We chatted with Team USA figure skater Sean Rabbitt (2015 Autumn Classic International bronze medalist). He opened up about skating at the age of 3, the meaning of mentors and how to chase your purpose. And if you’ve never seen Sean on the ice do us a favor and YouTube it… but only after you read this.
You were born and raised in Yorba Linda, California. What led you to pursue figure skating?
It actually kind of started with my grandma. She’s a big fan of figure skating so my mom saw the 8-week ‘Learn To Skate’ introductory course and she decided it might be something fun to do so she put my brother (5 years old) and I (3 ½ years old) in that just to have something to do. I also have to credit the Yorba Linda Parks and Recreation program. They had a great program with a lot of variety with different sports and activities, and still to this day offers a great skating program!
When you were scouted by your first coach Olympian Wendy Burge (1976) at the age of 7 what do you think you were exuding at such a young age that caught her attention?
I think there are different levels of talent and so I wouldn’t say that I was exuding prodigy child talent but I was definitely breaking away from what the normal class was doing. I was, for example, seeing the classes that were on other side of the rink working on spins so I would actually try and emulate the spins when I was supposed to be working on something else. I had an interest in the harder elements of the sport.
Now that you’ve been in the figure skating world - as not only a competitor but as a skating coach - How important do you think it is to have a mentor?
It’s so important. With figure skating you can start at any age honestly. Like Johnny Weir didn’t start until he was 12 years old and he ended up becoming a 2x Olympian and who he is now. But for the mass majority the real crucial age is between six years old to nine years old. You really have to nurture that and get a good foundation. I’m very lucky that I was picked by a coach who could really nurture my talent as well as teach me a good foundation. And that foundation to this day has really carried me so far and I feel very lucky that my current coach, Olympic coach Tammy Gambill has been able to take that skill and further it! I’m so thankful for both of their talents as well as my parents commitment!
What do you think the biggest misconception about figure skating is?
The first question out of everyone’s mouth is “Are you going to the Olympics?” Everyone associates figure skating with the Olympics, which is great! We would be nothing without that but … and I tell my students this as well … I tell other figure skaters who are on the verge of quitting: There’s so much more to this sport (life skills, strong mental focus) as well as many avenues in this sport, not just going to the Olympics.
Did you ever encounter a time in your career when things just weren’t clicking?
There were so many times when I was 18. I grew a lot and I had this really bad, I wouldn’t even say plateau, it was like a dip down. Then all of the sudden my jump just clicked. One morning, I’m not kidding, I walked into the rink and I could do everything and that’s almost completely unheard of and so then the next couple of years my competition started getting better. I went from being middle of the pack or last place to winning things and getting on the podium. My goal went from being I just want to land one triple to I want to make my first National and then I did that. And I kept upping the goal when people were telling me “You should quit! You’re wasting your parents’ money!” So I like to think of myself as a leader for those that … even though I didn’t start the sport older, I didn’t get good until I was older… I like to think of myself as someone who is paving a road for those who don’t have a lot of hope and support and get told that they have no chance.
How does the Uprising gear mesh with life on the rink?
I’m actually wearing the shirt right now and it’s great! I ran through my routine. I built up a sweat but I never felt like the temperature of my body was getting super hot or super cold. And what I like about it is that it’s light and non-restrictive and it looks really good. And usually I have to bring two shirts with me but what was great is that I threw on a pair of sweats after I was done and I ran to the store and it didn’t look like I came from a workout. I like killing two birds with one stone!
Any advice for #Uprisers out there feeling low and unsure of how to chase their passion?
When you’re at your lowest point and you’re unsure … that’s the best time to go for it because honestly what else do you have to lose. When you are rock bottom or even middle way to the bottom there’s really nothing you can lose by taking a chance. If you have a dream, if you have a goal, even if you don’t completely meet that goal taking two or three steps into that goal is better than sitting on the couch and never having left it.