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.

Monday, August 17, 2015

- choice

So you've got your nerves and the butterflies in your stomach. Your skates are sharp, your hair is bunned and ribboned, your makeup is sparkly, your performance dress is ready. You do your pre-event warm up, your adrenaline is pumping, and you step out onto the ice as they announce your name. Your heart is in your throat but you breathe deeply, relax, smile, and pose.

Now: is it a competition, or is it a show? I ask this peculiar quandary at this point because, up to here, everything is the same between the two. But after this point everything is different. Why? What is it about a routine, even with the same movements for its foundation, that makes it turn out so differently if you are skating for a show rather than for a competition?



  1. Finally, Skatedad, an intelligently-written and intuitive blog on skating. And not a single misspelled word or grammatically-errant sentence to spoil it for me! Keep writing, and I will keep reading.

    Three years ago, in a moment of middle-aged insanity, I decided I would learn how to skate. Your perspective as Skatedad is the inner journey of the adult skater. Children again on the ice with our souls set free, we are nonetheless tethered by an adult mind that compels us to think with realistic expectation.

    No child would ever ask herself the question you pose above, because it takes an adult sensibility to both ask and answer it. The difference in outcomes is a reflection of the difference in objectives. You take from one and give to the
    The competition is a battle for victory. You take away a score from a competition, it must be the highest one, and you have to take it away from other people. You take it away from your enemies by not allowing them to surpass you. You take it away from the judges by earning their approval at the expense of the others.

    If the competition is a battle, then the show is the parade. It could be the military send-off or the homecoming and it would still be the same. You give to this parade. You give pomp and circumstance and temporary suspension of the mundane. You let your guard down and abandon yourself to the joy of this parade. No judgments here; only eager anticipation from an audience that has already approved of you just by being at the show. No enemies to vanquish, either. Your fellow skaters aren't here to best you; when you're all marching in the parade, you're all beating the same drum and being showered by the same confetti.

  2. Hi Anon,

    Thanks you for your praise and comments. I guess what seemed so peculiar to me as a skating parent was that, yes, although I can see that a "show" skate is for fun, my gut feeling was that when my daughter was just out for the exhibition she was /actually/ a better skater. She was more expressive, she more easily recovered from small faults, and she finished with more energy. If she could compete against "herself" (once in "show" mode and the other in "competitive" mode) the "show" mode would consistently garner higher marks. Psychology is a large aspect of the sport.

    ... and thanks for reading!

  3. I love following your blog. As a former skater and now a skating parent, I often felt the difference in what you are describing above. I wonder in part does the outcome have to do with the psychological preparation those outside of the skater do? Coaches, parents, and then there is the peer influence... But also experience from the skater's perspective. People marvel at my daughter's ability to "enjoy" her competitive performances as much as her show performances. But she started competing at the age of 4 and was always thrilled with the idea of the audience and the fact that they were all there to watch her. In her first show performance (age 3), when the spotlight hit her (she was in a line of bunnies), she stopped and began doing her own little "show", rather than follow the line of pink and blue bunnies.
    Now at age 8.5, all of a sudden competition has changed. There are rankings, and points and such, but when it comes right down to it, she tells me "The show is at the front of the bus, Mom, so that is where I want to be..." With her it is all about "the front of the bus." And those are the words her coach sends her off with, "You want to be at the front of the bus." Again, psychology...

  4. Anon hits the nail on the head-- very young children don't see it as any different. But by the age of 9 they've gotten sensitive to it, in fact they start to spend their lives worrying about people judging them (and then we throw them into situations where people are ACTUALLY judging them!) Adults do often react the way Anon describes--with bravado--when they start competing, but I think they get over it very quickly, as adult competitions do tend to be less pressured; people do feel more like they are just showing off for friends. Maybe there's less at stake? It's a great topic, and one that I think coaches lose sight of, because we're all very competitive, and see a competitive spirit as a positive, and the more sensitive reaction as a negative.

  5. Thanks Xan, Kim, nice comments. My daughter started a bit later than most; she skated from age 7 up to around 17. By the time she had a dozen moves and her balance and general concept of things she was right in that middle space between showy and trying to impress.

    I certainly agree that young teen girls care quite a lot about how the are perceived (evolution, my friends). Even so I noticed that amongst her cohort of say 12 year-olds, some of the gals were much more into the drama than the technical requirements.

    This might also have been skewed because showmanship is a big deal out my way (Los Angeles). Heck Disney headquarters was a mile away from the rink, and they did a fair amount of recruiting and filming there. Plus back in the mid-90's the rink was putting together large production numbers that eventually became Ice Dance Theater (

    Plus I see an interplay of personalities between the coach, skater, and parent. The more I think about it the more I suspect this interplay has an equally important influence on the show-compete balance as the skater's age.