Clash of Skaters

I am addicted to Clash of Clans. You know the 2012 freemium mobile MMO strategy video game developed and published by Supercell, a video game company based in Helsinki, Finland.

And for good reason. I play it on my I-Pad–without a controller. Many times you tap the screen and the game plays itself. In a nutshell, it’s all about developing and building your own personal village from nothing but a town hall and some money and elixir (a purple magic potion of sorts). Of course you have to save money and buy things and make decisions and have a plan and then make mistakes and so on…much like life and figure skating. You can even opt out of the “battles” and choose to participate as little or as much as you want. Of course we all know Hillary Clinton’s quote about it taking a village and this game shows you that in spades.

I was a reluctant player at first (being 51 and not of this instant access generation) until my 10 year-old son, Dylan, asked me to join his clan. He set me up in a few minutes which included picking my name. He chose “awesome.” I immediately explained to him that was not a good name since I didn’t even know how to play the game and it might be misleading. He said, “That’s ok, dad, I named you after me because I am your son.” To which I asked, “What is your name?” He answered, “awesome2.”  I guess he is a chip off the old block and doesn’t lack in confidence.

One of the instant benefits was much needed father-son time. Every night we connect–either in person as we play on the chair in our living room or long distance over the internet when I am coaching in some other country–and share our progress. I have learned many things from my son which is an important right of passage moment for every parent.

I learned right away that he needed to be taught how to coach. For example, when I couldn’t catch on to the fact that I didn’t really have to build the wall– he grew impatient with me. After a few minutes he finally offered that if I simply touched the builder he would do it for me. I had to explain to Dylan that I was intuitively challenged and he needed to not assume that I knew everything he knew. Over time he developed patience with me and I with him. And he began to offer many details and hints that helped me. Eventually the student started teaching the teacher. Another great metaphor for coaching.

When I quickly started to “win” attacks and reach higher levels (I have a level 8 town hall as of this publishing) he was kind of surprised. After I found out how to join his clan (he left the one he originally put me in) he left again because he was embarrassed that his dad was in his. That is until yesterday when he joined my clan and asked me to promote him. Now he knows I am worthy enough and he might be able to learn a thing or two from me. Rite of passage times two.

This whole process has been enlightening for me as a coach whose job is working with skaters of all ages many of whom play COC themselves. It is definitely enhancing my coaching because being able to talk intelligently about COC raises my “cool” points. Even Mirai Nagasu is playing as I found out on our recent travel day to the Japan Open. Ashley Wagner also informed us that Ryan Bradley got upset with her because she wasn’t playing enough and booted her from his clan. If you are in the skating family and playing COC send me a message, I am awesome in the StarofLife Clan and level 48. Come find me. Tweet at me. Facebook me. Or we can chat at the “clan” or “global” level.

The other night I was frustrated because ever since I had advanced to a higher level I noticed I was losing more battles (yet another skating metaphor). Dylan said, “Dad that’s part of it. You can’t win every battle. You have to lose sometimes. It’s ok. Just rebuild your defenses and upgrade this…” and so on. And once he put it that way I knew instantly that of course I can continue to play this game since I have had to do similar things in my life already–albeit on a much more real and serious level. It was then I began thinking this really is a good game for him to play if he is learning things like this without a lecture from mom and dad…

And so as the figure skating season begins with the regional championships upon us, consider the process: build, scout, go to battle, strategize, rebuild, go to battle, take time to decorate and enjoy the treasures you earn, make decisions carefully, listen to those who coach you, rely on your support team to help you through the battles, share with the people in your clan, communicate in the chat room and above all–have fun while you are doing it. Remember whether you win or lose doesn’t really matter. It’s how you play the game. And more importantly with whom you play the game.

Good luck to all of the skaters, coaches and parents around the world who will “clash” this season! May the best skater win.

Coach Tom Z (currently contemplating “farming” to reach a level 9 town hall)

Posted in Blog.