This blog is a collection of my thoughts and experiences from ten years as a skate dad. For those of you sitting with your jackets in the bleachers, first I salute you, but second I want to give you an honest sense of what you are in for and what to expect. Ice skating is both a trying and a glorious sport, but it doesn't happen without the special group of folks who cheer, support, and console the participants. This is dedicated to you.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

- atypical

A few weeks ago I invited a friend to our rink's "Showcase" event. Afterwards I recognized she might take me as quite eccentric. Of course it's not like asking somebody to Nationals, where they can expect top-flight skaters in highly manicured, exorbitantly costumed, athletic exuberance. On the other hand it's neither the faux pax of asking a friend to your kid's little league baseball game.

Yes these are local skaters, some with talent, some just getting up to speed. What's makes competitive figure skating quirky is the expense and life-consuming time commitment creates a "clique" sport, and these confines produce (especially at a local competition) a broad mix of skill levels. Even a local event might include one or two national-level skaters.

Hopefully my friend won't feel slighted by the invitation and will join me for the subsequent viewing, provided she has the time. After all it takes patience to watch a figure skating competition (even a quarter of the competition can run to half a day), but championing the boring skaters will likely be awarded by the sparkle of one or two stars.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

- simple


You know it's very difficult to be right on the money all of the time. Sure you practice your toughest elements in aim for including them in your program when you are at your best. Yet it's self-deceptive to expect that you will always be in top form.

It makes some sense therefore to occasionally practice a subsumed program -- something that is simple, follows your music, and completes most of your ice coverage. One way to look at this (to frame it in your mind) is to imagine the unfortunate situation that you fall ill a couple of days before a competition. Hey it happens.

Say you come down with the flu. Now what do you do, scratch? After having prepared your coach and family, reserved a hotel room, and paid the entry fee? Sure it's unfortunate, but I've known it to happen to just about everyone.

The solution is to skate the "simple" version of your program. No it won't impress the judges, but your coach will understand, and your family won't be left with the feeling that they completely wasted their time.

Once a month or so practice the simple program. If nothing else, it's insurance.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

- master


Folks who skate nationally and then retire from competing, but who then keep on skating into their adult years, are an interesting bunch to watch.

Some of what makes them captivating is that they have many quiet and intense experiences that they relive through their skating. Some of it is that they are a bit of a throwback to an older era, when the sport itself was different.

More interesting is that, if they so desire, with a flick of the skate blade they can show you more suave, more grace, or more class than most everyone else at the rink.

A rink will often allow for a flight of Master level skaters at an exhibition. If you can by all means stick around to watch: you won't learn any new elements this way, but you'll learn some things that are far more important.

Friday, April 20, 2018

- friction


No matter how involved a skating parent nor how proficient a coach and her staff, you're still going to find some friction between a parent and the coach. The basis for this is joint and several.

Some is the natural conflict inherent in loco parentis where every day a coach temporarily transmits some of her value system to a student. Some of it may be a lingering suspicion from the parent that the coach's goals don't align exactly with her own. Some of it may strictly be a cost/benefit complaint. Some of it may be disdain toward the lack of authority or control the parent has over the coach (who appears to primarily be an employee of the rink).

At the foundational level though, all this appears to mostly result from a complicated "agency" problem: several parties stand between the service provider (coach) and the buyer (parent). Analogous to how companies buy health insurance for their employees, a parent buys coaching for her child. This transaction is not perfectly transparent however: few parents comprehend the intricacies of skating and the communication between a parent and her child are often less than clairvoyant.

There also seems to be a moral hazard always lurking beneath the surface: is the coach actually managing your child strictly to retain a long term client? Is that in your child's best interest? Does the coach give you false hopes of grandeur in return for a longer lasting revenue stream? In other words is the best interest of your skating child at odds with the best interests of her coach?

A parent of a serious skater may need to consider how to incentivize her kid's coaches to achieve the skater's desired results. Should you tip your coach for exceptional accomplishments? Should you have a contract with your kid's coach with performance incentives? Should we be encouraging skate parents to share their feelings about the quality of their coaches?

Yeah it's a lot of questions and I don't know any of the answers. Frankly a parent can be a bit of a cad to bring these up in public to begin with. Still it's something to think about (and perhaps discuss on blogs or on skating forums).

Monday, April 9, 2018

- literal


Skating with expressive style to a musical piece is a good trick; staying stylish when the background contains lyrics is even more of a challenge.

I'd prefer that you didn't, but if you absolutely must skate to music with lyrics, please avoid running the unfortunate risk of taking the words too literally. Just because the lyrics say "breaking my heart" doesn't mean that you have to clutch your chest, seriously.

Although the music usually gets written as an accompaniment to the lyrics, if we wanted you to skate to the words alone we would ask you to skate solely to spoken poetry.

What makes music magical beyond the lyrics *is* the music. The music is the showy sizzle, the lyrics are the poetic scaffolding.

That rather sets the stage for what we are asking: use the higher level, the music, as the framework upon which to build your performance. The lyrics are still there, so don't controvert their meaning. But it's a nobler cause to skate to the feelings of the music.

And when the lyrics say "he shot her" don't cock your fingers into a pretend gun to shoot. Seriously.