Algonquin native Rockne Brubaker spent a decade competing on the U.S. Figure Skating team. During that span, he won two national titles, was a world team member and an Olympic alternate. He transitioned to coaching about a year and a half ago at the Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva. Last month, he joined the Leafs Ice Center in West Dundee, where he and Italy’s Stefania Berton, a 2014 Olympian, serve as the skating directors.
My older sister was a skater. I was always at the rink. There were four of us kids. My brother and I were always running around. My mom just decided to put us in. My brother and I were the two that stuck with it.
My first trip to national championships wasn’t until age 17, which is a little bit later than the average age. I was second in novice pairs that year. That’s when I kind of felt like, OK I’m really going to make a push for this.
Our last year in the junior circuit we won every competition that we entered, nationally and internationally. Then we went that next year we made the Grand Prix final and were the best young team on the senior circuit. We also won a national title. I think there’s only one other team in the history of figure skating to win a junior title and then move up to seniors and win a senior title that following fall.
I was able to skate and travel with the U.S. team for almost a decade. It was a wonderful opportunity and experience. I got to see part of the world that I would have never seen if it weren’t for skating and begin on the U.S. team.
Coming into the rink every day and pushing yourself physically and emotionally and mentally, the highs and the lows, the successes and the failures, that’s the work part of it. The part that’s fun is when it’s all said and done and the scores come up and you get to stand on the podium or qualify for the world championships. Those moments are kind of what you do it for.
It becomes your life. The discipline and the sacrifices that I had to endure to achieve my goals, really kind of helped make me into the person I am now and prepare me for what’s next in life. As an athlete, you go through injuries and disappointments. You’ve got to learn how to recover and adapt and make changes and move forward.
I’ll always be a competitor at heart. I look at it as a different challenge. Now I’m trying to be creative and come up with different ways to get kids involved in skating. Once they’re here, I’m trying to keep them into it. For the kids who want to become competitive, I’m trying to find avenues for them. It’s still very much a challenge the same way competitive skating was.
I’m finding ways to be the best coach that I can be. Whether it’s tying a pair of skates or a kid landing a certain jump or element for the first time, those are the rewarding parts. Now that we’re coaching kids competitively, if they do well and place at a competition. It’s a very rewarding experience.
Stefania and I both look forward to seeing the program grow and adapt and change as needed. Our goal now is to develop a very competitive side. We’re looking to build more of a training atmosphere for kids who want to be competitive. If we can, take some kids to national championships and international competitions. Hopefully, we’ll have some Olympic competitors training out of the facility.
• I’m Just Saying is a weekly feature with reporter Mike DeFabo. If you have suggestions, contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MikeDeFabo.