I come from Canada, where we give our figure skaters some love! I am honoured to have had a chance to interview Ben Ferreira, 3 time Canadian National Medallist and former World and international competitor, who now devotes his time to coaching other skaters and helping them achieve the highest level of success they can. His dedication to the sport, both as an athlete and a coach, is amazing. Let's take a read at what Ben has to say about Canadian figure skating, coaching, competing and more, shall we?
Q: You were a contender in Canadian men's figure skating for years, winning 3 medals and being on Canada's national team for years. What was your favourite performance or most special memory from your competitive days?
A: My favourite performance and special memory was in 2004 at the Canadian Championships in my hometown of Edmonton, Canada where I won the silver medal and made the world team for the third time. After years of trial and error and making many mistakes along the way, winning the short program at Canadians, twice in 2001 and 2003, then not skating as well in the long programs, this 2004 skate, I would have to say was the skate of my life- my time had come. I was on a high from landing my first Quad-Triple Combination in the Short Program where I placed third, then going out and skating like I did in the long program was surreal. I executed 7 clean Triples and a Quad- it was crazy. It was like nothing I'd ever experienced. As someone who was considered an underdog in the field to me it felt really good inside to deliver my very best efforts and to be rewarded for it on the day. This lesson has stayed with me until this day.
Q: Tell us what you've been doing since you retired from competition in 2006.
A: Since retiring from competitive skating in 2006, I have a ride of ups and downs. At first, it felt like falling down the rabbit hole. People talk about going through athlete transition from performer and competitor to regular guy on the street- but until it actually happens we have no idea. Well, that is what I thought anyway. Fortunately, I had a mentor who insisted I begin to PLAN this transition BEFORE I retired so the change was much less drastic and severe for me that I expected. I was so fortunate to have this guidance. I took the next STEP, stumbled a bit but really did land on my feet. In 2005 I got married to my soulmate Jadene Fullen...then my new wife and I moved back to my hometown of Edmonton Alberta. Almost immediately, I was approached, hired and stepped into the position of Head Skating Professional at my home club the Royal Glenora from 2006-2010. I was able to bring my knowledge and training into an environment I was familiar with and I new I could make a difference as I went through the stages of letting go. In 2010 after obtaining my NCCP Level 3 status in 2008 I transitioned to a Skating Professional at the Royal Glenora and a Dartfish™ Software sales representative and consultant. I became a becoming a Dartfish™ Certified Technologist in 2012 and I currently consult with coaches and their skaters using Dartfish™ and Pro-Motion Pole Harness at the both the Royal Glenora and Ice Palace F.S.C. In 2012 I also began building SkatingSuccess™ with my wife Jadene and my coach and mentor Steffany Hanlen Francey. The vision that we hold for this company is to be the ‘pre-eminent resource for coach and skater development through progressive Master Class seminars, on- line learning, NCCP coach mentorship and continuous world class coach education and support’. Since 2002 I began investing in Real Estate and in 2008 I became a proud member of REIN™ the Real Estate Investment Network™. This support network of investors offers a fantastic mentorship and educational program for anyone who chooses Real Estate as their investment vehicle to support their business and life vision. This is the foundation of my long term financial goals and allows me to coach skating because I LOVE it and not just to earn a living.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of coaching other skaters? The most challenging?
A: The most rewarding part of coaching other skaters is quite simply assisting them on their journey to get better and improve their skills and performance, and even more importantly giving them the opportunity to love this sport. I get so much satisfaction and enjoy the day to day experience and purpose that have with the skaters that I consult with. Each lesson always brings something new to the table and it is the interaction with each skater I am privileged to work with that I so enjoy very much. My technical coach Doug Leigh once said to me that it is a gift to be able to teach. I highly agree with him regarding that statement. I think that the most challenging aspect for me with regards to coaching is ‘shutting the door’ when my skaters go out to compete. At that point I now have no control of the outcomes and must let them go on their journey regardless of what happens out there. I also then have to believe that I have done the best job preparing them for their task at hand. This is very different from being an athlete when I had total control and is a very different nervous energy.
Q: You were coached by Doug and Michelle Leigh, who have also worked with great skaters like Elvis Stojko and Jennifer Robinson. What was it like training with skaters like Elvis and Jennifer?
A: I moved to Barrie, Ontario in 2002 to begin my final stage as a competitive athlete and pursue my 4 year plan to the Olympics in Torino. For me my 4 years spent at the Mariposa School of Skating was a fantastic experience. At that time Takeshi Honda, Jeffrey Buttle, Jennifer Robinson, Christopher Mabee, and Lesley Hawker were just a few of the skaters that I had the opportunity to step on the ice with every day to train. It was like stepping onto an international practice every single day. It was more than just motivating, it was an incredible experience that I will never forget.
Q: Do you still skate or perform yourself anymore and if there were professional figure skating competitions around like there used to be, could you see yourself being involved?
