Figure skating biz student spins success from discipline
Competitors in the recent XXII Winter Olympics know very well the high degree of self-discipline, sacrifice and support from others that is required to achieve one’s goals.
So does Tyler Nichols, a 21-year-old competitive figure skater and senior pursuing a customized Bachelor of Arts degree with an emphasis in construction management at La Sierra University’s Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business. Nichols knows the focus, the passion, the hours of practice and coaching it takes to carve perfect spins and jumps on the ice. He also knows the faith that is needed to pursue goals in the face of obstacles. All this he translates into his work as a figure skating coach at IceTown in Riverside, and into the classroom at La Sierra where he is developing a bluetooth-enabled computer chip for ice skating boots intended to greatly enhance accurate judging and coaching.
“The commitment and drive to progress in the sport relates directly to the amount of practice and time that you spend on the ice,” Nichols said. “I know that I can apply these skills to the career path that I choose and I hope to continue to find time throughout my life to coach the sport during the evenings. God has an amazing plan for me.”
Nichols is deciding whether to pursue an entrepreneurial venture with his computer chip invention called “Cyber Coach.” He is developing the product during an entrepreneurship class this quarter taught by business school Dean John Thomas. Students are required to develop a new product that has potential in the marketplace, create a business plan and secure investor funding through crowd sourcing. Nichols devised “Cyber Coach” in large part because of the human error factor in judging figure skating competitions. The chip in the skating boot is designed to record jumps, rotations, speed, and accuracy, then deliver the information via bluetooth to competition judges. The device will also enable individual skaters to evaluate their own progress during practice, and send information to their coach.
Additionally, Nichols has transferred many of his newfound business skills to his job at IceTown. He has helped the organization develop vision, mission and values statements, performance evaluation tools, and forms for assigning substitute coaches. “All this would not have been possible had it not been for the business classes that I have been exposed to,” he said.
“My original interest in construction management began as a child building Legos,” he said. “It then progressed to building a 24-foot-tall tree house, complete with bunk beds, electricity, carpet, and running water. My ultimate goal is to work in the construction industry, initially experiencing a variety of trades through apprenticeships, and eventually managing the entire construction process.
Nichols has received many trophies and awards as a competitive skater beginning at age 4. He is currently testing at the intermediate level with the U.S. Figure Skating Association and has mastered single and double jumps. He loves the thrill of competition, but after graduating from Redlands Adventist Academy in 2010 set his sights on training and coaching while attending college. “The first day of my freshman orientation at La Sierra University, I received a letter from Riverside IceTown management where I had been training, notifying me of my selection as an intern skating coach,” said Nichols. “I was overwhelmed with God’s plan for me. I could continue to train and give back to the sport that had molded and shaped my life.”
During his freshman year at La Sierra, Nichols completed more than 200 hours of training as an intern and began teaching his own evening classes at IceTown to students “just like myself who started at 4 years old. The joy that I receive is unbelievable,” he said.
Figure skating captured Nichols’ interest at the age of 4 when he attended a Christmas ice show at the Palm Desert Mall. He began group lessons during which a coach deemed him a “natural.” From there, he began studying with coach Monica Viola and has continued working with her over the years. Along the way Tyler’s sister, Katie Nichols, age 14, also became captivated with the sport and the brother and sister compete in singles and pairs events together. Their parents, John and Brenda Nichols, provide solid support building props and sets for competitions and making outfits.
The brother-and-sister duo perform pairs and singles routines at ice shows, often featuring Disney character themes and have competed in the past in competitions for the International Skating Institute and U.S. Figure Skating Association.
Nichols’ weekly training involves two skating lessons a week, practice on two other days, training twice a week with a personal trainer, and one early-morning lesson with an off-ice trainer involving simulated jumps on a trampoline. Those jumps are taped and sent electronically back and forth between his figure skating coach and the trainer using frame-stopping technology that allows analysis of each movement. Nichols then practices the jumps on the ice. Over time, the sport and the hard work it entails have given Nichols a strong sense of self-awareness and confidence, he said.
Nichols was fixated with the coverage of the figure skating competitions during the Olympics, analyzing skaters’ programs and jumps. He has a connection with several of those who competed through personal meetings or by watching their events. “As an athlete, I recognize the numerous hours and failures it takes to be on that platform. For me, I have set my goals, reevaluated them, and continue to set new goals. Skating is a means to other things.”