Sixteen ice skaters, one goal, and three minutes to prove it. Synchronized ice skating is moving in unison while gliding across the ice. That kind of precision and perfection takes practice. Jennifer McMahon is the coach of the Fond du Lac Blades Synchronized Skating Team. “You have to get all the girls on the same foot, at the same time, with the same expression, and the same arm movement. Getting sixteen girls to do anything step-for-step isn’t easy,” says McMahon.
For many of these teenagers, life has revolved around skating. Macy Bania started when she was four years old as an individual skater before joining a synchronized team. The Fond du Lac Blades are Wisconsin’s premiere synchro team, attracting skaters from as far away as Green Bay, Milwaukee and Madison. Bania commutes three times a week from Green Bay in all kinds of weather. “It’s very challenging and most of the time I do homework in the car, because it can be a difficulty to keep up with school,” says Bania.
The skaters spend hours and days away from family. Their teammates become a second family. For one skater, the coach is family – literally. Jennifer McMahon started out as a precision skater more than 30 years ago. Today McMahon coaches her daughter Molly on the team. McMahon knows it can be tough having “Mom” as coach but somehow they’ve made it click. McMahon shares coaching duty with Heather Pagel, another member of the original ice-skating team.
In 2019, the team representing Fond du Lac and the United States headed to Croatia for the Zagreb Snowflake Trophy. With chants of Team U-S-A, the Blades took to the ice. Coach McMahon gets a little emotional when describing that moment, “It’s amazing to hear the words, ‘Representing the United States of America.’ In fact, I get choked up. I get choked up when I hear it.” They competed against Hungary, Croatia, Italy, Finland and teams from Russia. The Fondy Blades ended up on the podium in third place with the bronze medal.
Coach McMahon says, “I think my favorite part is when they’ve had the skate of their life, and they hear the score, and they start jumping up and down. That’s what is most rewarding. That’s what I look forward to; just knowing that all the hours that they have put in has paid off.”