A: That is a very interesting question and one that I frequently get asked. Today I don't skate anymore, I'm complete. I think that for me, I enjoyed the training, competing, and travelling as an athlete in my late teens and into my twenties, but today I don't have the desire to skate, perform or compete again. I am now fully committed to the business world and taking everything from what I learned in skating and now applying it to my Coaching, our seminar and education company SkatingSuccess™, and also my Real Estate investing. I don't see myself being involved in any professional competitions or events except, of course coaching a skater at their highest levels.
Q: What do you agree most with about the new judging system?
A: I was one of the lucky skaters that actually competed in the new system as we transitioned from 6.0 to CPC. What I do agree with regarding the new system is from the technical standpoint skaters are rewarded on not only what they do, but also how well they do what they do. The GOE makes complete sense in a sport where we are constantly looking for the quality of skills executed. I basically see the score sheet as a financial statement, where there is profit and loss, asset and liability, and learning to capitalise on your strengths as well as work on your weaknesses to ensure a profitable venture. At the end of the day I do believe that this system does bring out the best rounded skater to the table better than the previous 6.0 system did.
Q: How do you feel it could be improved?
A: This system has evolved very fast in the time that it has been accepted and I think that every passing year it is getting better and better. In the beginning I personally felt that there was not enough emphasis put on the difficulty of triple Axels and quadruple Jumps. For a few years, technically, in terms of jumping the sport took a step backward because the risk vs reward ratio for attempting the more demanding elements was not there when it came to the scale of values. In terms of spins, the system really helped developed much better quality, however footwork and step sequences are in my opinion still to subjective and I think need to be called as a choreographed sequence with a grade for GOE only. This happened with the spiral sequences a few years ago, now all spirals are called a choreographic spiral sequence with a GOE value. I still think that there is still way to much emphasis put on the component side of the sport so much so that officials can completely overthrow a technical mark just because they liked the way a skater "looked" or "made them feel" to me doesn't equate with being an accountable sport. Now that being said I am not attempting to downplay the importance of strong skating skills, choreography, transitions, etc. I just feel that when it comes down to being a sport, the component mark should not be worth 50% of the total mark but more like ..say 25%. I well know that I hold the minority opinion when it comes to this topic and I am well aware of the argument against my case. To me it is the classic objective .vs. subjective argument that skating will have to live with forever. The argument will continue to go on as the sport evolves and keeps it exciting. I’m that guy that gives our sport some balance by questioning the status quo.
Q: Who are your favourite Canadian skaters today?
A: For me there is only one real favourite Canadian skater that I have today and her name is Kaetlyn Osmond. Kaetlyn is a fantastic young woman that I have had the opportunity to work with the past 3 seasons at the Ice Palace F.S.C here in Edmonton doing the Dartfish consulting. Kaetlyn has, what my mentor calls ‘champion energy’ in spades. She is one of my favourite lessons of the week because she is always smiling, always cheerful, always giving it her best. When I am teaching her it takes me back to when I was training at her level and the language and communication we use while we go through the Video analysis of Datfish's in the action module during training involves her leading it. She can view a skill that she just executed and then say "OK, saw that", and put in an instant correction so fast by just looking at the video replay. It amazes me how in control she is of her mind and body. She is a wonderful example of loving the sport and being a tenacious competitor. She also is a great ambassador as she is extremely well mannered and down to earth. For her, when the going gets tough, she gets tougher She is a new fresh inspiration for Canadian Ladies skating and I am very proud of her. Above all that she listens to the same Country Music radio station as I do, she's just awesome!
Q: What about of all time?
A: My favourite Canadian skaters of all time... that's a really hard one to nail down for me. I think that from the beginning Kurt Browning was my favourite as I started skating at the same club the Royal Glenora in 1991 where he trained and he was my inspiration for getting into the sport in the first place. However my favourite skate of all time was Brian Orser in Cincinnati in 1987. Also I admired Elvis Stojko for his consistency and raising the bar technically with the first quad combo in 1991 and for the quad/triple in 1997. He also is a great friend true ambassador for the sport.
Q: What's one thing you'd like to say to skating fans everywhere?
A: What I would like to say to skating fans everywhere is one thing "Thank you". I appreciate all of the support over the years. The standing ovation I received when I skated the performance of my life in 2004 to win my silver medal in Edmonton showed me how much the fans appreciate what we do. I appreciate all of your support with the standing ovation I received after one of the most difficult, heartbreaking skates of my life in 2006 in Ottawa when taking my final bow when we all realized at the same time that I would not be representing Canada in Torino at the Winter Games and that it was the beginning of the end of my career as a competitor. In hindsight, I think a many skating fans really liked me, they liked my story, they liked my character, and they liked what I represented. Now in 2013 after going to the Canadian Championships for the 18th time -now as a coach, fans still come up to me and say "We miss you out there". I know that I won't go down in history as a multi or even one time national champion/world medallist or someone who changed the sport in some way, however the fact that so many fans still remember me and ask me for an autograph even today really does amaze me. So, I thank all of the skating fans in Canada and around the world for all of your support. Skating is in my blood and I plan to be around it for a long time in one way or another. I hope to see you all rink side.
Visit Ben's SKATING SUCCESS™ YouTube channel at http://youtu.be/ZRapM6Itme8.
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