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, November 21, 2013

- distressed parents


One of the moms (with a seven or eight year old skater) lugs her homework to the rink with her to study. She sits in the icebreaker lounge amidst five or six other moms, a couple flirtatious dads, the male ballet coach, and six or seven rambunctious kids playing video games, and she actually... studies.

I don't know how she does it. Somehow between buying a snack for her daughter, chatting up friends, and dealing with the clunks and bings of the video games, she manages to learn something: accounting at the moment, I believe. Partly I'm impressed and partly I'm depressed. I am impressed by her ability to concentrate and her drive to be successful -- her eschewing of fun for work. But I am equally depressed that she would feel so driven as to have to endure the distractions.

I sat down to chat with her one day; she set aside her book on Basic Accounting, smiled, and said Good, I needed a break. She told me that she was from Vietnam, that her father was an American G.I. in the war and her mother was Vietnamese. She never met her dad, and her mom died when she was five. She came to the States as a teen refugee, and had a child while unmarried in high school. She didn't know who her child's father was.

Just your typical skate mom.

Monday, November 11, 2013

- rationalizing the expense


I spent eight hundred dollars on skates today for my daughter. It wasn't a big deal, but at the same time that shows how far I've become acclimated to the whole socialization and industry of skating. I don't question the value, for considering the effort that goes into making the boots and the blades, and given a reasonable markup for everyone involved in the process, I suppose that the price is fair enough. And yet a little voice lingers at the back of my head that says "hey, I only pay one hundred dollars a year for my own health club membership." Sigh. Well, I suppose it's the privilege of having a daughter.

The issue with raising daughters of course is that, as a father, you are responsible for setting the tone of their demeanor; you create an aura of approval or disapproval about how they present themselves to men. So to an extent supporting ice skating is a statement: a stamp of approval to a concept and an approach. You are saying Go for the grace, Go for the art, A positive work ethic is admirable. $800? A bargain at even twice the price.

(repost and ed. note: this was fifteen years ago. . . what do new skates cost today?)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

- a shame


The empty SWP regionals a couple of weeks ago were rather saddening. The skaters, a member or two of their families, and the judges were there. But aside from me and the immediates, the film crew, some coaches and a couple of vendors, nobody else was present. Maybe 30 people were in the rink total, counting the skaters. Yeah I went on a Monday so that was part of it. Why do they schedule the interesting junior and senior events on a Monday and Tuesday anyway?

Back a dozen years or so ago my daughter and I went to an interclub event (at the same rink, Anaheim ice!) and the place was a zoo. Vendors squeezed in everywhere, hardly room to change into your skates, and maybe an audience of 150, with lots of friends and supporters from the home rinks.

What has happened, is it an "economy" thing? Has it become nearly impossible to justify the time and expense to groom a traveling skater? Or is it a general disenchantment with the competitive environment? Or something else entirely? I do realize of course that the folks in regionals are somewhat on a different "track" than those at a group competition: many drove up from San Diego and a couple were from Arizona. So it's not like I'm expecting all their fellow rink mice.

Maybe it's just that the USFSA has never really "advertised" the regional qualifying events to the general public. They do emplace dasher banners so they must be anticipating /some/ sort of audience, but I don't know how the average fan would be aware of such a thing. Your average fan doesn't go to USFSA's web site to search for nearby events: they just know about what's on television.

An empty rink is saddening for a couple of reasons. l guess for someone who knows skating the travesty is that these gals, the skaters, really deserve better. They have seriously worked their butts off to get here, so they deserve tons of applause for their efforts; an empty rink feels like a snub. But there seems to be a deeper sadness here, an existential sadness.

It feels like a big waste -- like a half vacated shopping mall it's an idea that at one time would have seemed to be popular but now no longer seems to make sense. Mostly the feeling I get is that It's a Shame. It's a shame in the sense that somebody backed into your parked new car. Or that you irrevocably wrecked your favorite suit. It's a shame in that it feels like a waste of time, a wasted thousand hours of practice. It's a shame in that it seems at this point, at Regionals, it should really be so much more.