Skate Academy

Sylvia Verschraege

Professional skater, coach

 

WHO I AM

 

I had a dream.

I had dreams, but I had to bury them, people aropund me tried to make me forget them even if they didn't succeed.

With a lot of detours, I still managed to make my childhood dreams come true, or at least part of them.

I am someone who will never give up and I always keep looking far ahead.

So remember this :  never give up on your dreams, follow them and make them come true.

Keep on reading and you will see why...

 

A little girl's dreams

As a 4 year old, I had a pair of red velvet shoes, I tied my mother's tights on top like the ribbons on a ballerina's shoes. I made up childish dance choreographies on Chpin's melodies (Italian Capriccio) and Franz Liszt (Love Dream) or even Shubert (Musical Moment).es d’enfant sur la musique de Chopin (Caprice Italien) ou Frans List (Rêve d’Amour) ou encore Schubert (Moment Musical).

Nobody ever understood where my desire to dance on my toes found its inspiration, neither they did understand where my talent came from. I had never seen a ballerina, we didn't even have Television. Still, I already dreamed of ballerina shoes and tutu skirts, I dreamed of Gisèle and teh Swan Lake.

My mother had often told me about how much she liked to skate with her friends and to dance Waltzes and Tangos on ice. She told me about the atmosphere of the ice rinks in Brussels, called North Pole and Saint Sauveur, about the frozen pond in the Bois de la Cambre. I loved the snow and the cold.

We went for our Summer holidays in Switzerland, there was an ice rink there, and a new dream was born.

It was my mother who gave me very first lesson :  I had to walk tiny steps on the ice..

Very quickly I started to glide and could take lessons with a private teacher, I learned very fast and my Swiss teacher explained to my parents that I had a special gift, and that I could become a really good skater

What a dream..... I would become a terrific skater.

 

The ballet dancer / The ballerina

Athe age of 6 my mother enrolled me for a rythmic dance class that I followed 3 years long.

I started classical ballet when I was 8, and my teacher, the young Nicole Karys, who was happy to have such a good pupil, wanted me to enter the Royal Theatre of the Monnaie in Brussels.

It was too much for my mother who thought that such a school was not the proper environment for her child.

I could keep on attending the lessons of Nicole Karys, but I would never become a young dancer at the Opera.

My dream of becoming a little ballerina in the great classical was broken.

Never mind !!!

At least I could keep dancing, dance on points and also appear on the scene together with the other pupils from the ballet school during shows.

I went to Nicole Karys' ballet school for more than 15 years, making regular progress, I was among the best students of my age.

 pendant plus de 15 ans, progressant régulièrement, étant parmi les meilleures de mon âge. The idea of maybe becoming myself a ballet teacher came to my mind. This had come and for 3 or 4 years I myself initiated children to rythm, dance, points and shows. It was fascinating. 

But this is how life is :  sometimes you find obstacles on your way and I had to leave this road.

 

The skater

When I was about 8 or 9, my girlfriends from school went to gymnastics, they learned a lot of exercises that we hadn't done at school. I also wanted to try and do the same things.

Since I could not go to the Opera ballet school, I wanted to try myself in gymnastics.

It was categorically forbidden to me.

That summer we were in Davos, Switzerland, and since I could not become a ballerina nor I could do gymnastics, I wanted to skater and become a skater. My mother gave me my first lesson.

As soon as we got back home, my parents took me to the ice rink.

I started to practice in Brussels 4 to 5 times a week. I was member of the club and took private lessons as well as group lessons.

I was in the most performing group with other children of the same age.

I could soon participate to the gala events and show what I was capable of.

My coach progressivly started to prepare me for competition. What a joy !

The ballet classes were a big help, I was gracefull and flexible, I had a good posture and very good musical skill.

My mother made me understand soon enough that competition was not for me, that skating as well as ballet dance were part of entertainment, just some kind of hobby.....

It was out of question that I would do a sports career. I would become a secretary speaking four languages (at the age of 12, I already spoke those four languages)

I could stay member of the club, take lessons from time to time (just for fun) and keep o skating for the sake of movement and doing sports.

My dream of becoming a skater was thus destroyed.

I had a strong will, so I kept on practicing and learning, but on my own as I could.

I was observing the technical skills of the champions on Television, practicing in my room or in the sportshall at school.

I had excelelnt basics and the classical ballet le jumpshelped a lot. I managed to execute all double jumps.

It was at that point that I discovered ice dance, I saw some couples on dancing on the ice and it made me think of ballroom dancing.

I was curious and looked for information as much as I could (there was no internet at that time), and I learned the dances one after the other.

On ice the couples helped me, explaining me the step sequences and the curves, and I followed them and copied their gestures. As I got home, I studeid the steps from a book. The rug beside my bed represented the ice rink and I placed my feet following the scheme as showed on paper.

