022 at …

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Lesson on ice: From out of confusion, a shining finish


If it is said that adversity is simply opportunity in disguise, the following account can be thought of as a perfect example of just that notion…

The rink was cool on November 19th, 2022 at Boston Synchronized Skating Classic, however the nerves were high. For the Warwick Figure Skaters Snowflakes this was the first competition of the season and for 15 of the 20 team members their first ever. Synchronized Skating can briefly be described as a team discipline, with 8-20 skaters, performing various requirements in unison, focusing on speed, intricate formations and challenging step sequences.

The music began and the routine started. The Snowflakes, ranging in ages 8-15 years, started strong, successfully completing their first element, side by side circles. As they transitioned into their next move, at the 20 second mark in a two-minute program, things went totally awry. Rather than exiting the circles and forming one line, as rehearsed many times, the team found themselves in two separate lines facing each other in very wrong spots on the ice. The girls continued on and tried to keep their composure but with all the skaters in unfamiliar spots and their accordance off the results were a few falls and unfortunate collisions.

Head Coach Kristine Wilkinson recalls feeling, “helpless, having obviously no way to communicate” to her team, saying that this situation would be extremely difficult to recover from even for the most experienced team never mind a new team competing for the first time. Skater Samantha Browning, 14, explained, “I think what happened was one line went the wrong way and went towards the middle but we were supposed to skate the full ice and because of that we just couldn’t recover for the entire program”. Many of the girls skated the rest of the program in full tears looking off to off to their coaches in full panic, but never stopped. As the seemingly eternal two-minutes finally came to a completion, The Snowflakes remarkably ended all together in the same spot but not without overwhelming feelings of sheer shock, disappointment and raw emotion.

Briana Beavais, eight years old, depicts her experience as, “Terrible. I just wanted to get off the ice”. Coach Katie McKenzie, who runs the Learn to Skate Program that most of these children have had their start within, does not sugarcoat the reality of the event remembering it as very tough to watch, actually one of the worst she has encountered. Yet she is quick to clarify that, “Most of these kids have only just come out of the Learn To Skate Program. The fact that they were even out there and competing was pretty amazing to begin with. That they stayed on and finished was nothing short of incredible”.

If it was tough for the skaters and the coaches to endure, it was the parents watching from the stands that seemed to have suffered equally if not more. The words used to recount the drama are: awful, heart-wrenching, unbearable.

Rich Botham, father to nine-year old Julia, said, “Even for me I’m a hockey player, a hockey background. In hockey at least you have three periods, if you have a bad first one at least you have two more where you can make up for it. In figure skating if you don’t get it on the first try there is no recovery, that’s what makes it different from traditional team sports”. The coaches seemed to echo that idea in the locker room after the competition. McKenzie states they told them this was a life lesson and they were proud of them. They worked together as a team and this is part of skating, “You could have the best skate of your life and the outcome is still out of your hands because it is up to the judges. You will have good days and bad days.”

 Wilkinson then implored them with a test of character and a touch of tough love telling the team, “You have two options: 1. You can give up, or, 2. You can channel all the emotions you are feeling and show up more determined to work harder than ever.” The parents chronicled the collective rides home as quiet with many tears but noted that if anything good came from it, it was definitely a bonding experience.

A bonding experience it sure proved to be. Less than 24 hours after their disheartening Boston performance the girls had practice in Warwick. The coaches and many of the parents wondered will everyone even show up? Coach Elizabeth Slade recalls thinking, “As a coach my heart broke for the skaters because all of us knew how hard this team had been working and the potential they have. I remember being petrified that none of the skaters would show up to our next practice the following day. Instead, every skater showed up with a smile on their face and eager to work even harder to prepare for the rest of the season.” Bethany Laskowski, mom to Brooklyn, 9, and a decorated, former Warwick Figure Synchro Skater said, “Not only did they all show up but they had the best practice of their lives. To watch them pick themselves up and keep going was something to see.”

 The girls admirably described their overall mindset to get back to work on the ice as, “motivated and wanting to fix what was wrong.” This work ethic and positivity has launched The Snowflakes on an apparent upward trajectory. A few weeks later the Warwick Figure Skaters Held their annual holiday show. The ladies had a wonderful performance. Many of the girls attribute some the success to the support from the older skaters on The Munchkins and The Superettes. The older girls are assigned one of the younger in a program they call Big Sisters. It is to foster relationships and mentorships between the teams. The Snowflakes all explained that after Boston their Big Sisters were extremely supportive and encouraging…also empathetic as most competitive figure skaters have had some kind of similar experience.

With a few more practices and the holiday show under their belts The Snowflakes headed to their next competition, The Cape Cod Synchro Classic on December 10th, 2022.

The girls were really nervous with a lot of butterflies, but something was very different. When they competed in Boston The Munchkins and Superettes were not in attendance due to various skating times however most were present here. With the loud cheering section of the older teams and their parents in their corner, The Snowflakes rallied to the occasion and officially hit their stride.

Laskowski said, “I think I can speak for everyone when I say we were sick to our stomachs watching”. Nicole McLaughlin, mother of Aoife, 11, added, “Every element they successfully completed, we all let out a huge sigh”. After they finished a flawless performance the girls went to have their professional pictures taken where they were simply beaming from ear to ear. This was before they knew the results… they had won the gold medal.

Head coach Kristine Wilkinson explains, “This was the beautiful part, they did not even know they had won yet and they were just purely happy and excited with the way the skated.” As a matter of fact, once The Snowflakes returned to the stands, they had to be told several times before the news of first place sunk in. Larisa Vlasov, mother of Stella, 10, explained, “I really don’t think they understood until they got their medals”. The Snowflakes themselves think getting the gold was, “Awesome”.

As we head into a new year full of renewal and resolutions this is a story that resonates. It is full of important reminders from a group of little girls who have showed grit and resilience. In life show up for the people you care about, try not to take yourself to seriously, when you fall down get back up and try harder and learn from failure and mistakes. Wilkinson told them, “What I am most proud of you about is that after the Boston competition, in the locker room there was no blame, there was nothing but support and kindness. These are the qualities that make you amazing team mates. These are the qualities that then develop you into an amazing team. Maybe in 5 years from now when we are Munchkins and Superettes we will all look back and be able to laugh at this experience.”

 The girls are laughing already. Bravo Snowflakes! The Snowflakes will be competing again February 11-12, 2023 at the Connecticut Synchronized Skating Competition in Hamden, CT. Persons interested in Figure Skating lessons can go to the WFS website: (

snowflakes, staking


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