TSL's Interview with Mary Beth Marley

Discussion in 'Great Skate Debate' started by Sylvia, Jul 10, 2013.

  1. Sylvia

    Sylvia Whee, summer club comps!

    Joined:
    May 27, 2002
    Messages:
    29,977
    http://www.theskatinglesson.com/mary-beth-marley-interview/
    Link to the 1 hour+ interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxoeUC9N8dA
    At around the 30-min. mark, Mary Beth talks about how she decided to leave her partnership and the sport a year ago when the physical and mental toll (from a lifelong struggle with perfectionism (ETA: she never actually said "eating disorder")/issues of self-control) was becoming too much to bear and was starting to affect her skating/daily training. She says that things got a lot worse after she stopped skating before she could embark on a full recovery process. Today she is working with Chicago area coach Mary Alice Antensteiner, choreographing for her students, skating for herself, and keeping the door open to the possibility of competing again in the future. She credits Antensteiner for playing a big part in her recovery.

    "A look into a day in the life of Mary Beth Marley as she continues her recovery and embarks on a return to the sport." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1HIaorPioc (3 mins.)
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2013
  2. ~tapdancer~

    ~tapdancer~ Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2006
    Messages:
    5,083
    That was a great interview and she truly is a brave young woman to finally face her problem head on and recover while she is still young and has a bright future. She had so many good things to say about Rockne, too, and I admire him for accepting her decision knowing that it affected him as well. I would have loved to see them achieve great things but I'm so glad she has found her way to health and happiness. Maybe one day we'll see her again on the ice.
  3. Rock2

    Rock2 New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2008
    Messages:
    1,855
    MB looked so stressed out and unhappy in her last year with Rockne and there is such a difference now...in a good way. You can appreciate her eating disorder now that her body has transformed into what I would call a normal state. Even with the normal diet and active life that she has now it's incredible to try and understand what she put herself through to achieve the small size she was when she competed.

    Sounds like she's finding her way and has already come so far as to be able to talk about it. Great for her!
    alilou and (deleted member) like this.
  4. Garden Kitty

    Garden Kitty Tranquillo

    Joined:
    May 26, 2002
    Messages:
    25,005
    She's a lovely young lady and I wish her all the best. I admire her strength in discussing her personal issues as I'm sure there are a lot of people who can learn from her willingness to share.
  5. BittyBug

    BittyBug Quadless

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2003
    Messages:
    15,088
    This is so true. Eating disorders are like vampires - they not only suck the life out of you, they thrive in the darkness of secrecy and the veil of shame. The first step to recovery is shining a bright light on them and ending the denial. We heard MBM herself cite Jennifer Kirk's openness as a lifeline that helped her feel less alone, and I'm sure MBM's candor will similarly spark other young women (and men) to seek help.

    I was really impressed by the depth of emotional maturity that Mary Beth displayed. Kudos to her and to Jenny and Dave for so openly addressing such a sensitive topic.
  6. caseyedwards

    caseyedwards Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2009
    Messages:
    6,340
    The total quitting of the sport makes complete sense now! It was a complete bafflement before and all there was rumors and allegations of bulimia anorexia etc! Good to talk about! Teach others. Mbm role could be as teacher and mentor!
  7. fan

    fan Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2003
    Messages:
    966
    she's a very brave young girl to share her story, and i'm sure we all wish her the best in her recovery. all of these young kids put so much into the sport. as fans, I hope they know that we just want them to be happy.
    HisWeirness and (deleted member) like this.
  8. stjeaskategym

    stjeaskategym Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2002
    Messages:
    1,277
    She really was thrown into a tough situation, and pair skating itself requires a rather specific mental state. It's a shame that someone at 4'9" still felt so much pressure to stay so small.

    It was a valiant effort, but you could tell it was quite difficult for her to give that interview. She kind of danced around several of the questions pertaining to her eating disorder and struggles. Even though it was quite clear they were discussing an eating disorder (and Jenny flat out said it), she avoided using those words. Perhaps it will become easier for her to talk about it as time goes on and she continues in her recovery.

