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.

Friday, July 4, 2014

- prop

So let's say that you're going  to skate something entertainment related, in a Showcase or some-such event, as a solo or a duet. You'll sport a novelty costume, perhaps a hand prop, and then comes the big question: are you going to slide a "stage" prop onto the ice?  I don't /think/ anything in the light entertainment rules requires a program to have a stage prop (readers please correct me otherwise). Still it seems like half the entertainment programs that I watch use a stage prop. I think that a lot of the impetus for this is seeing other kids use one, and so it's in your competitive spirit to do the same.

I have rather mixed feelings about this whole business: the tricky part is the assessment of whether or not a stage prop adds anything to the entertainment value of your skate. You do get the "ahhh how cute" factor when we first see you slide it out onto the ice. Maybe if it's a decorated bench or chair you can work some moves in to interact with it in your program. But otherwise once the visual originality wears off the prop isn't going to do any skating by itself: it just sits there in one place, yes?

I have seen some real cuties though. Most of my favorites are beach or toy related: large inflatables or big cuddly things.  The props that seem to work best show some aspect of exaggeration about them.

How much effort should you put into creating the prop (in terms of time and money)? How expressive should you make it? Clearly you must decorate it /somehow/ -- please don't just slide a bench you bought at Home Depot onto the ice! On the other hand if you get way too complicated and over the top then you'll run into a different complication.

The problem with props that are way over the top is that they actually detract from your skating. Instead of looking at you I'll keep glancing over at the computerized flashing lights (or whatever). I suppose since many coaches view the entertaining prop as a competition unto itself, they risk ever trickier contraptions.  I can't even begin to tell you though how many times I've seen way over the top props fall down during a skate, or how often I've watched the skater spend three minutes struggling to drag it out to the ice and set it up in the first place.

Unless you're with the ice theatre employing some professional prop guys, keep your stage prop simple and easy to drag out to its position on the ice. Parents: your kid's prop should either be light enough that your skater can easily lift it and carry it out to its place by herself, or if it is heavier it needs to be distinctly bottom heavy (so that it doesn't topple over). Your prop must easily slide so as to be rapidly pushed by one person. No bulky, boring, awkward props please. And please take your prop to a freestyle well before the event and test it out a couple of times to verify its maneuverability.


  1. I have a question related to using props. Suppose a prop has a clear "front" side and a "back" side. At some rinks the judges are sitting on the opposite side from the audience. In that case, how should the prop be positioned, so that the audience sees the front of the prop or the judges? This question is about the whole program, actually, not just the prop. The whole program may have a "front" side". Say, there is some interaction, maybe facial expressions at some points, etc. So, should the program be done for the audience or the judges?

  2. Hello Maria,

    Thanks for a very good question. Once I chewed on it for an hour I recognized that the answer isn't particularly straightforward (you think?) -- so you inspired me to write a full 'nother post on the subject! Gimme a couple days to round it out and edit it....

    And thanks for reading the blog!
    -- Jeff

  3. Thanks! Can't wait for another post! Love your blog!

  4. (Note to future archive readers: the responding post is here)