By Sarah Kuper
Creative, kind and intuitive. Those are the words Amy Stiftel-Sedlis uses to describe her 10-year-old son, Jared.
“He is a unique and compassionate person and very well-rounded,” she said.
A rising fifth-grader at Brookwood Forest Elementary, Jared has not spent his summer poolside or boating on the lake. Rather, he has been busy practicing on the cool ice of the Pelham Civic Complex and in Salt Lake City with Olympic figure skating coaches.
Jared’s love for and dedication to skating actually began when he was 5 years old and tagging along with older brother Aaron to the rink for hockey practice.
“My brother was playing hockey and we were trying to think of something for me to do,” Jared said.
Stiftel-Sedlis said Jared immediately took to figure skating.
“From the beginning, even if he fell, he got right back up and didn’t lose confidence or his train of thought,” she said.
Jared said he has stuck with figure skating because it appeals to his interests and personality.
“I didn’t really like team sports. What I like is the elegance of skating – the spinning, the jumping and the music,” he said.
Jared, who also plays violin, has mainly performed to classical music and even works together with his coach on choreography sometimes.
Jared has long graduated from group skating lessons and now works one-on-one with a husband and wife coaching team at the Pelham Civic Complex.
He practices on the ice four days a week and does some conditioning exercises.
That may sound like a lot for an elementary schooler, but Stiftel-Sedlis said his training regimen is actually more relaxed than some competitors his age.
“Some kids do ballet and other intense cross-training,” he said. “That’s something we will get to at some point but not now.”
Currently, Jared is competing at the Preliminary Free-Skate level. Unlike other sports, ice skating levels are not based on age or size but rather skill level. To move to the next level, skaters must pass a skills test in front of a panel of judges.
Recently, Jared has been working on more intense spins and jumps like a double toe loop and a double Lutz.
“I’m trying to get my doubles more consistent and clean and maybe starting to work on a double axel,” he said. “I’m also trying to get my spins a little better.”
To the wider public, figure skating may not be considered a mainstream sport like football or baseball, but it does see a spotlight every four years during the winter Olympics.
Many ask Jared if he has Olympic aspirations.
“It’s like, I never say I do want to go to the Olympics or I never say I don’t. It would be cool but I don’t think that’s why I do it,” Jared said.
He will be competing July 30 in the Magic City Ice Classic hosted at his home rink in Pelham.
Jared and his family have traveled all over the nation for competitions, so Stiftel-Sedlis said it will be special to compete locally, where his friends can come watch what he can do.
“I’m feeling pretty good! I have a new costume and new music. We are changing some things around still but I feel good,” Jared said.
For this competition, Jared is stepping away from a classical program and embracing a more jazz-like routine using music from the movie “Swing Kids.”
After the Magic City Ice Classic, Jared’s next competition is regionals in September in Lansing, Michigan. Stiftel-Sedlis said Jared went last year and it was a good chance for him to see more boys competing than he sees in Birmingham.
“Jared is maybe the only boy we see at the Pelham rink figure skating. He sort of gets picked on, but not much. All his friends are pretty supportive,” Stiftel-Sedlis said.
For Jared’s part, he said he doesn’t really even notice that he’s the only boy.
“I don’t really mind. I’m friends with all the other people,” he said. “I don’t really care if they are the same gender or not.”
Stiftel-Sedlis, who works as assistant producer at WBHM, said Jared’s figure skating requires a lot of dedication on his part but also from the whole family.
Living in Mountain Brook, it isn’t exactly a short drive to the rink in Pelham several times a week for several hours, but Stiftel-Sedlis said it’s not that different than the travel time she would spend if Jared did any other sport.
There isn’t a large figure skating scene in Alabama, so competing requires a lot of travel, which can get expensive.
But Stiftel-Sedlis said it is worth every penny.
“To see your child do a sport that he is passionate about, it is very rewarding,” she said.
Although Jared doesn’t foresee giving up skating, Stiftel-Sedlis said that, even if he did decide he didn’t want to skate anymore, she wouldn’t pressure him.
“If he decided he didn’t want to continue I would still value the discipline and self confidence he has gotten out of it,” she said.
Plus, skating at the rink in Pelham has helped both her sons meet children from other areas of town and walks of life.
“We are there some afternoons from 3 p.m. to 9:30 p.m,” she said. “They do their homework there; it has become like a second home.”
While Jared said he is most proud of himself when he lands a difficult jump or masters a new spin, Stiftel-Sedlis said she is proud when others notice what she gets to see all the time.
“Jared is just infectious, he brings joy to people when he performs – people stop and tell me that. It’s like when he is skating you can tell he wants you to know he’s having a good time.”
The Magic City Ice Classic is July 29 and 30 at the Pelham Civic Complex and Ice Arena.
The two-day competition begins at 4 p.m. on Friday and will include 150 skaters from four states competing in 246 events.
Admission is free.