Olympic Skater JoJo Starbuck Skates Right Into Our Hearts

JoJo Starbuck

We felt like a million bucks when we got to meet two-time skating Olympian JoJo Starbuck. Soft-spoken, kind and insightful, JoJo chatted with us at Rockefeller Center in NYC about her skating career, her super popular Cool Workout classes, and why it’s a privilege to be a parent.

You’ve had an amazing skating career, spanning over four decades. When did you begin skating?

I started skating when I was 7 years-old. I was half tomboy, half actress. Skating was a perfect fit for me; I got to go really fast, jump high and spin, and then I got to wear beautiful costumes, too. I loved the music and the choreography as well. I loved skating from the time I started it.

You skated with your partner Ken Shelley for many years.

Ken and I started skating together when we were seven years-old at the Downey School of Ice Skating, in Downey, California. I think now it’s a Volkswagen Body and Paint Shop! [laughs] We were 47 when we did our last performance together. We’ve retired more than once, though!

Let’s talk about the many highlights in your skating career.

Ken and I were three-time US Pairs Champions, two-time Olympians, and two-time World Bronze Medalists. We’ve skated professionally all over the world.

And you’ve been skating here at Rockefeller Center in NYC for over 25 years.

I started producing events for the Rink about 25 years ago. I would do performances with Broadway and Olympic stars. I then started doing classes for adult recreational skaters. The people who come to my classes are from all walks of life, but all of them have always wanted to skate.

What is a typical Cool Workout class like?

We have classes twice a week. The skaters arrive at 7:15 AM, and we’ll have coffee or tea. We stretch, put on our favorite CD, and we take the ice at 7:30.

That must be amazing, ice skating in Rockefeller Center, just when the city is waking up.

It’s absolutely beautiful. Nelson is cleaning the ice just for us. I feel like a million dollars, knowing that the ice is just for us for one precious hour. I work with another fantastic teacher, and we have a great time. You’re challenged mentally, physically, and by the time the hour is over, the flags here are waving, and the air feels great. You feel invigorated, like you can take on the world.

JoJo Starbuck

Are your students learning to do triple axels in your class?

Everyone learns at their own pace. That’s the beauty of the class. You learn the basics; for example, you learn correct posture, how to find your balance and to not be vulnerable but strong. The students also learn some choreography, like turns and tiny jumps if they’re ready. It’s great because we’re outside in the elements, with so many beautiful things to look at, and then everyone gets to work by 9:00 AM. It’s just glorious.

You also teach classes in NJ.

I do, and I also teach private lessons. I don’t teach too many competitive skaters anymore because those lessons happen after school. And after school, I want to be home with my sons.

What’s it like being the mom to twin 15 year-old boys?

It’s amazing. Being a good parent is like an Olympic event. You have to be totally devoted to it. You can’t be an Olympic athlete if you’re not committed to excellence morning, noon and night. It’s the same with parenting. Everything you do is devoted to giving your best performance, and as a parent, you have to strive to understand your child, and love your child where they are.

Are your boys similar in nature?

Not at all! [laughs] They love to play football, and that’s where it ends. One son is the absent-minded professor; he’s great in science and physics. He understands math and technology that I will never comprehend. But he’ll ask where the cereal box is, and it’s right in front of him!

[laughs] Sounds like my little guy, too. What is your other son like?

The other one would be a great late night talk show host! He’d be a great Bob Costas. He remembers names and stats and he’s a fabulous athlete. Both boys are very funny. I dived into parenthood late in life; I got it in right under the wire! [laughs] I’m so thrilled to have these two amazing personalities in my life; it’s a real gift from God to be a parent.

I think so, too, and hopefully all parents realize that.

You have to look at it as a gift. Even though the days are long and exhausting, they will be gone so soon. You have such a small window to make a beautiful production with what God gave us.

That’s such a lovely sentiment.

It’s a privilege to be a parent, and we have to honor that. I have such a passion for parenting. We have to honor it more. We have to bring integrity, love, goodness, forgiveness, grace and faith and patience to it. Faith is the glue to putting it all together and keeping families strong. It’s what matters most.


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