Dec 20, 2009

If the rules aren't convenient, do I have to follow them?

There's a debate going on at the rink right now about whether it's okay to lose a customer to the rules.

The specific rules in question this week were the ones that say "you must be 6 to take the regular track classes" (as opposed to the classes for 3-5 year olds) and "you cannot sign up for a level until you have passed the last one."

Here are the excuses I heard from parents this week for children placed in the wrong level:

"That other class had no children in it, so they canceled it." (Lie. They don't cancel an empty class until three weeks into the session.)
"I can't make any other time." (Possible lie, possible insane person. We have 3 to 6 class choices at every level at our rink. Maybe if you can't make any other time you might want to think about whether your child is doing too many things?)
"It's so important to him to keep up with his brother so I thought they should take class together." (Officially delusional. Child is 4, brother is 8. He is not going to "keep up" and the older one is tired of having him tag around at everything he does, trust me on this.)
"She was the fastest one in the class, so I moved her up." (Yes, but can she do the skills at that level? This is like saying "well, my kindergartener can already write her name, so I put her in second grade.)
"She will only skate with [name of coach]" (This is a problem if [coach] is teaching Beta/Basic5 and child is only in PreAlpha 2/Basic 2)
"She already passed [level]. (In 2006. And hasn't skated since.)

Anyway, if you were one of the 12 people following me on Twitter (lol), you may have seen my first day tweet. In nine out of ten of these the parent gets their way and the coach just has to find a way to make it work.

So when is it okay to stick with the rules? I did shift a couple of kids into different levels, and lost a couple of battles (or rather, kicked one upstairs-- told the mom to make an appointment to have the child evaluated by the skating director). My guess is that child is going to end up in the higher class, unhappy, and won't be skating in the next session.

The mother of the two boys wore me down. The four-year-old will be skating in the class that is too fast and structured for him. Even money says the mother is back in 3 weeks complaining that he's not getting enough attention. We'll lose him as well.

And this is my point. The rules are there for a reason. A child placed in the wrong level will not have a good experience. We're going to lose that business anyway. In any endeavor, you want to structure it so the participant feels successful on the first day. If you are going to break the rules, we really can't stop you; at the base of it, the rink needs your business. But understand what you are doing, and don't blame us when it all goes south.

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