Student Spotlight: Taylor Garden ’11

Students at Phillips Academy usually credit the school with helping them follow their passions. But, in choosing to attend Andover, Taylor Garden ’11 gave up pursuing her ice-skating ambitions. In fact, Garden’s life is remarkably similar to that of the leadcharacter in Disney’s “Ice Princess.” “I kind of gave it up for Andover,” said Garden, a new Lower from Connecticut. When considering the school, Garden and her parents inquired about whether she could leave campus each afternoon to skate in Boston. After learning that the school would not allow her to miss classes for frequent competitions, Garden concluded that, while at Andover, there was no way to compete at an advanced level. Growing up, Garden skated regularly at the local ice rink. Her dad, a hockey player, signed her up for skating when she was only three years old. At one point, while living in Florida, Garden’s parents drove her to a rink forty minutes away so she could train with a coach who had won not only the Olympics, but also four World Championships. After moving back to Connecticut, Garden trained at Westchester Skating Academy and competed as an Intermediate, a category only three ranks away from the Olympic level. At this point in her figure skating career, Garden had mastered every “double” jump except the double axel, an intricate jump involving a forward take-off and two and a half rotations in mid-air. During seventh and eighth grade, Garden’s skating schedule became increasingly time-consuming. She said, “I had about five different coaches: a general coach, a jumping coach, a choreographer, a ‘moves’ coach…” In addition to skating between two and four hours a day, Garden participated in off-ice training, ballet classes, strength training and ice dancing, all of which helped enhance her performance by building the endurance and flexibility required for serious figure skating. During summer vacations, these sessions became more frequent with several training sessions each day. All this hard work paid off during competitions, which included the Regionals, the Mid-Atlantics and the Lake Placid Figure Skating Championships. In Lake Placid, New York, Garden competed at the 1980 Rink, the site of the U.S. Hockey Team’s famous victory over Russia in the 1980 Olympics. Competitions such as this one often took place during the school year, forcing Garden to miss many days of classes. Garden recalled that “teachers would [sometimes] get mad” when she fell behind on schoolwork due to skating. Garden was still working towards mastering her triple salchow, a tricky jump with three rotations, when she officially quit figure skating in 2008. “My favorite thing [to do] was jump,” Garden explained, “but I was best at spinning.” Last July, Garden tore the medial collateral ligament in her left leg while practicing a flying sit-spin. While no surgery was required, Garden spent four months recovering from the accident. “[The ligament] is affected by lateral movement,” reported Garden, “I still feel it sometimes.” Throughout her childhood, Garden dreamed of becoming a professional figure skater, but “as the sport got harder, this became less realistic.” Garden added, “You can’t really go to school if you want to [be an Olympic figure skater].” Indeed, most advanced figure skaters are home-schooled; the flexibility allows them to train rigorously and continue their educations while traveling for competitions. Despite the negligible role of figure skating on campus, Phillips Academy had always been a goal for Garden. While the school offers ice hockey as a major winter sport, it only offers figure skating at an instructional level. A student could theoretically hire a coach and train at the Andover ice rink each evening, but the demanding Andover schedule yields too little time for this to be worthwhile, and the student cannot miss classes to compete. So why was Andover the best choice for Garden? “My dad, uncle and cousins have all gone here,” Garden explained. “I’ve grown up wanting to [come to Andover].” When asked whether she has ever regretted her decision to quit figure skating and attend Phillips Academy, Garden said, “No, I’m happy. I do miss [skating] a lot though.” Garden believes that although she is no longer competing, figure skating will still play a major role in her life. “Skating taught me about hard work, discipline, time management and dedication,” said Garden. She concluded, “I hope I can still skate a little [in the future].”