AST Skater Spotlight Series – Meet Kassidy

Our Adults Skate Too Skater Spotlight Series is a bi-weekly blog where you get to know your fellow adult skaters from all over the world! For our next edition, you will get to meet Kassidy! She’s a second chance skater who is an Occupational Therapy/Physiotherapy Assistant from Nova Scotia. Read more about her skating journey, her advice to defeat negative self talk, and her new favorite off-ice exercise!

What’s your name? Where are you from? What do you do for a living?

Kassidy Nickerson (@nickersass).

I’m originally from Clark’s Harbour, Nova Scotia (Southern tip of the province). I’m an Occupational Therapy/Physiotherapy Assistant. I currently am employed at two different long term care facilities.

What’s your story? How did you get into figure skating?

My mom figure skated when she was young, competed at a high level and later became a coach. She put my siblings and I in the CanSkate program at a young age (around 4). After completing the program, I went on to starskate and skated one day a week (all that was really available where I lived). I always loved skating, but I let my fears and self consciousness keep me from practicing and excelling. It was more of a recreation activity that I went to. It changed in grade 12 where I decided it was my last year and I was determined to give it my all. I switched coaches, started skating twice a week and registered for Skate Dartmouth and Provincials – two competitions in my province. Still was pretty fearful and nervous, so while I did progress it was slow.

I enrolled in McGill University following graduation and joined the Figure Skating Club. We practiced 3x/week at 6:30AM. I met so many wonderful people and we became good friends. I found that without the support of a coach, my motivation kind of plummeted and I wasn’t being challenged enough. Second year, I experienced a difficult loss and developed depression, causing me to lose any passion or drive I had – not just for skating but even honestly just getting out of bed everyday was a struggle. 

Fast forward 2 years where I returned to NS and got my OTA/PTA diploma; I decided to register for StarSkate at my old club – twice a week. Fell so deeply in love – more so than I previously was – with figure skating and worked to get myself back to the level I was prior to taking a break. Single jumps minus an axel, and sit spin/back spin for freestyle elements. It’s been strong and steady ever since! 

What does your skating schedule look like?

I now skate 3 times a week – Sunday, Monday and Thursdays. I’m also a Program Assistant for CanSkate twice a week, and sometimes drop into public skating if I can.

What has been the most rewarding or exciting moment in your skating career?

The most rewarding experience in my career would be giving back to the Figure Skating Community and helping teach children the basic skills required for an ice sport. Seeing their progress, and knowing that you made an impact in their lives just feels like a massive accomplishment and fills you with pride. 

What was the most difficult moment of your skating career and how did you overcome it?

I’d have to say the most difficult thing in my career would be getting passed my fear of falling, anxiety, and perfectionism. I can be extremely hard on myself, I’ve always been the type of person to strive for 100% on tests/assignments and have everything in a perfect order or system. Unfortunately figure skating is such a technical and difficult sport, so it takes blood, sweat and tears. Constant repetition and focus. The more stress I’m under, it usually triggers more negative self talk and emotions. 

My coach has quite honestly been my life saver. She knows exactly how my brain functions and has tailored her coaching style and technique around my learning behaviors and patterns. She can sense when I need that extra push, or when I need someone to talk me down. She can instantly tell by my expression when I’m frustrated or upset, and talks me through the situation, while preventing any outbursts or anxiety attacks. I can be very determined and stubborn, so she knows exactly how to channel my stress into energy, and encourage me to do that jump/spin again and reassure that I’m doing okay. I would not be the figure skater I am without her! 

One session she decided to give me an axel lesson in the harness. I’d been doing walk-throughs but could never work myself up to attempting an axel on ice, or even over rotating a waltz jump. My mind just could not get over the fear or understand the specific instructions/steps to do it. Now for anybody who thrives on control, and hates the unexpected, you can imagine how terrifying this was. I couldn’t know exactly when or if she was going to pull and raise me, so the constant anticipation was daunting. I was semi-okay just doing the walk throughs without her applying any force but as soon as she asked me to attempt an axel, I shut down. My brain started racing 100 miles/minute and I could not convince my brain or body that this was a safe or logical request. After recognizing my agitation and stress, I got out of it. I did a few more walk throughs and that was the end of the lesson. 

