Team Marigold Ice Unity (FIN) win gold at the ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships 2018©International Skating Union
All for one and one for all – that is what counts in a team sport. Synchronized Skating brings together a group of young women that are training and competing. But to make sure that each member feels included and respected it takes some work, as Tessa Tamminen, captain of the most successful Finnish team and five-times ISU World Champions Marigold Ice Unity points out. “It's important that everyone in our group feels that they are equal and at the same level,” she said. “We don't have different levels that for example coaches or captains are higher (ranked) than others. It's important that we are one strong group of individuals that are integrated into the team.”
In a team who’s moto is “Our hearts beat as one”, they also understand how important each individual is. “Each opinion is taken into account. Everyone gets to be themselves and you don't have to be anything else but yourself and you have to feel yourself accepted as you are. It is a bad thing if you feel like you have to be something else to be part of the crew,” Tamminen noted. “When the season starts and new skaters join the team it is important that we are open for everyone. Then we find our own thing as a group with all the different personalities. All those personalities make our team rich.” The captain added that Synchronized Skating is a great sport to develop social skills and to learn to be a team player. “Definitely this is a good way to learn something for life. We all grow as human beings in such a tight group. And we all get along with different kind of personalities or teach ourselves to get along.” However, the forming of a team does not happen by itself. “Like in all relationships, you have to be very active to get that strong bond between skaters. You have to work for that for sure. It's a long process,” Tessa shared. The Skaters and coaches need to find the right balance and to make the dynamics of the group work, even when the individuals have very different characters. “Of course you get closer to some skaters than to others, but we are like a family. We do get along pretty well with each other. We have a huge amount of different personalities, but we have the same goal and we are all there for that, and for everyone and ourselves, and for the team,” Tamminen said.
Obviously, the Skaters are competing for their spots on the team, some have fixed places, while others share positions and not everyone gets to skate every time. Nevertheless, everyone is included. Marigold Ice Unity currently consists of 23 skaters, but only 16 can perform and the ones that are not selected are obviously disappointed. “It's never the individual that is winning and everyone knows that we go team first. And that's I think what makes the inside competition little less stressful,” Tessa said. The ones that are not competing are still on site, warm up with the rest of team and usually wait for them in the Kiss & Cry area. “It is one performance at a time and one competition at a time and you always have the coaches watch the situation before every competition and if you are not on the ice at the first competition of the season you might be on the second one or third or whatever. It is also common that one skates the Short Program and then your partner you are sharing the spot with gets to skate the Free Program. We try to get to the point that everyone gets to skate at least one competition, because it is so valuable to get the skating experience,” the team captain explained.
When mistakes happen, the Skaters are there for each other. “Of course, it's difficult for the Skater who has fallen or made mistakes, but we win and lose as a team. It's always about the team and never one person's mistake,” Tessa pointed out. “You must never get angry with anyone who is making a mistake, because everyone makes mistakes and we all are human beings. We're not machines. We are always there for them because it's tough when you want to do a good performance and if you make a mistake. The main thing is that they feel we are there for them and we can share the feelings. It's really about an open conversation,” Tamminen said. “We have the team that supports you and the coaches and if some skaters need professional help, it is available.” External factors and private events in life can affect a Skater’s performance and can have an impact on their mental health, however in a sport like Synchronized Skating you can rely on your teammates to support you emotionally and physically. “As we are individuals, we all have good and bad days and that’s okay. You can lean on the team and rise your mood and you don't have to be ashamed if you had a bad day,” Tessa summed up.