Skating career led to kinesiology studies for Weinstein
- Lindsay Weinstein
- Kinesiology and Community Health
- College of Applied Health Sciences
- University of Illinois
At one time in her life, Lindsay Weinstein thought admitting she needed a physical therapist meant she was “weak.” Now she is studying to be one.
The four-time national medalist figure skater is now a kinesiology major in the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois. Weinstein, 22, recently found out she was accepted into the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program at the University of Illinois at Chicago, one of the top DPT programs in the country.
It was a circuitous route to the University of Illinois for Weinstein, a Buffalo Grove, Ill., native who left home at the age of 15 to train at the U.S. Olympic Training Center for Figure Skating in Colorado Springs, Colo. But for Weinstein, the ice patch began long before that.
“A lot of parents from my hometown put their kids into beginner skating around the age of three,” Weinstein said. “Around that age, my older brother had best friends performing in the local ice show at the rink that would end up becoming my home rink. And my parents took me and my brother to go watch it. And I'm watching them on the ice, and I looked up at my mom, and I was, like, ‘I can do that. I know I can do that.’ And my mom replied, ‘Whatever.’”
Weinstein’s mother had been reluctant to sign her up because her brother had not enjoyed skating and “made my mom's life miserable. Every time they got to the rink, he would start crying. She (said) ‘I'm not signing you up. I don't want to go through that again.’”
But Weinstein did not relent.
“Being the three-year-old little menace that I was, every time we drove past the rink, I would say, ‘Well have you signed me up? Have you signed me up? Why haven't you signed me up? I know I can do that. Why haven't you signed me up?’ And I just kept insisting that I could do it.
And so finally, I would say it took four months before they finally did it. And I got on the ice, and it was just like true love.”
It might have been love, but it was not always easy, Weinstein admits.
“You learn from a very early age in figure skating that it's not a sport that you can be in halfway,” she said. “It's not a sport that's like a hobby. I was skating at 6:20 a.m. before school, getting picked up at 7:30, being taken to school. I had a special schedule. So I'd get picked up from school at maybe like 2 p.m., three periods before anyone else. And I would go back to the rink and go skate. It was my life. I wasn't doing normal things, like having sleepovers, like the other kids were.”
Starting at the tender age of six, Weinstein began competing in the U.S. Figure Skating Association (USFSA) events. She competed for several years as a singles competitor but found her true passion was in pairs skating. By May 2013, she had partnered with Jacob Simon, and in their first season together, they won the pewter medal (fourth place) in the Novice level at the 2014 U.S. Championships. After this competition, Weinstein and Simon were named to Team USA and sent on several international assignments to compete at the Junior level on behalf of the United States of America.
At the 2015 U.S. Championships, the team earned another pewter medal, this time at the Junior level. Around this time, U.S. Figure Skating approached Weinstein and Simon about moving to Colorado to train at a more elite facility. Her partner, a senior in high school, planned to either go to college or to Colorado to train.
“At 14, I was put in a position where ‘Do I want to do this for a living? Am I willing to give up a normal high school life, a normal kid life for this?’ And I made the decision, ‘Yes, it is worth it to me,” she said.
Weinstein and Simon—without their parents—moved to Colorado Springs to train at the Olympic Training Center. Skating was the top priority, not school.
“College wasn't necessarily on my agenda. I wasn't looking at colleges,” she said. “I wasn't thinking about college. I was thinking about getting through high school, and I was thinking about my skating career.”
That career began to bloom. Coached by Dalilah Sappenfield and Drew Meekins, Weinstein and Simon won the junior silver medal at the 2016 U.S. Championships and were named to the U.S. team for the 2016 World Junior Championships in Debrecen, Hungary. The pair finished ninth overall in Hungary.
“That was definitely the highlight of both of our careers,” she said. “The season following was a tad difficult due to being a female, you start going through body changes. There is a lot of emphases and talk about body and eating.”