    I can't imagine how difficult it must have been in the months right after she left the sport, especially with the guilt she was feeling in having her family sacrifice so much for her to skate pairs. She is very brave for the way she handled this situation and got the help she needs. It's great that she loves coaching because that should help her to find all of the time and effort she put into high level skating to be really worth it despite the premature ending.
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2013
    alilou and (deleted member) like this.
  9. genevieve

    genevieve drinky typo pbp, closet hugger Staff Member

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2003
    Messages:
    30,087
    yeah, I noticed that MBM never actually said she had an eating disorder and sidestepped all of the direct questions Jenny asked her about how the disorder manifested itself. She looked truly anguished at times. But in general she was amazingly articulate and even funny about her experiences (when she talked about going to a regular school for the first time since 3rd grade!), and very, very level headed. Absolute best wishes to her, on and off the ice.
    alilou and (deleted member) like this.
  10. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I

    Joined:
    May 24, 2003
    Messages:
    19,354
    Oh the irony of Tai Babilonia, who also struggles from an eating disorder, ranting about US pairs skaters who don't stick together through all of their problems, both in general and with a shout-out to Marley/Brubaker, when walking away from skating gave Marley a chance to have a physically and mentally healthy rest-of-her-life.
  11. DarrellH

    DarrellH New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2007
    Messages:
    4,763
    How brave of her.
  12. Loves_Shizuka

    Loves_Shizuka Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2005
    Messages:
    12,281
    This was a really good one - MBM came across as articulate and thoughtful. I also sense that she isn't quite as comfortable as she might be, but things like this take time. It isn't like healing a broken leg. I wish her all the best :)
  13. antmanb

    antmanb Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2006
    Messages:
    3,245
    I agree she comes across as relly intellegent, articulate, and really level headed about this whole thing. Wishing her all the best in the future.
  14. Jozet

    Jozet Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2009
    Messages:
    376
    As a parent of an athlete nowhere near Mary Beth's talent or potential, but one who still works hard and probably has questions some days about why she's doing this and who she's doing it for, this interview is sobering. Possibly required viewing for parents before they ever sign-up their kid for a sport. Once parents start spending time and money and other adults or teammates start depending on a kid, the pressures can just build-up whether we realize it or not. Somewhere, in spite of the depth of her problem, she was given the message that the sport was hers to own or to walk away from, and that she would still be loved. And that she was worth more than even the Olympics. Somewhere along the line, a lot of people did a lot of the right things with and for this kid.

    .
  15. Alixana

    Alixana recovering Oly-holic

    Joined:
    May 1, 2004
    Messages:
    1,261
    Beautifully put. Agree with your entire post.
  16. LilJen

    LilJen Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2006
    Messages:
    9,251
    She captures really well how EDs come from within--and how hard it is to escape your brain sending you wrong messages. She showed how it isn't necessarily one thing in particular external to yourself that triggers it (and it even continued after she quit skating, so nobody can say "skating caused her ED"). I hope that she's able to continue developing healthy eating habits and healthy ways of coping with stress, and I hope she doesn't have any lingering health issues from the disorder.

    She also conveyed very well how difficult it is for someone with these issues to talk about it, especially given that she's not that far out from her worst. I imagine Jenny was trying to get her to give more specifics because that's probably part of the recovery process--and MB just isn't quite there yet. She admitted that it's still a work in progress.
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2013
  17. Jozet

    Jozet Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2009
    Messages:
    376
    Agreed. I hope it didn't come across that I thought skating or any outside pressures caused the eating disorder. :)

    Mary Beth was so clear in saying that sports even at elite levels can be done with health foremost in mind. I was just noting that sometimes it's so hard to know what kids are going through mind, body, and soul...especially during the sometimes difficult years when even the most level-headed teens are struggling with suddenly new bodies and emotions. I just thought Mary Beth's interview was a good reminder for me to be open to listening and letting go of my wants for my kid, and to remember that this is her journey.

    As much as I know that some kids do struggle with different kinds of issues when involved in elite sports, it really bugs me when people immediately assume that a girl participating dance or gymnastics or skating is on track for unavoidable weight and body image problems.
    rfisher and (deleted member) like this.
  18. skatesindreams

    skatesindreams Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2002
    Messages:
    13,663
    I wish Mary Beth the very best; and a happy, healthy life,
    She is a young woman to admire.
  19. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I

