Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017 12:03 am
Skating champion trains in Springfield
Ten-year-old Macie Rolf has a bright future
Five years ago, Springfield resident Macie Rolf decided to figure skate.
Since then, she has won Upper Great Lakes Region gold medals two years in a row, placed fourth at sectionals, and qualified through United States Figure Skating Association eliminations to be one of just a dozen athletes out of more than 500 skaters to compete in Kansas City, Missouri, for the national championship last month. Even more surprising than qualifying for nationals so soon is that Macie is just 10 years old, 4 feet 4 inches tall, with warm brown eyes, a bright smile, caramel hair and the discipline and determination to reach her dream: Team U.S.A.
Right now, though, Team Rolf has to make the Springfield family’s training, travel and school schedules work for Macie – as well as her brothers, Kyle and Jay, who also play competitive sports and excel in school.
Fortunately, says mother Traci Rolf, who coordinates everyone’s schedules and works full time, “Skating is mainly in the mornings, and the boys’ events are mainly in the evenings.” For Macie, representing the Illinois Valley Figure Skating Club, that schedule begins on the Nelson Center ice at 5:45 a.m. six days a week.
“I train from 5:45 to 7:15 a.m., then go to school. Several afternoons a week I have dance classes and strength training. I get home at 3, then bedtime is 6:30ish, hopefully 7:30 this year,” Macie says, smiling at her mom.
With any free time, Macie plays games with her brothers and reads. “I love to read!” she exclaims. “It’s the best thing in the world.”
Joining Traci, Macie’s dad, Brian, and the boys on this journey are Dance Arts Studio’s Grace Luttrell Nanavati, strength trainers Gabe Stinson and Josh Grant at Memorial SportsCare, St. Agnes School that accommodates Macie’s travel schedule, and Susan Liss, who has been coaching figure skaters for 40 years.
The Rolfs have put together an unusually qualified team for a relatively small ice-skating town. “When you compare Springfield to top skating centers in larger metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, Denver and Dallas,” says Liss, “we are fortunate to have Gabe for exercises, Grace Nanavati who doesn’t try to make my athletes ballerinas, and enough ice time in a rink that isn’t just a recreational facility.”
But it’s Macie who brings it all together. “She is committed, dedicated, hardworking, very focused and driven,” says Liss. “I see her as right on track to be an elite athlete. She’s got it all – the physical ability, mental toughness, drive and determination.
“She went on her first training trip with me when she was six years old. I don’t take [athletes] until they can get up in the morning on their own without a problem, make their own lunches, manage their own tickets, and wipe off and put away their own skates. Macie was already doing all of those things then.”
It’s a partnership that works. “Macie is incredible, a delight to teach. She is bright and curious, self-motivated, with a really great sense of humor. I really enjoy her a lot,” says Liss, who adds that she gets better results when she explains the “why” of her suggestions for this smart, straight-A athlete. It works for Macie: “She makes me dresses and teaches me things even on days when I’m really tired,” the athlete says.
And they each do what it takes to help Macie focus at the competitions. The coach has a rule, says Traci. “Don’t change anything at competition. The way you practice is the way you perform. Just go out there and skate.” So, before a competition, Macie calms, centers and reviews. “I use good-smelling, calming oil, listen to my music, visualize my program a couple times, and just know that I’m going to do well because I practiced.”
As for Traci, it’s all about support. “I think we probably look crazy to the outside world. It’s very emotional, very expensive, and it’s a year-round sport. Macie just had one week off after the national championships. But I would tell anyone, ‘Always support and trust your coaches. It’s very important. That’s why you pay them to be your coaches’. Susan will come to me with an idea and I say, ‘You’re the coach.’
“And support your child, not just as an athlete, but as an individual. Academics are their future. There is life after skating. Set expectations.”
For now in the Rolf family, though, it’s life squarely in the middle of skating, and all it brings. “It’s fun to compete and work hard at something,” says Macie. “It teaches you to keep going even when times get tough, because it’s those times that make you more of a champion. And it gives you something to look forward to. You get opportunities no one else gets, to travel the world on Team U.S.A., compete at the Olympics,” and, she says, maybe even become a world champion.
DiAnne Crown of Springfield is a frequent contributor to Capital City Parent.