jo skates

Skating in the key of life

Team partners


So when my sons were little and we used to do thumb wrestling, they used to chant a little rhyme before each match that went something like this:

One, two, three, four, I declare a thumb war
Five, six, seven, eight, you are good and I am great.
No team partners allowed!

“Team partners” meant using other fingers (or the other hand) to help out the thumb’s quest for total domination. It’s often tempting to do this, especially when you are thumb-wrestling with a kid whose thumb is already bigger than yours!

In skating, though, it’s not cheating to use your team partners. In fact it’s a must.

This week I had another breakthrough moment. Ari has been trying to get me to rotate my shoulders on back three turns and back inside edges, and I was telling Laurie that I was having trouble with this.  She took one look at my left inside back edge and told me that had my left shoulder slightly forward in a locked position (like this diagram, only on the left).


It took me a while to release the left shoulder back. In fact, we had to do some isolation exercises before I actually could activate those left-side lats and other muscles, moving the shoulder and arm back into place.

But oh my, once I did, it made an amazing difference on everything. Forward outside edges, back outside edges, edges in general, swing rolls, changes of edge, three turns of all kinds, you name it.

Of particular interest: the left shoulder moves back to help stabilize the left forward inside three turns, left-side twizzles, left back inside edges. When I tried this today I was still a little shaky, but also so incredibly balanced that I nearly wept. Honestly, I almost did.

Here I’ve been so worried about my hip position, and basically have been blocking myself with my left shoulder all along. I have not been using this “team partner”; instead, I’ve been trying to do all those things that one does in skating with the upper body with the right shoulder alone.

I even took another look at my earlier post with its gallery of fun edges that I’m supposed to like and realized that all these skaters have their left shoulder (in fact both shoulders) nicely in place and rotating according to plan.  It’s like magic. Here’s more illustrations (both in red dresses!).

I’ve been processing this new knowledge about my neglected team partner (the left shoulder) and come to the realization that it’s connected to an injury I had some years ago (very beginning of the 2010-2011 season). I cut my left arm severely in a kitchen accident involving a broken bottle and a flying shard of glass, resulting in a severed artery, ulnar nerve, and two tendons.  (And lots of blood, ugh.) Reconstructive surgery and a year and a half of hand therapy brought back most of the function. My left hand is still partially numb and my musical skills are impaired, but I count myself pretty lucky.

I realize, though, that some of this shoulder business may have started with this injury; ever since, I’ve been using my right side much more, especially when the left side gets tired.  Even though I am left-handed, my right side is much stronger in general. Whenever I’m unsure about something, the right side takes over to protect the left from further harm.

So now that I know this, I’ll have to give some thought as to how to get more mobility back into this part of the team. I have a feeling that this is a game-changer, but time will tell.

In the meantime, all team partners allowed!

Author: Joskates

Don't see me on the ice? I may be in the classroom or at the theater, or hanging out with my family and friends.

4 thoughts on “Team partners

  1. Wow – I didn’t know you suffered such a serious injury before! I like the concept of having team partners in skating. I only wish my brain and body would cooperate together. My brain knows what to do, but my body won’t properly execute. 😉


  2. Thanks, Eva. Yeah, you gotta be careful in those kitchens! 🙂 Luckily things are much better now. The mind-body thing takes a while, especially since there are so many parts to the body to keep track of!


  3. Fascinating how we learn all the quirks of how we use our bodies while trying to learn skating! Sound like quite a serious injury. My own reasons for rolled/hunched shoulders are much more mundane, just all the usual reasons one would get a head forward posture in this culture (bookishness, sitting, computer use etc.)


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