LAKE?PLACID - Approximately 85 skaters flocked to Lake Placid to participate in the Grassroots 2 Champions camp, which took place from June 22 to June 27. Dubbed G2C for short, camp participants were able to partake in on-ice group lessons, off-ice classes like choreography and dance, and schedule private lessons.
Called a "super camp," Lake Placid's G2C hosted the largest amount of guest coaches and instructors. Each day's instruction went from early in the morning until late afternoon.
Olympic coach Audrey Weisiger is the creator of the Grassroots to Champions seminars. She has coached several Olympic and world-level skaters including Michael Weiss (three-time U.S. men's champion, two-time U.S. Olympic Team, two-time World bronze medalist) and Timothy Goebel (2002 Olympic bronze medalist).
Photo by Greg Jamrosz
Approximately 85 skaters and at least a dozen instructors participated in the Grassroots 2 Champions super camp at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid from June 22 to 27.
"I have always wanted to host camps where like-minded coaches could be mentors to other aspiring coaches and their skaters," Weisiger said. "The week-long format allows for a comprehensive learning experience."
The Executive Director of G2C is Sheila Thelen, who is Master-rated by the Professional Skater's Association and is the designer and president of Champion Cords (a product used to help skaters with alignment, positioning and technique).
"I joined the G2C staff seven years ago, originally as a G2C staff member teaching Champion Cords (I'm the inventor of Champion Cords)," Thelen said. "It truly changed my coaching career and life, having the opportunity to work with Audrey Weisiger, Nick Perna, Chris Conte, Pasquale Camerlengo and the rest of the G2C staff,"
The entire coaching staff for G2C was indeed very impressive. The faculty included Nick Perna, Tom Zakrajsek, Tom Pasquale Camerlengo, Douglas Webster, Doug Mattis, Dan Joyce, John Zimmerman, Ryan Bradley, Trevor Laak and guest coaches from the Ice Theatre of New York.
Each brought a unique coaching specialty to the camp. Perna is a PSA Master-rated coach who uses a "jump pole" to help train skaters jumps. A well-known Olympic and world-level coach based out of Colorado Springs, Zakrajsek currently coaches several elite skaters and was the 2009 PSA Coach of the Year.
Pasquale Camerlengo is a World and Olympic coach and choreographer, while Douglas Webster has also coached at an Olympic and world level, choreographing for Olympic skaters and for tours like Stars on Ice and the Ice Theatre of New York. Douglas Mattis taught on-ice choreography, style and presentation, and was a performer in skating shows and television specials.
The dance instructor for G2C in Lake Placid was Dan Joyce, who is professor of dance at George Mason University. John Zimmerman and Ryan Bradley are former competitive skaters on the Olympic and world levels (Zimmerman for pairs, Bradley for singles), and are now coaching and skating professionally, passing on their skating knowledge to the G2C students.
Trevor Laak brought video analysis to lessons with his skaters, along with an expertise in jump technique. The camp afforded the skaters to learn from each coach - whether it is in a group lesson or private instruction - and gain a great amount of information from each instructor.
What makes G2C unique is that it focuses on not just skaters, but coaches. Skating instructors are allowed to sit in on all lessons, so they can bring valuable new information to their coaching practice and ask questions if necessary. This allows coaches and skaters to collaborate on their newly learned skills. The camp serves not just as an opportunity for skaters to polish their skills, but for other coaches to mentor attending instructors.
The G2C series has been growing steadily due to this unique practice and mentorship opportunity.
"G2C has expanded and grown significantly, and seeing the development of skaters and coaches through these seminars is very rewarding," Thele said. "Working with Audrey Weisiger (on any project) is amazing."
Also an optional facet of the G2C camp was a choreography workshop, hosted by various instructors. This was a collaborative event where coaches and skaters could learn from choreographers and dance instructors about effective use of choreography and movement, both on-ice and off.
Several of the coaches from G2C including Weisiger, Dan Joyce and Webster facilitated this workshop, and it was held in collaboration with G2C, Ice Theatre of New York and the Young Artist Showcase. A former Lake Placid skater, coach Peter Biver brought a few of his students for the camp from Minnesota and stayed for the choreography seminar.
"What is so important to me about the choreography seminar is that it gives aspiring choreographers an opportunity to work alongside excellent choreographers and artists, in a nurturing, supportive environment," Biver said.
In addition to the camp and choreography seminars, G2C hosted a unique exhibition called the "Young Artist Showcase." Considered a part of G2C, the goal of the showcase is to encourage creativity in skating by facilitating a virtual skating choreography competition.
"Young Artists Showcase was designed for aspiring choreographers to get exposure and advice from master choreographers," said Weisiger about the development of YAS.
To enter, skaters must submit a sample of their choreography work via YouTube. If selected, they can complete a weekly challenge to determine who will become a finalist, and if they are one of the final skaters they can perform in a live show. Figure skating icons judge each challenge by video and provide feedback; at the live show there are three judges. The audience also has an opportunity to vote.
Winners receive a scholarship toward their education, the opportunity to have their work debuted at Rockefeller Center in New York City, and can attend the creation of work by choreographers Webster and Cindy Stuart (Stars on Ice, Disney on Ice). The contestants in the YAS competition have all benefitted from the event.
"The contestants have all gone on to expand their careers and the audience has the delightful opportunity to have a glimpse into the future of skating artistry when they view the pieces," Weisiger said.
In addition to the finalists, there were several entertaining skaters of all ages performing. As part of their challenge, finalist choreographers created a group program for Bradley, Zachary Donahue, and Madison Hubbell, which were choreographed two days before the event. The finalists also showcased a program of their own creation.
There was a spirit of collaboration and respect among the competitors, who performed completely different styles of skating-while finalist Garrett Kling skated to a somewhat melancholy jazz piece, his competitor Mark Hanretty executed a dramatic tango program. Although Kling bested Hanretty in the Choreographer's Choice challenge, Hanretty won the overall third season title. Both skaters brought choreographic excellence to the 1932 rink, which hosted the G2C Young Artist Showcase for the first time.
With the training and housing facilities and idyllic Lake Placid as a backdrop, Weisiger thought it was the perfect place to host G2C.
"Lake Placid was a perfect setting for camp," Weisiger said. "The dorms were amazing, not one complaint, food was the best ever, the rinks are world class and the town is so charming, who would not want to be in Lake Placid?"
Thelen felt the same way.
"We LOVED Lake Placid! What a beautiful and special location for all skaters to be a part of."
The hot question among figure skaters in the community is if G2C will return again next year for another super camp. Weisiger didn't say that G2C would definitely come back to Lake Placid, but it is a possibility.
"We traditionally rotate locations of camp to spread the accessibility, but it is not out of the question, we might return,"
For more information about the G2C camps and Young Artist Showcase, visit their website at www.grassrootstochampions.com.