Figure Skating in Northern Ontario
Workshop with Doug Leigh, 2005
Doug is better than ever
The charming and talented figure skating icon Doug Leigh was back in Sudbury Ontario sharing his unique insight with our northern figure skating youth. Using amusing stories, exaggerated movements, video tapes, and repeated detailed instruction, Doug captured their attention, sometimes made them smile, and continually showed them how to try ever harder to push into new, and greater, skating territory.
He's a fascinating man to watch, or talk to. One moment serious and intense, the next will find him chatting or laughing heartily. Friendly, personable, and charismatic, he's also fun.
I have written in the past about Doug Leigh's talent, I will not do so here again. Let it suffice to mention the names Brian Orser, Elvis Stoko, Steven Cousins, Ben Ferreira, and Jeffrey Buttle. That gives the idea nicely.
This time out I would like to share with you a small glimpse of the kind of man that is Doug Leigh. I will do so with photos, quotes, and bits and pieces of stories. I hope you enjoy his company as much as I did.
During the workshops he hold their attention completely.
You'll often see him positioning a skater just so, and then explaining to the others why it's better here than there
This photo was taken while Doug told us about an incident that happened while training Elvis Stoko to do a back flip on the ice. His telling of it was entertaining and amusing, the actual event could not have been either. He explained that Elvis was in a harness, two men were helping, and somehow during a back flip attempt Elvis' skate caught Doug in the face. He was slashed down his forehead, across the bridge of his nose, and across his left cheek. He says he remembers hearing a really big crack, then found himself on his knees wondering if he'd lost an eye, since he couldn't see through all the blood. An ambulance ride and 14 stitches later and he says all was well. Although he admits to carrying vitamin E around for six months to apply to the wound in the hopes of lessening the scaring. It worked, today all you see is a small nick on the bridge of his nose. He laughingly told us that he'd felt that he'd had enough back flips in his career for awhile.
A skater's reaction to the story above!
Doug Leigh is tireless in his attempts to explain, and show, and explain again, a particular movement, blade angle, or point of balance.
"That's the nice thing about life," says Doug Leigh with a huge smile, "there's always more. There's always higher, faster, better."
In response to the polite, if dull, everyday question, "So what's new with you this year?" A typical Doug Leigh response is "New? Why everything!" He'll then dazzle you with another smile and add, "Isn't it great? Every day is new! I hear some people say, same old, same old. Not for me! Everyday is something new, something exciting."
"You've got to say "I own it.""
When one of the skaters made a comment about Ben Ferreira being good, Doug smiles with wry humor and says "Yeah, he still has some potential, keep skating kid, you're doing okay."
Doug told the skaters to get out there and practice three jumps in a row. No skating around the arena, try a jump, and then skate around again. Skate, jump, set up, jump, set up, jump. You get three times the practice that way! It seems to have worked.
When one skater was having problems keeping her pony tail in place, Doug offered to help. "I have tape!"
Doug was happy to pose with any group or skater or fan in waiting that asked. I said I imagined he got tired of this sort of thing after the first several thousand times, he said no, it was nice. He found it flattering.
Two skaters from the Sudbury Skating Club watching with rapt attention to Doug explaining a jump using tapes of Ben Ferreira.
"You want to understand it, then feel it and hear it. Internalize the feeling, then you have it."
Using Ben Ferreira as an example he explained that Ben always faces "each lesson like it was his last lesson. It's that precious to him."
To me it sounds like a description of how Doug Leigh faces life.
"See what you are creating. Make each piece clear, precise, know what you're after."
Planning a jump, or planning a career, you could do worse than follow that.
That's me on the right, hearing a story of a time when a group of NHL hockey players traded skates with a group of figure skaters. Doug says the general reaction of the hockey players was "Oh... this is a bad idea." Apparently they didn't do well in figure skates!
Doug Leigh is headed for his 25th, consecutive, Nationals competition.
Even the coaches watch carefully.
Sudbury Skating Club coaches Heather Basso (on Doug's left) and Wendy Philion (on his right).
Wendy says that "each skater picks up something" during Doug's workshops. "He's so focused, and if they're sleeping... he'll wake them up!"
And on the principle of saving the best for last, here is this website's own Megan Demlow, one of Doug's biggest fans, with the man himself.
We're looking forward to having you back in the north again Doug Leigh!
Brittany -- Melanie -- Rachel
These three lucky ladies got to celebrate their birthdays (or close) in the workshop taught by figure skating icon Doug Leigh, founder of the Mariposa School of Skating.
Happy Birthday Ladies!
Read more about Doug Leigh