Faces of Synchro
Theresa Marka wears several hats, such as coach and synchro developer
Theresa Marka with her team in Austria.
Theresa replied to our questions in Salzburg, Austria, a few minutes after getting off the ice with the team she coaches. Luckily, they are able to skate at the moment!
I was in figure skating since I was 9 years old. I joined a former school friend of mine at the rink during one practice session and just fell in love with it. I continued to skate till I was around 16 years old. For me, it was just a passion and something that gave me so much joy.
When I was 16, I decided to do an exchange year in Spain and took a break from skating for it. When returning to Salzburg I was in my senior year of high school, but really wanted to get back on the ice. The coaches at my club were just in the middle of rebuilding a senior team called Sweet Mozart, the first Austrian Synchronized Skating team which was founded in 2000.
I knew I was not going to get far in single skating, so I opted in for this challenge and fell in love with the sport. It was a big change and so many new things to learn, but it definitely was something I would have missed out on if I didn’t join the team. I skated with the team until April 2020, so around 5 years and got to go to 3 World Championships with Sweet Mozart. Sadly, our team split up during the pandemic, since the situation was very uncertain.
When I started skating with Sweet Mozart the head coach of our club asked me to help in our beginner’s courses. That’s when I really fell in love with passing my passion on to younger skaters. I opted in to do my coached education that same year and finished my first license with distinction. After that, I was asked to join the coaching team of the juvenile team called Mini Mozart. I started as an assistant coach learning the basics of synchro coaching and joining national synchro seminars.
Soon we started choreographing the first program for the opening ceremony of the Mozart Cup, with our team skating to a Mozart composition. It was fun, but I saw more ambition in this team and we decided to work our way to the first competition.
As a coach my job is to help athletes evolve, not only in their skating and synchro skills but also as individuals, helping them build their resilience for day-to-day life.
I like working on their mentality in this sport and helping them thrive as growing human beings. That’s why the most important part of our training sessions, is that they are having fun while learning all the skills a skater needs for higher levels of synchro. I try to help them keep their imagination and belief in themselves so that they can dream big, and I guess that’s the most important thing because if you dream it you can reach it!
I like to look back at the first competition I got to participate in as a coach. Seeing all the nerves of my skaters' skyrocket, just like mine used to during my active career as a synchro skater, was just so interesting to see.
The fact that I had to watch them and couldn’t be on the ice with them was very new and weird, and it sparked new emotions and excitement to see them perform well. And that feeling drives me to become a better coach every single day because I live for that adrenaline rush!
And the rewarding smiles of the kids as they get their scores in the Kiss&Cry it’s just to die for.
If I get to choose any of the programs that I have seen skated by all of the teams in the world, it must be Nexxice Sr. "Black Widow" at my first participation at Worlds. It was just a piece of art, and I had tears in my eyes as I watched it because it was just so artistic and beautiful. And then I knew this is synchro skating and I am part of it.
If you ask about one of the programs my team has skated, it would probably have to be this year’s free program to Tarzan. They have used this year to improve their skating skills and unity and it was so fun adding new and exciting elements to their programs, instead of just basic things. We are (hopefully) heading into a competition in 3 weeks (if it doesn’t get postponed again), and I can’t wait to get feedback from the judges and specialists on the changes and advancements we have made.
Of course! After the warm-up, we go back to our locker room to let the kids change into their dresses. Before exiting the locker room we play the program music for the kids to focus and then we do our team-chant “zicke-zacke, zicke-zacke, heu, heu, heu – zicke-zacke, zicke-zacke, heu, heu, heu, Miiiiiiini Moozart!”.
And before they step on the ice, I give them all a high-five.
My favourite element personally is the lifts. I was always a strong base and could show my strength there. But since my team doesn’t do lifts, as a coach my favourite element would probably be the line. I just love coming up with fun choreographic parts to build an entertaining yet high-level line.
Synchronized skating has definitely shown me, that you can achieve anything you set your mind to, if you are surrounded by people who lift you up higher and support you in every matter! It’s given me the determination to work for what I want to achieve in my life and I have become a stronger and more resilient human because of my synchro career.
And most of all: I met the most amazing people, who I truly can call a family! Fun side note that I learnt: any single skating competition that has a synchro team working together as volunteers will be a successful and fun event with less stress.
