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Athleticism and Artistry Hallmark of BU Figure Skating Club

Team has captured four national championships under alum coach

As Andrea Mohns-Brillaud was about to graduate from BU, she jokingly told figure skating coach Barbara Pinch, “Let me know if you ever retire: I’m taking your job.”

Mohns-Brillaud (COM’87) made good on her promise some 21 years later. The former member of the BU Figure Skating Club has been coaching the team for the past 11 years, a period of tremendous growth and success. Today the BU team is one of the country’s elite figure skating teams.

The club won its first national award in 2006, a year before Mohns-Brillaud took charge. Since then, the skaters have achieved podium finishes at 10 of the last 11 intercollegiate national championships and won 4, including the past 2.

“The team was run differently when I arrived, but it wasn’t like I came with a magical potion,” she says. “There were kids in the club that were at a competitive level and there were kids who weren’t—but all of them competed.”

That changed after the first competition under Mohns-Brillaud. Her team finished fourth, one spot outside the medal positions. Her dejected locker room disagreed when she said that they could have won the competition. She gave them a choice: either every club member competes or start cutting down the team and having only the best skaters perform. All but one member voted in favor of cuts, laying the foundation for their continuing success. “They wanted the team to do well. It’s really hard to go to school full-time and dedicate time to skate,” the coach says. “They voted to turn their commitment into results.”

It took only until the next competition to bring home a gold medal.

The club now has two sections: competitive and recreational. Experience levels range from beginners to skaters who competed nationally or internationally before arriving at BU. There are currently 52 skaters, 30 who perform competitively. They must practice at least four times a week, although many put in considerably more time.

Andrea Mohns-Brillaud coaches the BU Figure Skating club

Andrea Mohns-Brillaud (COM’87), coach of the BU Figure Skating Club (right), with the team during a recent practice at Walter Brown Arena. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi

“The high-level kids are coming off skating six days a week for three to four hours each day, plus off-ice conditioning,” Mohns-Brillaud says. “Four days a week is like a piece of cake to them. They try to skate every day because they know that’s what it takes to perform well.”

Although the skaters aren’t eligible for athletic scholarships because it’s a club sport, most of them say they chose BU specifically because of the figure skating club. They undergo a bit of culture shock when they first arrive: for many it’s the first time working as a team in what is traditionally an individual sport.

“I’ll have kids come in that can do triple jumps, but will sometimes fall,” Mohn-Brillaud says. “I’ll suggest a program where they can nail everything with no chance of falling, because a fall will impact the team negatively. At first, they won’t care about the team. But once they’ve been to a competition they evolve.”

BU skaters sometimes find themselves competing against a teammate in the same event. Mohns-Brillaud says she tells them, “You’re not competing against each other, you’re competing with her to hold other teams back.”

To foster a team mentality, the club engages in a lot of bonding off the ice, organizing plenty of social events like bowling nights or ugly Christmas sweater parties. This year they’ve started a mentorship program, with upperclassmen helping freshmen teammates with their studies.

Mohns-Brillaud tries to stay away from the social side, but describes herself as the skaters’ “mother away from home.” Even as she’s sitting in the top row of Walter Brown Arena talking about the club, she keeps one eye on the five or six skaters practicing below. Every so often, she stops to give some words of encouragement or a thumbs up, reassuring the skaters that she is still watching. “They’re actually doing some really good stuff now that I’m up here,” she says.

The club performs in three regional competitions each year. The four clubs with the best scores then qualify for the national championships. It’s typically been BU, the University of Delaware, and Dartmouth filling three of those spots lately, but new rivals are now emerging. Sacred Heart University, New York University, and the University of Connecticut are all building strong programs.

But the coach and her team relish the competition. “They’re all now getting great skaters in,” Mohns-Brillaud says. “It’s really exciting. The kids are loving it.”

Find out more about the BU Figure Skating Club here or email Mohns-Brillaud at skatingpro@gmail.com.

Harry Jones can be reached at joneshj@bu.edu. Jason Kimball can be reached at jk16@bu.edu.

8 Comments

8 Comments on Athleticism and Artistry Hallmark of BU Figure Skating Club

  • Jeff Sully on 11.15.2018 at 5:57 am

    What an unexpected surprise to find in my inbox this morning. Thia is an inspiring piece, very well done. These are very talented people that talk of figure skating in a way I have not heard spoken before.

    I’m curious to find out about the first music played. Sounded like Erik Satie, but not sure. Thank you, Harry Jones.

  • Scott Nalette on 11.15.2018 at 8:36 am

    Kudos to the coaches and team leaders for fostering such a familial environment. The experience of participating with BU Skating is one that has left a lasting impression on our alums and we thank you for all that you do!

  • Barbara Green-Glaz on 11.15.2018 at 9:07 am

    Congratulations to Coach Mohns-Brillaud and her entire team!

  • Donna on 11.15.2018 at 10:03 am

    What an inspiring capture of grace, artistry, and geometry! Thank you for sharing these students’ passions with us!

  • Susanne Jordan on 11.15.2018 at 10:57 am

    I skated as a little girl and one of my daughter’s good friends skates for BU, so I am always interested in how the team does. This was a great video and article to wake up to. Skating is so peaceful. Keep up the good work!

  • Mona on 11.15.2018 at 3:50 pm

    What a great article and video! I am so impressed by the skaters and by how much hard work they devote both to the ice, and to their school work. Thanks BU Today for highlighting BUFSC. Congratulations to Coach Mohns-Brillaud! Well done BUFSC!

  • Paula Quatromoni on 12.03.2018 at 8:44 am

    I am so grateful for Coaches Andrea and Andrew, and the entire BUFSC family. They foster a team culture of positivity and a strong work ethic that is setting these young adults up for much success in life by learning the power of teamwork. I am thrilled that Boston University gave my daughter the opportunity to continue her skating career at the collegiate level. That she became a national champion was beyond expectations! BUFSC has given her a tremendous community of support at BU ~ a precious gift from freshman through senior year. #ProudToBU

  • Quizlet on 12.04.2018 at 4:37 am

    These are very talented people. From “faster, higher, stronger” is in figure skating “faster, higher, more beautiful”. The rest of the sports world relies on functional clothing, the figure skaters on shirt and evening dress – albeit in sport suitable modification. Long smile, big pose, elaborate hairstyles, lots of make-up. I really like it! You are awesome!

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