The Next Olympic Sport: Synchronized Skating

Anyone who listens to me or reads my rants might think I spend all of my time in ice rinks dealing with hockey, hockey players, and hockey related injuries. Not so. I spend at least one very early weekday morning and part of each weekend with my daughter the figure skater, who has latched onto the up and coming sport of synchronized skating with a passion you don't often see in teenagers.

Synchronized skating is exactly what it sounds like: teams of 10-20 skaters performing precision moves like circles, kick lines, intersections (one or more lines crossing through each other), pinwheels, and spirals (skating on one leg), moving quickly from one formation to another. It's fast, it's fun to watch, and it's hard to do properly. Trust is defined when you're moving backwards at 15 MPH, you lunge down on one knee, and just know that your teammate from the other line won't hit you with her toepicks, avoiding a gouge just slightly less deep than the San Andreas Fault.

Synchronized skating takes the best of both of my favorite ice sports - the beauty and theater of figure skating along with the team work ethics of hockey. It's likely to be an Olympic sport within the next few convocations of the Winter Games; it's already contested at the national and world levels. There's even a skating magazine devoted to the sport (and yes, that's my daughter's former team in the photo, she's posed at the one o'clock position in the circle). Trade press coverage lends credibility, even at $50 for 6 annual issues.

There's one cardinal rule of synchronized skating: never let go of the skater next to you. Maintaining connected lines, as well as straight lines and foot synchronization, is one of the keys to placing well. However, if you wipe out, you immediately heed corrollary rule one: forget the cardinal rule, let go, stop the Zamboni imitation and rejoin your line. The coach of my daughter's team captured the key to success quite succinctly in a practice last week: "Skate your weight".

And so I've found another management lesson in sports ( Jonathan Schwartz will be dismayed because he hates sports analogies, which makes it all the more fun to invent them just to gauge his reactions): Push appropriately, grab onto your teammates, and when someone falls, don't skate over them -- pull them back to the line. Once you're out of college, engineering is a team sport.

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Hal Stern's thoughts on software, services, cloud computing, security, privacy, and data management

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