We currently have 3 Basic Novice, 1 ISU Junior, 2 Adult, 2 Juvenile, 2 Mixed Age teams in Austria.
In some parts of Austria, we have amazing coaches doing an amazing job building synchro teams, which is great! We are also getting support from the federation, giving us the opportunity to visit synchro seminars and get funding for certain things.
Yet, since the skating community is not very big in Austria, we are having struggles to keep our teams alive and getting enough younger kids into the sport.
Overall, to me, it seems that the synchro community is growing, with a strong club in Vienna establishing great foundations for synchro. We are also trying to grow the community of synchro coaches inviting everyone to national synchro seminars.
Just try it! Don’t be prejudice and think that synchro isn’t as cool as single skating. In fact, synchro actually includes so many elements from all the other disciplines, which makes it so much more exciting in my eyes! So, just try it! If you are already on a team, stay determined, dream big and believe in yourself!
Currently, all teams competing in national competitions are back on the ice in Austria, which is really cool, since it has helped us develop our skills more efficiently as we are having more possibilities to skate, as there are fewer other clubs have access to the ice-times. We were not allowed to attach during the first stage of Covid-19, so we focused on individual skating skills and jumps and spins. Now we are allowed to attach and are working on our synchro elements.
We have certain rules like wearing a mask when entering the rink and in the locker room. On the ice, the skaters are allowed to move freely. Coaches keep a 2 m distance from the team. This makes it work for everyone. We also have to get tested once a week as a precautionary measure.
Our goal is to become part of the national roster in Basic Novice. We will try and achieve that at our next competition. Apart from that, we are working on improving our individual skills and also our unity and expression to different types of music.
My dream would be to coach a team to Junior Worlds or even Worlds at some point. But I guess I still have a long road ahead! Now it’s time to work on the foundations of my team to help them grow into a strong team and work towards that.
Apart from that, I want to help our sport grow more popular in general, which is why I am working with OTM to help in that process!
I am currently working on various things with OneTeamMVMT. I started helping on the Social Media base about 1,5 years ago and now my role has evolved as I help Lisa bring new projects to life.
Our last project was the first-ever themed Global Synchro Showcase! On April 3rd, 2021 the world was able to watch a showcase including over 100 teams from 22 countries. As we were building an entertaining and engaging storyline to the theme of “From Darkness to Light” teams were also choreographing their part to a never heard before piece of music mixed by Hugo Chouinard specifically for this showcase. Our aim was to give the teams the opportunity to share what they have been working on throughout this season and showing the world how amazing these dedicated athletes are. This showcase was also a charity event since OneTeamMVMT is all about giving back to the teams. 50 percent of the ticket proceeds will go back to participating teams.
It is actually quite funny: I used to do the social media for our team Sweet Mozart, and we got an Instagram message from OneTeamMVMT, asking who did the editing because it was so cool. I reached out to Lisa and we had a call and started collaborating immediately.
It’s been a really fun experience! If anyone wants to volunteer, just reach out! We will set up a call to get to know you and then see what values we can give to each other. There are so many different jobs for volunteers in an NGO, so there would definitely be a fit for the skills you would bring to the table!
Basically, what I do in OTM is to take care of the social media performance, designing graphics, editing videos and writing captions. It is basically what I enjoy doing, and doing it for this organization is so much fun!
When I started coordinating the Global Synchro Showcase, which was super exciting, I realized the amount of work it requires. But it is so rewarding in the long run! I get to do what I enjoy most, working with fabulous people in my favourite sport!
But since I live in Austria, and OTM is set in Canada, it is kind of weird, because of different time zones. Basically, Lisa and I chat about what the next steps are and then I just get to work on my own time. Mostly things are not time-sensitive, so I will get different things done throughout the morning of my normal workday. In the afternoon I catch up with Lisa and get feedback on my tasks and then just keep working till it is done.
The last past few weeks have actually been crazy due to the showcase and I stayed up till 3:30 am one night because I had to send out individual emails to all participating teams, but that’s a seldom occurrence. But hey, this is what we do for our community isn’t it?! Now I am enjoying vacation time.
Honestly, it would be so cool to see OneTeamMVMT grow and have kind of like a franchise system going on. Imagine how much we could help our sport if there were more people working on the ultimate dream of raising awareness and helping our sport become Olympic. Imagine how many OTM camps could be organized and help athletes around the world evolve! It would be so cool, to see the community grow even more!
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