In a few weeks time, I memorised the steps of about twenty dances and I was able to place them on the rink, I was able to dance on ice !

The roes started to reverse.

Those adults who initiated me to ice dance were now asking technical explanantion on how to better execute a step, on how to get better, and so on...

They knew the dances, I had the technique, the observation and analytical skills.

All I had learned in my childhood and the studies I made turned out to be usefull to them.

I was going to be a coach ! 

 

The studiant and later on the teacher

When I was 15, since I could not engage towards classical ballet nor skating, I decided to become a sports teacher. In order to achieve that I had to do gymnastics, swimming, athletics and a lot of other sports that I did not particularly enjoy. However, it was necessary to go through that path in order to achieve my goal.

At school I was the best pupil overall, so I was headed to the gym club to train on beam and asymetric bar as we did not learn them at school, much to the annoyance of my mother who started to imagine that I was once again going to choose a direction that she did not want for me. I made her believe that I did not want to be familiar with only a part of that sport.

 

The truth was, I had to make my other dreams come true :  do sports, a lot of sports and teach them. My father was more ready to follow me to make my wishes come true, as he had been supportive to me in my competition aspirations too, but he had his career and was often away working on projects and missions abroad.

Against all the reluctance of my mother, who was convinced that I should become a secretary speaking four languages, I could however start my studies of Physical Education and Sports, but only thanks to the fact thuxs I would do this at university level.

 

She could still not understand what on earth I would do with such a diploma, since for her sports is to have fun and not to make a carreer of ! 

After I graduated with distinction and obtained a spacialization in movement analysis as well as a diploma in biology, I entered the National Education where I got didillosioned fast, and realized that school environment was not at all made for me :  it did not match with my character nor with my aspirations. I needed goals, challenges and I could not find them in that environment.

On the other hand I enjoyed a lot my job as a swimming pool teacher. That is where I found out about baby swimming.  I was able to give lessons after a short training. I also obtained the higher rescue certificate, which was not easy at all.

 

The career woman

Language skills open up doors in an unexpected way and I was fluent in 4 languages.

As I did not like the educational environment, I forced myself to take up an administrative job in the industry.

It was by coincidence that I discovered international trade, transport and logictics as well as flow of goods. It turned out to be a fascinating world.

I felt completly lost in an unknown field, in a men's worlt (at that time, not many women had functions in the field of logistics, but I was curious and eager to learn. I layed down the groundwork step by step and in 23 years of career I changed employers about 15 times, getting better and better each time and always looking for new challenges.

When I had learnt everything with one employer, and (when) there was nothing left for me to learn, I quickly started to feel bored. I thus had to change job, I needed a new goal.

 

When I had learned everything with one employer, and when there was nothing left for me to learn, I quickly started to feel bored. I thus change job, I needed a new goal. 

I climbed up the stairs of hyerarchy, starting as simple admininstrative employee in a tiny family entreprise and reaching 23 years later I quit a position in logistics management.

During my career years, I had neglected sports for about a decade and I had gotten terribly rusty. I however felt the need for movement and after this sedentary period I started a physical activity again.

First I went back to attend my old ballet school. Subsequently I started skating again and working seriously on the dances.

I alos won a Belgian chamionship in 1m springboard as well as vice-champion in 3m springboard. This came as a result of my years passed in the swimming pool and turned out to be an easy challenge thanks to my past in gymnastics.

 

Following a reorganisation I lost my last job and after 23 years of administrative sedentary work and a great deal of frustration in my mind, I decided to go back full time towards what I had trained and studied for: teaching this magnificent sport, my passion, figure skating and more  specifically ice dance.

 

La maman

Pendant mes « années carrière » j’ai rencontré mon futur mari et nous avons eu un fils, Mathias.

Très jeune il a montré des dispositions sportives, artistiques et musicales.

D’abord lui apprendre à nager (ma formation pour bébés-nageur m’a bien aidée) et lui apprendre à rouler en vélo (ça c’était le rôle du papa).

L’élever en plusieurs langues était aussi une priorité. Je lui parlais en Français, son papa en Néerlandais et il regardait les films de Walt Disney en Anglais.

Lui donner le sens du rythme et savoir reconnaître une valse d’un tango ou d’un quickstep.

Merci Strauss et André Rieu pour la Radetsky March qui m’a permise de lui apprendre à battre la mesure sur le chemin de l’école pendant nos trajets en voiture

 

A 4 ans je l’ai conduit à la patinoire, mais ça ne lui plaisait pas du tout. Après quelques séances il n’a plus voulu continuer.

Aucune importance, il y avait tant d’autres sports.

Je ne me suis pas privée de lui faire essayer un peu de tout, équitation, tennis, randonnée, ski alpin, initiation à l’escalade, au plongeon et à l’athlétisme.

