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The natural high of skating that Susan MacKay Scott so enjoys
2024-02-03
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As a young skater, Susan MacKay rose to impressive heights – qualifying to compete at the 1985 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in the Mile High State (Colorado), placing 9th in a field of 24 young women from around the globe.

Metaphorically speaking, MacKay (now Susan MacKay Scott) has translated her passion for her sport - and coaching - into a virtual high that has spanned more than three decades since the time she last competed.

And to think it all started when four year-old Susan and her mother showed up to re-register for her ballet lessons – only to find out the studio was closed.

“I went right to skating,” she recalled with a smile in her voice.

That she did – and the fit was near instantaneous, the youngster quickly displaying signs of the potential that lie within. “When I was in Ottawa (for a sumer camp) and I was ten, I remember kind of teaching myself the doubles (jumps),” noted MacKay Scott.

The foundation for that came courtesy of Sudbury coach Wendy Philion, who not only encouraged her star pupil to spread her wings and explore the teachings of others across Ontario, but also equipped her with the necessary skill-set to not feel the least bit out of place, regardless of the remaining skaters on the ice.

“Wendy was a fantastic coach,” said MacKay Scott. “She taught me my basics for everything: my figures, my jumping, my spinning – all of the basic skating skills that I required to move on.”

And move on she would, spending a summer at the reknown Toronto Cricket Club and, a year or so later, making the acquaintance of Mariposa School of Skating founder and coach Doug Leigh.

In 1984, the representative of the Sudbury Skating Club garnered a silver medal at nationals in the Novice Women’s classification, eventually walking away comfortably from the sport as she celebrated her 20th birthday.

“I made nationals seven times and wanted to be top ten in Canada at the senior level – and I finished 8th,” said MacKay Scott. “I was happy. I remember Disney on Ice asking me to join their tour but I decided not to. I was tired of living out of a suitcase.”

Following one summer of working with her father at Sudbury Hydro, the now mother of two (Karlee and Kole; spouse is Brad) opted to attend college in pursuit of a career as a medical secretary – which in and of itself, would seem to be plenty to keep her busy – especially when the family begins to expand.

But skating, it seemed, had not yet relinquished its hold on the northern girl who would settle down in the Orillia area. That said, coaching was hardly an automatic.

“I trained with Brian Orser and we used to talk about the fact that we would never teach skating because it’s too hard to try and explain something that comes easy to you,” said MacKay Scott.

Like the challenge of balancing double work and life duties, however, she would overcome this hurdle.

For the next twenty years, MacKay Scott was medical secretary by day, figure skating instructor by night and weekends. “It was 12 hours a day, every day,” she recalled. “But I just loved it. I started to get too many students and fell in love with coaching more than working at the doctor’s office.”

Thankfully, the long-time practitioner with whom she was closest was nearing retirement, providing for a comfortable transition into a career that isn’t work.

“I have never, ever treated it like a business,” said MacKay Scott, a fixture these days at the Orillia Figure Skating Club. “My brain doesn’t work that way. I totally love the connection I have with all of the kids.”

Over time, her methods have evolved, forced to some extent by the flipping of every subsequent calendar year. “From the time I was twenty to thirty, I was doing all of my jumps (to demonstrate to students),” she stated. “These days, I don’t do the jumps.”

Yet there are other areas where change is unecessary, where MacKay Scott and those of her ilk can remain true to the core appeal of what links them so closely to the instruction of the sport they so adore.

“I love choreographing – always have,” she said. “I pick all different kinds of music, trying to find something that suits the skater.”

And she continues to find avenues where new doors are opened, where new opportunities bring with them a level of excitement and anticipation that helps to keep well-tenured coaches fresh.

“I taught kids that came from Mexico last summer; I was so thrilled to say yes,” said MacKay Scott. “They were so very grateful and courteous.”

Much like their instructor, it would seem, who did not hold back in the least with her deeply-rooted appreciation for her spouse – “thank goodness my husband is amazing” – and continues to value all that the sport of figure skating has carried her way.

“My best friends from back when I skated are still my best friends today,” she beamed.

And it doesn’t take a whole lot more than that to enjoy a very natural Rocky Mountain High.

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