Around that time is when Weinstein first thought about kinesiology, although she didn’t know what kinesiology was at the time.
“I would say that was when I got my first pique of interest in physical therapy,” she said. “I have never been someone who had been injured. I had known so many people who had been off the ice with injuries. And I just was super lucky. I had never been injured. (But) when I moved to Colorado, and we were training at a more elite level, I started to feel a lot of impact on my knees.”
Reluctantly during that successful 2016 season, Weinstein started seeing a physical therapist.
“I hid the fact that my knees hurt,” she said. “I hid the fact from my coach. I hid the fact from my parents. And then finally the pain became too much. My right knee was my landing knee, and I was just wincing every single time I landed.”
Friends and colleagues advised her to see a physical therapist, “but I thought going to a physical therapist meant I was weak. I did not want to see one, which is interesting because now I am starting to become a physical therapist.”
That year was a turning point in many ways for Weinstein.
She and Simon were under pressure to stay certain sizes, and Weinstein especially felt “under a microscope” as she went through puberty at age 16. The Olympics, she realized, likely would not happen. Then 2017 became a year of change as she and Simon broke up—both professionally and romantically—and she decided to leave Colorado, where she felt mistreated by Sappenfield. Weinstein was one of several skaters to file complaints against Sappenfield with the United States Center for SafeSport, leading to Sappenfield’s suspension in October 2021 pending further investigation.
Weinstein ended up moving to Aliso Viejo, Calif., to train and rediscover her love for figure skating. But she also discovered something else.
“It helped me realize as much as I love this and as much as I am the person I am today because of skating, I'm ready to move on to something else,” she said.
That something else was physical therapy. A physical therapist who was treating her in California recommended applying to San Diego State; her father was convinced she needed to apply to more than one school, and she chose the University of Illinois, her dad’s alma mater. She got into both and chose San Diego State, but the temptations of the Southern California lifestyle made it challenging to stay academically motivated, Weinstein admitted.
But that changed when she transferred to UIUC.
“I've made Dean's List every semester here,” she said. “The choice to come here, in particular, had a lot to do with proximity because I had been away from home since 15. And when I was in college at San Diego, I just realized it was way harder to be away from home in college.”
Weinstein, who will graduate in May, knew graduate school was the next step, but also knew she didn’t want to leave Illinois again. There are seven accredited DPT programs in Illinois, four in the Chicago area, close to home. She applied to Rosalind Franklin, Midwestern University, UIC, and Northwestern University, with UIC her top choice.
“I'd love to be in a big city,” she said, explaining her decision. “I'd love to not have to make all new friends again because I had to do that for San Diego and then again coming here to Illinois. Yes, UIC was my top choice, and I did get in.”
Weinstein knows a long road remains to complete her doctorate. But she knew the kinesiology program itself was no cakewalk.
“I will never forget sitting at my very first lecture and the advisor at San Diego (State) coming in and looking around the room and saying, ‘Most of you will not get into grad school. Honestly, a good portion of this room will probably not even be a kinesiology major next semester. This is a really hard major, and you will not achieve your dreams.’ And every semester that I made it through, I would just thank my lucky stars that I made it through,” she said.
After she completes her DPT program, Weinstein definitely has an idea of which populations she’d like to work with.
“I got into this as an athlete. And if I had the ideal situation that could come about for me, I would love to be a PT for a sports team. I would love to go watch practices, learn why injuries are happening, learn how to prevent them in specific regards to one specific sport.”
If not athletes, she’ll turn to another passion: children.
“I have always loved kids. I was the girl, who at 10 years old, was being driven to babysit. I adore kids. And if I could somehow go into (pediatrics), that would be my other dream. I feel like it would be awesome as a PT to work with girls that are around the same age as I was when things started kind of getting messy. And I can be there as somewhat of a guide to let them know the rights and wrongs of when someone's talking about their body and body image and eating and eating disorders and depression. I do think that I could definitely make a huge impact as a PT for all people, whether athletes or not.”