 

Vers 10-12 ans il a pu faire ses propres choix, BMX et skateboard, et…. Patinage !!! 

Il a lui-même fait le choix de vouloir patiner, et je ne l’ai pas encouragé en ce sens, et pourtant....

 

Aujourd’hui c’est un adulte, il a sa vie, son travail, mais il aime encore toujours patiner.

C’est ainsi qu’il m’accompagne lors d’évènements et que nous donnons cours ensemble dans le cadre des stages et des séminaires que j’organise.

 

 

La coach

Ma carrière et ma vie de famille me prenaient beaucoup de temps et pendant plusieurs années j’ai tout à fait délaissé le sport, je m’encroutais complètement et le sport me manquait de plus en plus.

 

Un jour mon ancien club m’a demandé de revenir patiner, de me joindre au groupe d’adultes danseurs qui se retrouvaient deux fois par semaine pour danser ensemble.

Heureuse de retrouver la glace j’ai repris les choses là où je les avais laissées. Mais terminé les sauts pour moi, ça ne me disait plus rien du tout, le désir de danser était le plus fort.

 

Avec la perspective de présenter des tests de danse, l’envie de m’entraîner était revenue. Puis avec la réussite des tests et une médaille d’argent dans la poche, l’envie de donner cours se faisait de plus en plus sentir et j’ai commencé à avoir quelques élèves adultes. Parallèlement j’avais aussi quelques cours collectifs à donner aux enfants d’un club. Mais je trouvais ça nettement moins motivant que les adultes.

 

Quel magnifique défi que ces adultes qui veulent qu’on leur explique tout, qui n’arrêtent pas de poser des tas de questions et surtout de SE poser des questions, et puis ils réfléchissent, ils observent, ils décortiquent chaque mouvement, chaque position. Ils sont très motivés…

 

Mais voilà que je me donne un nouveau grand défi :  la médaille d’or !

En Belgique je suis bloquée, je n’ai personne pour m’accompagner dans cette ascension et m’entraîner seule n’est plus une option à ce niveau-là.

Tant pis, j’irai chercher de l’aide au Royaume-Uni et je recontacte des entraîneurs rencontrés au cours de stages de danse que j’avais suivis plusieurs années auparavant dans différents pays.

Je vais quelques temps à Nottingham, je m’entraîne 6 heures par jour tous les jours, je suis cassée, mon corps me fait mal, surtout les jambes, les cuisses et les hanches, le dos aussi. Mais je veux y arriver.

 

En Belgique, en plus de ma carrière logistique, des cours que je donne et de ma vie de famille, je m’entraîne 18 heures par semaine en partie seule et en partie avec Corey Lapaige et au bout de 5 mois je réussis ma médaille d’or belge (6 danses imposées, une danse originale et une danse libre, je les ai patinés en 45 minutes chrono, portée aux nues par ma volonté et poussée par l’adrénaline ).

Mais ça ne me suffit pas encore, je veux plus. Corey ne veut pas me suivre dans ma course au progrès, il pense que je n’y arriverai pas. C’était très mal me connaître.

 

Alors sur le conseil de Jimmy Young je vais à Slough près de Londres et pendant environ 5 ans j’irai toutes les 6 semaines 3 jours à Slough pour m’entraîner avec Jason Blomfield. Je dois repartir tout en bas de l’échelle, le Royaume-Uni n’acceptant pas une équivalence avec les tests belges.

Jason reprend toute ma technique à la base et fait le grand nettoyage, petite erreur ici, petit défaut là-bas, beaucoup d’explications et d’analyse, beaucoup de temps passé avec lui, il négocie une équivalence partielle. Un an plus tard, soit 6 séjours de 3 jours à Slough et énormément d’heures d’entraînement seule en Belgique, je présente et réussis les uns après les autres les tests (chacun 2 danses imposées). Etant dispensée des 6 premiers tests je commence au 7ème, j'en présente 3 d’un coup et puis pour les 4 derniers un à la fois.

 

Tous mes diplômes en poche, j’en arrive à être 7 jours sur 7 sur la glace, un peu en club avec des enfants pour le patinage artistique, beaucoup en cours avec des adultes pour la danse.

Quelques enfants dont mon fils se joignent aux adultes.

Tout ce petit monde se met à former des couples, à faire de la compétition ou des tests, et moi je commence à organiser des stages et même aussi des compétitions.

 

Dernièrement j'ai goûté au patinage artistique inline, j'ai commencé par les danses de bases et j'ai des élèves.

 

Et aujourd’hui j’ai encore toujours des idées de projets plein la tête, de nouveaux rêves, que je m’efforcerai de réaliser.

 

Ne jamais abandonner et toujours regarder plus loin…

 

Bienvenue à la Skate Academy Online, une innovation dans l’enseignement du patinage et de la danse..

 

 

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