Part 2 of Mirjami Penttinen’s interview. At the beginning of this new season, the Team Unique (FIN) head coach speaks about the sport and her team.
What defines a good team?
Openness, honesty, and flow are the key words I would use to describe a great team. The team must be eager to progress and it’s important that the rules we’ve agreed on together are respected. The skaters need to be motivated – hungry, in fact. And naturally, they must have the required skating skills and physique to be able to train at the level we do. It’s also always great to have a bunch of girls who get along well together – that makes for a great team. Add some magic and a joint dream of the title of world champion and we’re all set to get down to work.
How do you create team spirit?
A good team spirit is created through common goals, common rules, and equality so that all skaters in the team have the same rights and responsibilities. The atmosphere at practices should always be positive and there should be a sense of progress. Small successes and minor victories in everyday practice – to be better than yesterday – bring a good atmosphere and create trust within the team. As a team, the skaters should also have fun together outside of practices, so that team members can get to know each other as individuals instead of just as skaters. This is how team members learn to like each other and I know this is when lifelong friendships are made. Appreciation and being able to genuinely enjoy each other’s company creates a good team spirit.
How can you get your own vision translated from the skaters into the programs?
It just is there. It’s like handwriting, we all have our own. It’s how you pace things, how you use the music, how you apply body movements, how you correct technical elements, etc. The team picks up on it on a daily basis at practices. And because we have a very talented and versatile coaching team, our team picks up different competencies from all the coaches.
What is your goal this year and how do you plan to reach it? What are the strengths of this year’s team??
Team Unique’s goals are high every year – to become Finnish Champions and to compete in the World Championships for the World champion title. This year’s team is better, especially mentally than last year’s, but we still have much work to do. I don’t want to speculate at this stage yet because so many things are still a question mark. I’m taking one step at a time towards Finlandia Trophy. And once that and the first qualifier are over, I’ll be better placed to assess where we stand.
How do you see the future of the sport?
?The sport is growing and evolving all the time, skaters are expected to demonstrate more skills every year. Basic skating skills must be up to par and there is now more emphasis on individual skills. Sometimes it feels like the sport is evolving so fast that it’s hard to keep up with all the changes, but in the end, I think that all change is for the good.
How would you evaluate the international level at the moment?
I can’t really comment on which direction the sport should be developed in. I do hope, though, that it remains a synchronized sport, that is, a team sport. And I hope that the synchronized elements, which are characteristic to this particular sport, are kept and that the sizes of teams won’t be made any smaller than they already are. In my view, the current changes in the requirements are for the good because they make the teams become better and better, and train harder and harder. It’s important to offer recreational synchronized skating too, but I feel that credit should be given to our top athletes, who train as hard as professionals. I’d love to see synchronized skating becoming an Olympic sport one day. I’m sure the international level in synchronized skating doesn’t differ significantly from that in other Olympic winter sports. I’m sure we have just about as many medal candidate countries as they have in ice hockey. And competition is always welcome, so I hope to see new countries rising to challenge the current top nations.
Translation: Anna Ylöstalo