February 2010

Sky Is the Limit
by Erika Hoffman

There is a quote about skating that goes, "First you're a part of it, and then it becomes part of you."

I've said before that it is at times difficult to separate the sport I love from the person I've become. Skating has made me who I am today because of the choices I've made, the life lessons I've learned and the experiences that I've had - good and bad. I've learned to admire humility, ambition, determination and courage. I try to be the best I can be every day and embody those qualities on and off the ice. Skating is a hobby that often becomes a passion and stays a part of you forever. Skating 20 hours a week for the past 16 years, I have spent and continue to spend my life on the ice. It's not a complaint, it's a happy fact.

Erika Hoffman, left, holds up the championship hardware at the 2008 U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships.
I began gliding through life at age 2. My journey in the skating world started with singles in freestyle and figures. I picked up moves in the field when they were introduced and finally discovered that ice dancing is actually fun. Over the years, I've had excellent, caring coaches who not only helped me develop my skills on the ice, but often served up life lessons and became role models. I loved what they shared with me and knew I wanted to share my love for the sport with other young skaters someday. With this in mind, I worked hard to pass my gold tests in freestyle, moves in the field, dance, free dance and international dances.

It was a lucky twist of fate that led me to synchronized skating. It was called "precision skating" when I started 16 years ago at age 10. At first, I was skeptical about skating with 23 other girls. My aunt, who coached some good teams, got me hooked. Watching great teams at the senior level made me set new goals in the discipline.

As I write this, I'm in my fourth season as a Haydenette and I'm still hooked. I enjoy the challenge that every new season of choreography brings. I love the practices, travel and, of course, I love the competitions. I've been fortunate to experience the changes that have come to synchronized skating. I can testify to the increased athleticism, difficulty and demands of this ever-evolving discipline. My experiences with synchronized skating have led to lifelong friendships with teammates and competitors from all over the world. We remain the best of friends, years after many of them have put away their skates. My teammates are like sisters; I trust them unconditionally and respect them completely for their commitment and drive.

Erika Hoffman, second from right, hangs out with members of her Haydenettes team, including foreign exchange students Ayako Uchida from Japan, center, and Laura Spiridovitsh of Finland, right.
Synchronized skating has taught me so much about life and shaped who I am today. When I think about my life and my love for the sport, I find myself recounting competitions, practices, days off spent with teammates, travel days, team meetings, exhilarating victories and disappointing defeats. Every moment spent with my team on and off the ice has shaped who I am.

Perhaps one of the most valuable lessons I've learned is to trust others. As part of a competitive team, I rely on teammates and coaches to inspire and challenge me. They in turn know that I am available to them. We are each part of something bigger than 20 individuals on the team. We have built a web of support for each other. There's nothing like standing ice side with your team, and hearing "representing the United States of America ..." The feeling is overwhelming. It is a rush of nervousness, pride and excitement. To be able to share those moments with your friends/teammates is indescribable.

Team skating requires working together day after day toward a common vision through your own physical and mental exhaustion, pushing yourself harder - not only for yourself, but for the girls on either side of you. This discipline can be valuable to all aspects of your life.

Skating hasn't gotten old or tired for me; it is the joy I still feel when I take the ice that fuels my passion for skating. My best advice to any young skater who thinks a life on ice is a good idea would be to follow that dream! Work hard, set goals, pass tests and become the best skater you can be for yourself and any future teams you might be part of. There are no limits to what you can accomplish.