    Joined:
    May 24, 2003
    Messages:
    19,354
    There's nothing contradictory about these two things: an event or situation can trigger/cause behavior that continues throughout someone's life. People don't suddenly become "cured" by walking away from a situation/trauma or drug rehab would be a permanent fix. Throughout the interview Kirk was gently trying to point out the ways in which the culture of skating creates pressure and sends unspoken messages and group think about weight, eating, body image, and "perfect princess" syndrome in which the pressures are internalized and encourage obsessive behavior. Her insistence that everything was her responsibilty sounds to me like a vestige of the control issue that started the behavior in the first place. Of course it's critical for her to understand her triggers and recognized when her brain is trying to "trick" her to think in old familiar patterns, and it sounds like she's being vigilent about it, to prevent herself from falling into them just because the outside situation has changed.
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2013
  20. halffull

    halffull Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2008
    Messages:
    3,242
    Glad she made it clear that in her mind her issues have to do with her personality and not necessarily with skating, Rockne or her coaches. I wish MBM all the very best for a long, happy, healthy life.
  21. Wyliefan

    Wyliefan Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2005
    Messages:
    17,641
    I don't think Tai was arguing for skaters with serious health issues to stick with it no matter what. Wasn't it just a general desire for more U.S. pair skaters to stay together? Lots of us here have expressed similar wishes here on this board.
  22. Simone411

    Simone411 aka IceSkate98

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2007
    Messages:
    7,117
    I agree. I don't think, at least the way I understand it, that Tai was arguing either.

    Sylvia, thanks for posting the link to the great interview.
  23. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I

    Joined:
    May 24, 2003
    Messages:
    19,354
    Yes and no: she was willing to judge Marley/Brubaker specifically without having a clue without knowing what the issues were, and her attitude in general was "These kids don't suck it up and get through the rough times like they did in my day."

    While I think it sucks when one partner is able to toss aside previous partners because someone makes a better offer, and that the time it takes to adjust to the new partner isn't often any less than working through issues with the old one, I've never been on the "US Pairs would be great if they stuck it out" bandwagon, because it's not anyone's obligation to stick to something for which they are forking out huge sums and in most cases impacting their families greatly in addition to the mental and physical stress they're under to skate in the first place. Soviet pairs were the undisputed best and dominant for many years while some of those men physically abused their female partners in the rink under the eyes of their coaches and other skaters.

    I'd much rather see pairs and dance team members be able to make rational decisions about their skating careers and goals, which can change over time. It's not as if people who spend hours and hours in the rink and off ice training for years, who give up the "normal" lives as teenagers and young adults, and whose families spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on training, move and split up the families to accommodate their training, are slackers who give up partnerships on a whim, but even if they were, it's their time and their dime.
  24. BittyBug

    BittyBug Quadless

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2003
    Messages:
    15,088
    Many posts in this thread mention weight and body image. While EDs are usually initially prompted by some type of body image dysmorphia, they become rooted when they transform into a tool to manage emotions. Although EDs involve food, the worst and most intractable aspect of their nature has little to do with weight. To wit, what both MBM and Jenny emphasized is the control aspect of EDs, which is not related to food but rather using food as a tool to cope with feelings. EDs are not a diet gone awry - they're much more complex than that. (Just wanted to comment on this to make sure the situation isn't overly simplified. )

    And I'm not surprised that MBM didn't articulate exactly how her disease manifested itself (other than her hint at exercise bulimia via overindulgence in hot yoga). There is a tremendous amount of shame associated with purging, and our society as a whole does not approve of openly discussing any means of evacuating one's system, much less one that is voluntarily self-inflicted.
  25. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I

    Joined:
    May 24, 2003
    Messages:
    19,354
    The emphasis on weight in skating, though, gives a structual and accepted way to manifest these control issues. Babilonia talked about the almost inescapable messages about weight to which almost all women are subjected, but several times she emphasized those activities where weight control is integral, and mentioned skaters, dancers, and another group (gymnasts?) when she talked about disordered eating and the way weight control is institutionalized. She even said that John Nicks told her the one thing he would change is that if he did it all over again, he wouldn't weigh his female skaters, and it doesn't get more institutionalized than weigh-ins.

    I've seen disordered eating issues among wrestlers publicized, where purging can be part of the "make weight" routine, but much less for boxers and marial arts athletes who also have weight classes.
  26. peibeck

    peibeck Left in the Kiss-n-Cry

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2004
    Messages:
    16,098
    I personally told MBM at 2012 4CCs that she was a rockstar! I re-iterate that comment today and wish her all the best! :respec:
  27. demetriosj

    demetriosj Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2005
    Messages:
    1,064
    Glad she was strong enough to quit and put her health first and foremost. Kudos to her!!!!