The whole 45 minute drive home that was all I thought about. It spiralled into me criticizing and condemning myself. Feeling guilty and ashamed for not trusting my coach and following through with her recommendations and requests. There was this never ending loop of questions and negative emotions. I arrived home and jumped in a bath to try and calm myself down. Finally, the dam broke and I was having an anxiety attack. During this moment I was still bewildered as to why I was making such a big deal over this one situation and feeling like a “cry baby”. Finally after my breathing returned to normal and I settled down a little, I took the time to process what had happened and rationalize with myself. I worked through why I was so scared, and how I have every right to feel how I’m feeling. How I was looking forward to the next time and hoping that I became more familiar and comfortable in it. How it wasn’t “the end of the world” like I had been telling myself for the last hour or so. I messaged my coach later and apologized, and the next time she suggested a harness lesson, she told me in advance and I quote “to mentally prepare yourself”. She talked with her co-coach about my reaction and strategies to help with it. Never once did I feel judged or condemned by her. She saw my increased anxiety, stopped the lesson and then consulted the opinion of others while also helping to reassure and encourage me. Probably one of the most defining moments I can think of at the moment. It was a high intensity situation and one that I’ll carry with me – and use to motivate me – in the future. 

What’s your favorite element to practice?

It’s slowly changing as I’m becoming more confident. It used to always be loops because it was the most difficult jump I was able to consistently land. Now I would have to say flips – even though I had such a hatred for them for ~10 years (and could NEVER land them) – but I absolutely love sit spins and could do those all session long if I was allowed. 

What’s your favorite off-ice exercise to practice?

I recently purchased a BOSU ball, so it’s been exciting to experiment and learn different exercises on that. I really enjoy spider planks on it, although the next day I’m insanely sore. I also love doing spirals/shoot the ducks on it, and am constantly working at improving them. I’m also trying to incorporate more cardio into my exercise routine, to improve on speed and power on the ice. 

What motivates you?

My internal drive for success and fulfillment. When I’m on the ice I feel like I belong, that we were meant to find each other. It’s where I can express myself and pour energy into. Every session I work to be better than my last, whether it’s jumping 0.5cm higher or spinning one revolution more. It’s those minute victories that keep me coming back and giving my all. 

Also, watching ISU Competitions on television and seeing all of the talent and passion exhibited by figure skaters (especially Canadians!) causes you to want to work hard and achieve your goals and dreams. It reminds you of the reason you love to skate, and how you can always work and push yourself that extra bit harder. 

How has skating impacted your life?

It’s allowed me an outlet to pour my heartache, frustration, happiness, joy and sadness. I was always horrible at sports – I vividly remember receiving a C in grade 3 Phys Ed; but figure skating always made sense. It was the one thing I could do well, and felt rewarded doing. While it can be highly stressful, it’s also so calming and freeing. I can forget about the rest of the world and just concentrate on myself. It’s taught me confidence, self awareness, perseverance, determination, motivation and self love. I’ve been able to foster close friendships, and acquaintanceships. It’s such a loving space where (for the most part) everyone is supportive and encouraging of each other. Giving helpful tips and advice to each other, sharing stories and laughs. Where you celebrate your success and triumphs. It’s the one hobby that I do entirely for me, and it’s my greatest form of self care. 

What’s the best advice your coach has given you?

I can’t think of anything specific that has stuck with me, it’s more an overall feeling of trust and just knowing how much faith and courage she has in me. I’m the type of person that doesn’t open up to many people or place my trust in them; but she’s been such a constant and rock in my life. Just having the knowledge that she believes in me, and that I can accomplish or work to accomplish a skill, is very comforting and encouraging. 

What’s your advice for other adult skaters out there?

Just go for it. Now’s the time. Find a good coach that you “click” with, and skate as much as possible. Don’t let your fear get in the way of practicing tough elements. Off ice exercises are a game changer. I’ve found that they really help with my confidence, and I’m more apt to try something on the ice that way. Work on skating with speed, especially into jumps/spins. That way the more speed you have, the more time you have to prepare for a certain element. Bend your knees (way more than you think you have to) and push with your blade. Register for competitions, write goals and just enjoy it. 

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