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.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

- at the top

Even at the highest levels much of the psychics and recourse to practice strategy remain the same. After all there are only a certain set of attitudes, spells, prayers, and thoughts that a person can entertain.

Of course at this level the skaters see each other all of the time. They also have a peculiarly warped sense of worldview, not so much from the daily practice routine (that is gruelingly ascetic) but rather from a hotel-and-tourist approach to the world... living half their life from rolling luggage and eating in restaurants with their moms, coaches, or skate friends.

To some extent this familiarity and shared worldview tends to swing the top-level skaters toward being a bit more courteous.

Fairly remarkably even at the top you see the same wide range of body types, although the variety spans a somewhat narrower band. Also rather oddly you can still fall short of reaching a more ebullient level of grace: the same top artisanal qualities exist at the local rinks as at the worlds (although of course few of the local skaters are landing triple axels).

Monday, August 8, 2016

- sitting rehearsal

The grounding culture of skating oddly presents the antithesis of glam & glitter... outside of the high pressure public-eye view of the on-ice competition, the rest of the tableau is fast food, really hard metal bleachers, and lots and lots of standing around.

The skaters endure downtime for the Zamboni, breaks to allow another skater to run through her program, and standing on the ice to stretch, rest, or socialize. And a parent is almost on a continual standby break.

As a parent, you want to avoid hovering over your child critiquing every toe pick. You want to allow them the space to experiment, socialize, learn on their own, and have fun too. But since you want to be available should they need you -- either for a snack or a critique -- you need to find ways to occupy your seated time. The environment you do this in can be utilitarian and gauche.

Neighborhood rinks vary in their amenities and comforts, but with few exceptions they are pretty Spartan. Even at the globally competitive level the practice rinks are makeshift chained-off areas, piles of cables and thrown up curtain dividers, in high school auditorium settings with cheap hard plastic seats in the nearby snack room.

To a large extent this is acceptable because of the foundation of mutual discomfort that it establishes: it "levels" what could otherwise be the sense of exclusivity of the participants. And more than anything this is the key dichotomy to being a skate parent: high expenses for very brief moments of glitter, while the vast overarching majority of time you're watching the competitors from very hard and cold seats, nibbling on a small package of vendor trailmix.