In sync on the ice, two Redhawks team up to skate

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provided by Karina Grokhovskay

Sophomore Athena Tseng and freshman Karina Grokhovskaya often spend hours each week with their synchronized skating team with team often consisting of eight to 20 skaters.
“I want them to feel empowered that they are an important part of a team,” coach Kim Hansen said. “That their presence is vital and that they add to the success of the team as a whole. This experience is different than being part of a group of friends as it carries a specific goal and while these girls are friends, they are also coworkers, colleagues, and teammates.”

This year being unlike any other has stopped many short in their tracks, however, for the Texas All Stars, this opportunity has given them a chance to focus back in on what they love most, synchronized skating.

For sophomore Athena Tseng, this is a chance to grow closer to her team and build communication skills.

“I like synchronized skating because you can make a lot of friends and learn a lot of valuable things from it and build teamwork,” Tseng said. “I think it will benefit me because you need to learn how to work with others and I also have learned many different skills for it as well.”

After weeks of practices, the team is finally wrapping up their preparations for upcoming competitions and for freshman Karina Grokhovskaya, this competition will be a long awaited break from daily life.

Proudly wearing her medals after a competition freshman Karina Grokhovskay and her team are putting the finishing touches on their routine with competition season right around the corner.

“We have a competition in January and we also have one in March,” Grokhovskaya said. “Our competitions usually include two different events, one shorter program and one longer program. We usually compete against the other rinks around us.”

With limited practices and events this year, the team is unable to predict the outcome of future competitions.

“I’m actually not sure how we will do because we do not exactly know how the other teams have been doing as this will be our first competition this season,” Grokhovskaya said. “Right now we are finishing up our long program and going over the short program just to make sure that everything is polished like it should be.”

While the shut down due to COVID-19 has not affected the team too significantly, it has caused some minor changes to normal routine similar to the limited ability to check up on local competitors.

For coach Lisa Cushley, these changes mean regular temperature checks as well as vigorous sanitation.

“Things have changed due to COVID-19 and everyone is slowly getting accustomed to the new rules,” Cushley said via email “We take everybody’s temperature before the start of practice, everyone must wear a mask properly at all times during off ice and on the ice, as well as washing and sanitizing our hands. The main focus of the new rules is to ensure everyone stays safe.”

I want them to feel empowered that they are an important part of a team, that their presence is vital and that they add to the success of the team as a whole,”

— coach Kim Hansen

However, coaches are not the only ones feeling the wrath of the virus. For both instructors and athletes alike, these changes have taken some getting used to.

I definitely think that having to get used to wearing the mask has been the hardest because just like any other sport it does kind of get in the way and also worrying about contact tracing,” Grokhovskaya said.

As the team continues to carry out necessary safety precautions, they keep open communication between athletes and parents to allow everyone to feel as safe as possible, one of coach Kim Hansen’s main goals.

“The main change is the requirement of the athletes to wear masks and to have temperature checks before practice,” Hansen said via email. “Of course, we also keep a line of communication open at all times regarding any potential exposures so that everyone feels comfortable that if an athlete is at practice, she is not concerned that she is bringing any exposure to her teammates.”

Although the pandemic has caused a deal of uncertainty amongst all, both coaches still plan on instilling a lesson in each of their athletes as they help each member pursue their goals.

“It is very important that for each and every athlete, they know that with every commitment and a great deal of patience and hard work, anything is possible,” Cushley said. “That the lessons of discipline will help define you far beyond a synchro team. To be a well-rounded athlete and skater takes much more than just knowing how to skate. It takes teamwork, motivation, loyalty and knowing when to have fun and when it’s time to be serious.”

The coaches want their athletes to not only leave the ice with a greater outlook on life, but a greater outlook on their future feeling confident in their ability to succeed later.

“I want them to feel empowered that they are an important part of a team,” Hansen said. “That their presence is vital and that they add to the success of the team as a whole.  This experience is different than being part of a group of friends as it carries a specific goal and while these girls are friends, they are also coworkers, colleagues, and teammates.”

However, both coaches share a common goal, preparing their students for their future by giving them the confidence to carry them throughout life.

“By far the most important trait in a skater is discipline,” Hansen said. “Not everyone has the same talent, but the disciplined skater with a true love of the sport will go the farthest. Hard work, a positive attitude, and a general desire to be the best skater one can be will carry an athlete a long way.”