    This sport can chew you up and spit you out.... Most of these competitive skaters are children on the verge of their teen years, a terribly turbulent time even under normal circumstances (i.e. not being involved in a cut-throat sport).

    Unfortunately, there are a lot of coaches and parents who are not sensitive to that, nor do they care what their skater is going through as long as they are winning.
  28. Lacey

    Lacey Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2007
    Messages:
    8,531
    I think it's astounding that MBM was able to pull herself out, that, at such a young age, she was able to sense--this is not right, and I am out of here. The only thing better would be for the USFS to hire her to show skaters some alternate routes, even if it's just that there is possible coaching after competing, but that's not going to happen.
  29. literaryfreak

    literaryfreak Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2008
    Messages:
    2,471
    She has an incredible amount of perspective and self-awareness for her age (or any age!). It can't be easy to reveal such painful feelings on camera either, to be put on youtube. She'll be helping so many others too, as Jenny did for her! :respec:
    alilou and (deleted member) like this.
  30. demetriosj

    demetriosj Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2005
    Messages:
    1,064
    Sadly, I don't think USFS gives a care what happens to skaters once they are no longer winning medals for the U.S......
  31. leafygreens

    leafygreens Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 26, 2009
    Messages:
    1,648
    As horrible as ED's are, I'm somewhat relieved to hear that she had a specific reason for quitting, which hopefully means she is on the road to recovery. Mary Beth has left the door open for skating so she must still enjoy it.
  32. stjeaskategym

    stjeaskategym Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2002
    Messages:
    1,277
    Yeah, the job of a coach is to essentially turn the skater into a machine that performs optimally. Maybe not enough time is spent on the "human side" of the skater, and maybe there's a lack of understanding of how much that "human side" affects the athlete's ability to perform. It's not that I think skaters should be best friends with their skating coaches or be assigned to psychologists, but maybe some slightly smarter choices could be made in how these athletes are trained for their mental well-being.

    Marley mentions being weighed several times, and I'm trying to think of the benefits in weighing a 4'8", 80 or 90 lb child. What were they trying to accomplish? Were they hoping that if she had a target weight in her mind at all times, she would somehow get herself to fend off puberty? As much as it would be ideal for that 2A to feel the same every day or for the pair guy to lift the same weight every day in an effort to create consistent training, it's inevitable that a girl is going to grow. Why exacerbate the emphasis on weight that naturally exists in skating?

    I'm not blaming skating or the people around her for all her problems. And she was thrown into a tough situation that went beyond simply just skating. But this does remind me of the harsh reality that some people really don't always do the best job they could in dealing with young athletes who tend to have enough emotional issues as it is.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2013
  33. alilou

    alilou Crazy Stalker Lady

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2005
    Messages:
    3,970
    I would love to see her fully recover and return a la Akiko - for the sheer joy of skating.
    hanca, PeterG, falling_dance and 5 others like this.
  34. triple_toe

    triple_toe Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2005
    Messages:
    1,172
    Coming back from hiatus to post about this. Re: weigh ins... in my experience, no matter how much one outwardly projects an image of having a healthy and understanding attitude toward them, I have never met a skater for whom weigh ins were a healthy experience, or at least one that didn't mess with their minds. I'm not surprised Mary Beth Marley shocked everyone with her revelations; it's astounding how good skaters are at pretending everything is ok on the outside. Smiling through the pain and pretending it's ok it a huge part of skating.
  35. Spun Silver

    Spun Silver Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2006
    Messages:
    2,276
    Well, with a fighting spirit and love of skating like that, I really hope she will make her way back to the competitive ice. That was a very good, and endearing, interview. What a lovely person.
  36. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I

    Joined:
    May 24, 2003
    Messages:
    19,354
    If she didn't use the terms "eating disorder" or "disordered eating" in the TSL interview, in this icenetwork interview from Skate Detroit she was quoted,

  37. Rock2

    Rock2 New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2008
    Messages:
    1,855
    I love how she is clear she's not done and not letting this setback defeat her. I think she can get there. She talked about how there are healthy ways / habits to employ to get to the right body type and weight to skate pairs. Everyone knows you do have to control your weight to maximize your ability to do tricks but again there is the right way to do that. If she succeeds, because of her height, she will be a very desirable candidate again as a pairs partner. Never enough girls...always a lot of boys looking. I have no doubt she'll be back fighting for a spot on the Olympic team in 2018