Article by Lindsay Higgins
“Just five more minutes, please!”
It’s the plea every skating parent knows all too well: “Just five more minutes, please!” But when the skating parent is also the skating coach, is it any easier to get a skater off the ice and out of the rink?
Former British champion Diane Towler-Green says it isn’t- and she should know. She the mother of not one, but two British Senior ice-dancers. However, Towler-Green, a four-time World Ice Dance Champion with Bernard Ford, says this wasn’t planned.
“I did try to steer them away from skating. I got them involved in a number of sports and activities, but after awhile they started to drop them one by one until they were just left with skating, “ she explains. Twins Candice and Phillipa, now nineteen, began tagging along as their mother coached, but like many young skaters, Towler-Green says, they never wanted to leave the ice. “They would always say, ‘just five more minutes’ and then half an hour later I would finally manage to get them off. I could see that they had a love of the sport… they had the talent, so I just wanted them to carry on doing what they loved to do.”
One might think that combining the coach and parent roles would lead to tension and extra stress, but all three Towler-Greens insist this isn’t the case.
“On the ice,” say Pippa and Candi, “we don’t know her as ‘mom’. She is our coach while we’re skating and our mom the rest of the time.” Diane agrees.
“Ever since they were little I’ve told them that if they wanted me to coach them they would treat me as their coach on the ice and their mother off the ice, [that] there is a barrier between the two personas,” she says.
The distinction seems to be working for all involved. Pippa and former partner Robert Burgerman placed fourth at the British Championships in both 2002 and 2003, but Robert, under pressure from his girlfriend, decided to give up skating. (Pippa says the two split amicably and are still good friends). Some judges arranged with Diane Towler-Green for Pippa to try out with Philip Poole, who had recently split with partner Charlotte Clements, and the rest, as they say, is history. After a mere 10 days together, the two were invited to a British Squad training camp, where Pippa says they received a lot of positive feedback, and just six weeks after that they were off to Skate Israel for their first international.
Candi and partner James Phillipson are gearing up for their second season in the senior ranks. Both say they went into their first season with no expectations other than gaining a feel for the atmosphere in Seniors. They agreed that it is much more intense than at Junior events.
“On the Junior circuit, we found that everybody is just getting their feet in, that they are getting used to competing abroad against other international skaters… you could describe it as testing the waters, so there is not as much pressure,” they explain. The duo goes on to say that at senior events, “people have more to prove, as they’ve been in skating a lot longer so they have to show people how they have improved from previous years and show what they have learnt, so it makes the surroundings feel more tense and serious whilst you are competing.”
It was twenty years ago this month that Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean won Olympic Gold in Sarajevo. While no British team has medalled in dance at the World Championships or Olympics since then (with the exception of Torvill & Dean’s return to the 1994 Olympics and bronze medal win), it appears either- or both- of these talented twins and their partners could end the drought by 2010.