Oct 14, 2009


It's one of the most fraught decisions in the world. Should I get my child private figure skating lessons? It sounds so elitist, even vain. After all, you're not one of those pushy moms.

Well, if you are, don't worry about it, just don't kid yourself. It's okay to be pushy on behalf of your child. Well, up to a point. But I digress. Just because you want, or your child wants, private lessons, is nothing to either brag or be ashamed about. It's tricky, because lots of kids take private lessons (think piano), but private sport lessons are something that "rich kids do"-- tennis or horseback riding come to mind. But there are all sorts of reasons to take privates other than keeping up with the Joneses. Is your child struggling in class, but really wants to do better? Take a few privates. Is your child progressing quite fast; does she seem like she might be talented? That's another reason for privates. If she or he wants to compete, even just in our numerous small local, "non-qualifying*" competitions, or go through the ISI or US Figure Skating test structure, that kid will need to take private lessons.

Some rinks have a culture that supports private lessons, i.e. pretty much everyone takes them, so it feels fairly normal. Other rinks have a much more casual approach, and it might be more unusual to see kids in privates. Don't worry about it. Do what feels right for your child.

More about how to choose a coach in a future post. Meanwhile, I'd love to hear tales about your experience with private lessons.

*a "non-qualifying" competition is one that is generally run by a local rink or club, or is run under the Ice Skating Institute and does not have a mechanism for qualifying skaters to compete at Sectionals (in the Midwest we call our Sectionals "Mids"), National, or International competitions. Only U.S. Figure Skating runs qualifying competitions in the U.S. These are the ones just listed, plus Regionals.


  1. My kid just passed Pre-alpha 1 with flying colors. He'll be seven next month. He skates pretty much all weekend long, hitting every public skate session available to him. He likes watching the big Freestyle class before his class, and when we're walking down the street he runs ahead of me and acts like he's turning a jump on the ice. This is the first and only sport he's shown an interest in, and I think he's got some real talent for it. He told me that he imagined he's "spinning and twirling to the music." He didn't watch the Olympics, this was his idea. When I mentioned that some kids compete in skating and win awards, he got excited. Real excited. We went to see "Stars on Ice", and when grandma asked him "Do you think you will skate that good some day?" his reply was "Maybe better." I showed him the ISI patches he would earn for skating, and he wants all of them.

    Thing is, he's bored in class. He's getting bored on public skate. He likes to skate, he doesn't want to go home, but he says he's bored. Would a private lesson once or twice a month help? He's not struggling with anything. Heck, he's trying to cross one leg in front of the other while gliding on the other foot and doing well at it. I looked at the checklist for Pre-alpha 2 and he doesn't have to worry. I don't want to be pushy or seem, yes, elitist, but I don't want him to get bored and quit. I told him to skate for a year before we'd think about competing. In the meantime, I need a way to make sure he's not bored.

    I think I'm just looking for some validation from someone who knows better than me. Would a private lesson here and there help?

  2. Suburbanessa: This is exactly the sort of situation that private lessons are for. Pre Alpha is a little early for this, but not unheard of. Kids whose skills progress faster or slower than class curricula often do better in privates. I also wish that rinks would do 1/2 session beginner classes, so that the ones who jump ahead like that *can* jump ahead, and to help the uncreative coaches who don't challenge them (this is what's happening-- why the heck isn't his pre-alpha coach just showing him crossovers? It would take one minute of the class to do this).

  3. Thanks - I'll try one out next month and see what he thinks. I agree, it seems really early on in this, but he seems to be ahead of the other kids.

    Thanks for the advice! :)

  4. We're into month 4 of private lessons, and it was a solid move. I have him doing two half hour sessions per month, and he's learning backwards crossovers, shoot the duck, two foot spin and waltz jump, in addition to solidifying what he's learning in his Group Lessons.

    If you ask him, he hates all lessons. But if you watch him on his own, he's spinning, doing crossovers, t-stops, attempting some edges, and generally becoming more daring on the ice. (Forbidding snowballs also helped.) During Saturday public skate I caught him in a two-foot sit spin, if that's even possible. At the end of the evening he conned the rink guards into letting him have the main rink to himself for a few minutes, so he raced around full speed a few times before throwing up his arms in a finish worthy of Jeremy Abbott. He's working on a routine for his first competition, so depending on how well that goes, he may do more or he might not. (I think he will once he realizes no one is going to laugh if he falls.)

    I'm really happy with the decision, but I decided against adding more privates when the coach asked. He's not ready for quite that much involvement yet.

    Thanks for the advice, it is much appreciated.