Practice Makes Perfect
When these athletes are on the ice, they seem to be right at home. With 70+ athletes comprising six competitive teams, Kansas City Illusion Synchronized Skating Teams glide like poetry in motion. The only team sport inside of figure skating, synchronized skating combines the essence of singles skating with sportsmanship, commitment, and the invaluable support of a team. And while these skaters may begin as a team, they often end up as friends. With skaters ranging in age from as young as three through 50+, there is a team for everyone within the Kansas City Illusion Synchronized Skating organization.
A lifelong ice skater and avid fan of the sport, Kameryn Furman has many years of performing and competing on ice as well as coaching experience to her credit and has gracefully translated those skills to her current role of Director of Kansas City Illusion, which has been in existence since 1999. Furman spends countless hours working with these driven athletes who appreciate the thrill of competition as well as the joy of skating.
“Synchronized skating is basically a group of eight to 24 athletes skating a program together, completing formations and designs on the ice set to music,” explains Furman. “It is open to people of all ages and of all levels of skating ability. However, having some sort of athleticism and fitness helps, as we do a great deal of training in-house.”
Practicing at Line Creek Ice Arena, all six teams compete throughout the season, which lasts from August through April each year. The various teams for youth include Formation, which is for kids ages three to nine who are just starting out. The Beginner team, for ages seven to 14, is for those older youth skaters who have a bit of competitive experience. The Pre-Juvenile team is for eight to 12-year-olds, and the Intermediate team is for older youth, ages 12 to 18.
“We also have two adult teams, one for those who are experienced skaters and then we have our Master’s team, which is for newer skaters or those who don’t necessarily want the time commitment it takes to compete out-of-state,” says Furman. “The Intermediate and Adult teams participate in Sectional competitions annually with the hope of then going on to Nationals.”
Monthly fees to participate in this sport vary and include competition dress, tights, time on the ice, coaching fees and, if on a travel team, it will cover any out-of-state travel expenses. For any in-state competitions, the teams pay for those as they go.
Weekly practices are conducted to ensure winning performances. In addition to outfits and skates, it is imperative skaters have the drive and commitment to do their best. The Intermediate team practices twice a week with an additional three hours of mandatory individual practice required each week via private lessons. Practice includes a 15-30 minute warm up off the ice, followed by up to 120 minutes of practice on the ice. All teams, with the exception of the Adult team practice, meet on Saturday morning. The Adult team has its practice on Sunday nights. The Sunday practice includes one hour on ice and one hour off the ice, as well as an initial 30-minute off-ice warm up. It is intense and does require a time commitment, but the results seem to make it all worthwhile, and the tenacity displayed by each athlete certainly pays off. In the 2017-2018 season the Intermediate team and the Adult team both nabbed the ISI (Ice Skating Institute) National Championship titles.
“Last season our Intermediate team won first place at ISI Nationals and this season our Adult team took second place at the USFS (United States Figure Skating) Kalamazoo Kick-Off Classic competition,” notes Furman, who coaches the Adult and Intermediate teams and acts as assistant coach for the Beginner team. Four other coaches round out the instruction staff.
After the four-month season of practice, competitions commence in November and run through early April. From April until the following August, practice is limited and not mandatory.
“Each team works on one routine for the entire season, and each routine ranges anywhere from two and a half minutes up to four minutes,” comments Furman. “There are a lot of moving parts to these routines.”
And for those wondering if synchronized skating is a possible ticket to college, Furman suggests there are three colleges in the United States that currently offer this as a varsity sport: Miami University in Ohio, Adrian College in Michigan and Trine University in Indiana.
“Synchronized ice skating is a very unique sport, as it brings together the beauty of ice skating with team dynamics,” notes Furman. “We welcome anyone to come in at any time. If you are interested in joining a team, we want you to join.”
Off the ice, there is a prescribed warm-up for every skater, including jumping jacks and other jumping-type motions, as synchronized skating requires appreciable knee action. Skaters also complete a lot of squats to provide for core stability, as well as focusing their attention on a variety of stretching exercise for flexibility. On-ice exercises include skating alternating intervals of hard laps and easy laps.