Kelley Morris-Adair

By Terri Milner Tarquini


Fabruary 1, 2016
   In The Loop Extended Articles

It’s hard to find a hat that Kelley Morris-Adair hasn’t worn at some point in a professional figure skating career that has spanned 35-plus years.

But it’s the grassroots of skating that really gets her enthusiasm going.

“My passion is for the fundamentals of skating,” Morris-Adair said. “The basics of skating are what run through every aspect, every discipline of the sport. Take out the jumps and spins, and it all comes down to how a blade performs over the ice. If you can’t balance on a forward outside edge, you won’t have an Axel. If you can’t balance on a backward edge, you won’t have a Lutz. It’s that simple. And the benefits of what moves in the field can do toward teaching those things cannot be measured.”

In addition to being a dance and singles coach, Morris-Adair travels to rinks around the country, aiding coaches and athletes on basic skating skills, including turns, stroking, step sequences and choreography.

“Unfortunately, moves in the field are taught by some coaches as a separate entity, a separate discipline,” she said. “The moves are often coached strictly to pass the tests, not taught as a tool to connect the concepts. Coaches and skaters need to realize that it’s not ‘we need to do this skill just good enough to pass the test.’ The skills in those moves tests need to be taught well by the coaches and absorbed by the skaters. Coaches need to use the concepts that MIF develops and link them into all of the other disciplines.

“We need the fundamentals of figure skating,” she said, “to grow great figure skaters.”
Morris-Adair certainly knows what she speaks, as she has been a part of the evolution of MIF from the beginning. She was on both the original task force that devised and drew up the MIF tests and the more-recent team that revised the MIF tests.

Think about that for a minute. The invention of moves in the field.

Where does a task force even begin to go about doing something like that?

“There was about 50 judges and coaches at one time on the ice,” she said of the original process in the early 90s. “It was sort of insane, but there were a lot of very dedicated people with a lot of very good ideas.”

And so it was that about 10 years later, Morris-Adair found herself in a familiar scenario, called in to be on the task force to revamp the MIF tests.

“Coaches from every discipline were represented and everyone’s input was heard,” Morris-Adair said. “It took about two years and was a really, really, really involved process.”
One would imagine.

But that turned out to be just the proverbial tip of the iceberg when the PSA took over the implementation of the MIF structure and the training of the coaches and judges.

“When we rolled everything out, it was hugely successful,” Morris-Adair said. “We had record amounts of seminars that year - and judges were included at the seminars. Everyone loved that collaboration between judges and coaches. It was crazy and it was wonderful and everyone had so many questions and so much interest. The time and care the team took really showed.”

With her coaching partner and husband, Donald Adair, the duo cultivated an ice dance program in Indianapolis that nurtured and trained over 40 dance teams successfully qualifying for sectional, national and international championships.

“Ice dance coaches have a lot of tenacity and integrity within their discipline; we had to really stick with it in the lean times when we didn’t have champions and we kept the interest alive,” Morris-Adair said. “But the future is really bright. The up-and-comers are extraordinary. It’s very exciting times.”

Currently coaching most of the time in Louisville, Morris-Adair still does some coaching in Indianapolis, as well as monthly consulting regarding basic skating skills with the University of Miami synchronized skating teams. She has coached singles skaters at the Novice, Junior and Senior levels for Team USA and has coached U.S. National Dance champions at the Juvenile, Novice and Junior levels.

“There are more resources out there than ever before,” she said. “Judges and technical specialists are so engrossed and interested in the process and are so willing to help. And, the best part is, the help is coming at younger ages at the earlier stages. It’s not just at the junior and senior levels; the help is there at juvenile and even before.”

Ice dance got a big boost when two skaters, who had been dancing together for 17 years when they took the ice at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, turned in two amazing performances and brought the first gold medal in the history of ice dance home to the United States.

“Meryl and Charlie are not only fabulous ice dancers and skaters, but their coaches were very smart how they were developed,” Morris-Adair said. “They were not pushed too quickly. It’s important for coaches to be aware of that physical and emotional development. If skaters, in any discipline, are pushed too quickly, it can be very detrimental to their own personal growth, as well as their skating growth. Meryl and Charlie are a testament to really paying attention to a skater’s personal development and going at that pace.”

Morris-Adair is master rated in moves in the field, dance and free dance and is registered in free skate. She has also earned a Level V ranking.

“The ratings process made me so much more aware of how much more I needed to learn,” said Morris-Adair, who was 25 when she took her first oral exam. “I was a very young coach and I knew I needed to continue my education to continue in the sport. I knew right away that I wanted to be a career coach, so I approached it like any other career and set out to learn as much as I could.

“If a coach wants to get to the top of their game and they want to survive and stay there,” she said. “Then they must do the ratings.”

A past PSA president, Morris-Adair is the current U.S. Figure Skating Coaches Committee Chair, serves on the board of directors for PSA and U.S. Figure Skating and is the president of the PS Foundation.

“I so believe in the mission of PSA - and that is our dedication to the education of our coaches throughout the United States,” she said. “PSA continues to deliver on that promise year after year.”

PSA’s commitment to its coaches became stronger and more structured with the merging of the Skaters Fund with the PS Foundation last May. As president of the foundation, Morris-Adair has headed up the creation of a sound structure to raise funds to help younger coaches with scholarship opportunities, as well as older coaches who are experiencing life challenges and are in need of financial assistance.

“It’s everything I love,” Morris-Adair said. “Being there to provide support at the beginning of a career and continuing that support all the way to the end.”

And part of the promise by PSA is made possible through the follow-through of coaches helping other coaches.
Considering all of the hats Morris-Adair has worn have been volunteer positions, it’s a pursuit that she has gone after with the same passion she approaches everything else

“It’s so important for coaches to stay involved along the way,” Morris-Adair said. “I love mentoring younger coaches or coaches who need a refresher. I want to empower them and make them aware that this is a good career path. There are great opportunities to make a difference as a coach. There is nothing like a child’s face lighting up.

“That’s why we do what we do.”