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Figure Skating has ‘really helped me to realize how strong I am – not just physically, but also mentally.’

Kassidy Arena

Teens Mylee Hawkins and Jessi Johnson are competitive figure skaters who met at the Jefferson City ice rink. The sport is very physically and mentally demanding, so they spoke about how they’ve found support in each other.

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Mylee Hawkins: Figure skating is a much different sports than everything else. If you have talent, you can do pretty much any sport, but it takes so much more – you have to have the balance and the talent and the work. So, it really gave me good work ethic.

Jessi Johnson: Yeah, I feel like it's really helped me to realize how strong I am – not just physically, but also mentally. I mean, it's a struggle. It really is. I'm not gonna lie and say that it's an easy sport, it is hard. And there are times whenever I'm like, “This is so much.”

But I realized that I've always been able to work through that, and I do love the sport, and I'm doing it because I love the sport.

Hawkins: I've always said it's the toughest mental sport.

Johnson: Yeah.

Hawkins: I've played a lot of different sports, and this has been the hardest for me. Just mentally going out there in front of a crowd of people and performing a program that takes everything out of you.

Johnson: Mhmm.

Hawkins: And remembering every single step and hitting every single beat. Definitely the hardest mental sport.

Johnson: Yeah, I would have to agree.

Hawkins: It's worth it to see yourself improve. It is so hard, and you will fall a million times before you actually do it correctly. It's a sport of failure, and finally getting that success is the best feeling.

It's hard to be a competitive figure skater to begin with, but it’s even harder to advance in the sport when there’s only one rink in the whole region.

I get very, very stressed out at competitions, and my coach tries to teach me things to do and I'm like, “That doesn't help either. I'm still stressed out.”

Johnson: Yeah, that week before a competition is so stressful. This last competition that I went to, I was not having good programs. I was just, like, falling out of everything, and I was so stressed out. I was in like, tears after every session, and then I got to the competition, and I was fine.

And Mylee – were you? No you weren't at that one.

Hawkins: I didn’t go to that one.

Johnson: When we got back, she was like, “I mean, I knew you were gonna be fine.”

"It's great to have a friend to talk to because like I said earlier, I will come to Mylee, I'll complain to her. And she'll listen to me."
Jessi Johnson

Hawkins: Jessi gets so far in her own head, and like, if one day she skates bad, she thinks about it the next day how she skated bad –

Johnson: That is a problem.

Hawkins: And then proceeds to skate bad because she was thinking about skating bad.

Johnson: Yeah, and then it takes like, the next week. Like I have to have the weekend.

It's great to have a friend to talk to because like I said earlier, I will come to Mylee, I'll complain to her. And she'll listen to me.

Hawkins: I know I can always go to Jessi, and it's always like a big help, but also, I feel like I like beating myself into ground whenever I've been struggling. Like, I like just doing it until I figure it out, and she doesn't let me do that because she's worried I'm gonna fall and hurt myself because –

Johnson: Because I know skating and I know that will happen. It depends on like how mad at that you are. It's like, if she's just like a little bit frustrated with it. I'll let you run with it. But if you're like just flying around the ice trying to do these jumps. I'm like, “Mylee, take a deep breath. Calm down.”

Hawkins: It's a big sort of perseverance, and it'll teach you so many things – not just about yourself, but around like about the world around you.

And like me and Jessi will sometimes, we'll put on music, and we'll skate together, and we will do like improv like neither of us know what's going to happen next, but we skate together, and it looks clean.

Like we know what we're doing. It's like communication without communication. Learning other people and learning yourself. Kind of knowing how to understand that is something huge you learn.

Kassidy Arena was the Engagement Producer for KBIA from 2022-2023. In her role, she reported and produced stories highlighting underrepresented communities, focused on community outreach and promoting media literacy. She was born in Berkeley, California, raised in Omaha, Nebraska and graduated with a degree in Journalism at the University of Missouri, Columbia.