By Lois Elfmann
Cohen Duncan, 1994 US rookie champion, attracts on her experiences as a aggressive determine skater and skating coach in her profession as behavioral wealth specialist and her volunteer work as a psychological wellness information and mentor for athletes stepping away from competitors.
For all the roles I’ve had, my experiences in skating have helped me navigate new areas and be assured, he mentioned.
Duncan grew up within the Los Angeles space. Her older brother performed ice hockey and she or he wished to do no matter he did. His mom mentioned that hockey wouldn’t occur, however he may take up determine skating. Each she and her brother skilled at Pickwick Ice in Burbank, the place he rapidly excelled.
I beloved the problem, she mentioned. I’ve all the time beloved dance, so I beloved ice dancing after which I needed to bounce. It was an ideal mixture of all of the issues I appreciated.
She was disqualified from her first ISI competitors for performing a lunge, which was not allowed as a result of she got here from the next stage. In time, she transitioned into determine skating competitors in the US, representing the Los Angeles Determine Skating Membership for many of her aggressive profession and dealing with well-known names within the sport.
As a black woman in a predominantly white sport, Duncan seen that she was totally different from most of her skating companions. One thing so simple as discovering pantyhose was a problem and she or he settled for pantyhose that matched her pores and skin tone in the course of the competitors.
There was all the time the belief that there have been just a few of us and that it was an honor to be with different skaters of colour who had completed issues, he mentioned.
At age 13, she turned the novice US champion. Given her younger age and relative inexperience, she did not notice what an ideal achievement it was, regardless that individuals identified that she was one in all only a few black skaters to win a nationwide title. Performing within the champions exhibition was her spotlight on the 1994 USA Championships, and she or he knew she wished to have that have once more.
I believed, it is actually cool that individuals need my autograph, she mentioned. Once I realized what it was prefer to compete on a nationwide stage, that is once I began to get extra nervous.
At 18, Duncan moved to Northern California to attend Santa Clara College and remained there till shifting to Atlanta in 2019, although she mentioned she was nonetheless a Southern California woman at coronary heart.
Within the mid-2000s, one in all his skating college students died in a horrible automotive accident together with different members of his household. A sister, additionally a skater of Duncan, survived the accident.
Watching that household and my scholar use her skating as a coping mechanism for grief, and watching that household undergo the therapeutic course of, was very empowering for me, Duncan mentioned. I did not instantly return to highschool to get my masters in counseling. It took me a while to determine that this was what I wished to do, however I used to be actually fascinated by individuals who uncover their sources of resilience when confronted with unimaginable conditions. I wished to determine the right way to assist them in a manner outdoors of sports activities.
Moving into a faculty setting was not tough for her both as an undergraduate or a graduate scholar. Duncan mentioned that at the same time as a aggressive skater, training has by no means been negotiable.
So as to skate, I needed to have good grades, he mentioned. I went to a French immersion college for all of my training. All my classes have been taught in French, so I needed to do rather a lot to have the ability to get good grades and skate.
Going again for my grasp’s was onerous work, nevertheless it wasn’t one thing I did not know.
His undergraduate research concerned a whole lot of private introspection. After finishing this system, there have been 3,000 hours of coaching earlier than she was licensed. Duncan did this in quite a lot of totally different contexts, which offered publicity to individuals going through totally different challenges. Her coaching included work as a wedding and household therapist and as a faculty counselor.
It was a really eye-opening expertise when it comes to actually with the ability to see how one can make a distinction in individuals’s lives simply by exhibiting up and listening, she mentioned.
The coaching has additionally influenced the way in which she coaches skating and the eye she locations on the emotional well-being of her college students. After incomes a grasp’s diploma in marriage and household counseling/remedy, Duncan turned a licensed therapist in California in 2017 and in Georgia in 2019.
He presently works as a behavioral wealth specialist with Wealth Enhancement Group, an unbiased monetary planning agency with a workforce method to world planning and a dedication to long-term consumer relationships. She helps shoppers with the emotional aspect of monetary determination making.
Cash is emotional and attaches itself to our emotional facilities, Duncan mentioned. The wealth administration agency I work for wished to deliver emotion into the dialog as a result of in any other case they weren’t supporting shoppers holistically.
It is a steep studying curve when it comes to determining the right way to navigate the monetary providers trade, nevertheless it’s been an exquisite alternative to work in a brand new trade.
Moreover, she volunteers with Further-Ordinaire, a non-profit group that empowers elite athletes to advocate for all times after sports activities. After gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from all-around competitors on the Tokyo Olympics, discussions about athletes’ psychological well being escalated considerably, and Duncan was in search of a possibility to assist.
We help athletes of their transition from aggressive sports activities, he mentioned. This implies connecting them to a group the place there are different athletes who’ve efficiently transitioned or are present process their very own transitions. We allow them to know there are sources for psychological well being and assist them bridge that hole from the place they’re to the place they wish to be. There’s a mentor program. We’re specializing in offering an overarching framework for sustaining wellbeing and advocating for emotional well being throughout their transition.
Even after graduating from school and graduate college and changing into a licensed therapist, Duncan continued to teach skating in Northern California. That stopped after she and husband, Darius Taylor, moved to Atlanta in the summertime of 2019. Earlier than she may hit an ice rink, the pandemic hit after which she had a child.
I am nonetheless in touch with my previous college students, so I really feel what is going on on for them, she mentioned. I would say I will be again someway in a not too very long time.
Reflecting on it 29 years later, she understands the significance of her nationwide title and appreciates the impression it’s being acknowledged for. Although she hasn’t been a daily on the ice rinks since she gave beginning to her 2-year-old son Xavier, she Duncan nonetheless stays linked to the game. She was happy to see two Black ladies compete within the senior ladies’s occasion on the 2023 U.S. Championships for the primary time since she and Andrea Gardiner competed on the 2000 U.S. Championships, however she, too, was unhappy about such a large hole.
It speaks to the truth that entry to sports activities is not simply out there to everybody, Duncan mentioned. Skating is a really costly sport. I’m inspired and know that there are extra individuals of colour concerned in skating.