Oct 29, 2009

Nine times through freestyle 5-enough already!

With my various professional memberships in the alphabet soup of figure skating federations, come magazines. And in the Edge, ISI's magazine for it professional members, I read a very telling sentence this week:

"Do you really expect your skaters to stay in a Freestyle 4 or 5 class forever?"

But this is exactly what we seem to expect of our skaters. Among some coaches there is almost a contempt for the kids who can't progress past these two rubicons of skating skill (they get stopped by the sit spin at 4, and of course the axel at 5). There are lots of reasons kids stop here-- poor early training and insufficient technical skill, actual lack of ability, perceived lack of ability (usually traceable back to the first reason), insufficient time on the ice.

But looking over the classes offered at rinks around my area, I see very few addressing this problem. And there are ways to address it-- specialty classes. Whether it's unwillingness to risk the several sessions it might take to develop these classes, lack of ice to devote to it, a failure of imagination on the part of management, or the contempt for these kids that I spoke of, little is being done to address the problem.

It is a truism in skating that kids quit at freestyle 4 or 5, or in late tweens and early teens. But few professionals I've spoken with delve very deeply into this, it's just accepted with a shrug of the shoulders. It is also one of the top five topics that parents talk to me about, leading off with "she's just never going to learn that jump in class, so we're dropping classes." This does not sound like a strong business plan for the rinks, to just allow all your higher level students to be siphoned off into private lessons.

For some rinks this can work without much loss of actual revenue-- if you have an extremely robust practice ice program, with lots of after school times for kids to skate, a lot of these kids will move their $9/hour fee from class to practice ice. (Although hourly revenue on practice ice is much lower than for class ice, so your program looks full, in fact it might be losing out on revenue since you can potentially place more kids on the ice in a class). Clearly, parents are willing to switch from paying $9 to $15 per session for class, to paying upwards of $40 per session for the practice ice plus coaching fee. Why do rinks just shrug and let this potential revenue go? Bizarre.

So what can a parent do?

Certainly talk to your child's coach, although they have probably the least power to change things and the strongest self-interest in maintaining this status quo. So go to the skating director, preferably with several other parents and let him or her know that you want specialty classes (more about what kinds of classes you can suggest in another post).

Write a letter to the facility manager, and to his or her boss as well, again with signatures from lots of parents.

You're the customer. If management knows you're pulling your money from the program, they will listen.

1 comment:

  1. I have never competed or tested, however based on my skill level around my last lesson I was in freestyle 4. My jumps are still stuck in 4 while my spins/footwork/spirals etc. Have moved far beyond that. That is mostly because I don't have a coach and haven't had one for nearly a year. I thought it was just me that had been stuck in freestyle 4 but now I feel much better. >_<