Jun 24, 2010

How does the skater plan for the lesson?

Last week I talked about how coaches lay out a lesson: the planners, the spanners, the fanners, and the xanners.

But can skaters help prepare for lessons as well?

You may well ask. (okay, I'll stop being cute now. Okay, no I won't). Of course they can. Let's call them the taggers, the braggers and the draggers.

Taggers take notes. You'll see them at the boards during lessons and practice writing down what the coach says, keeping charts of what they've worked on, and checking things off to make sure they're done. I've found that you can really motivate any 9 year old girl by getting her a cool blank book to put her skating notes in; you can make it even more special by forbidding her mother to look in it. Coach and skater only! This will have the added benefit of making her mother INSANE with curiosity. Taggers practice well, and come to lessons prepared, but spend a lot of time at the boards taking notes and drawing ponies. In skates.

The braggers "already know how to do that." They'll race through the stuff they're supposed to be preparing so that they can do 47 program run-throughs and attempt axels even though they're only in FS3. Advantages of these kids is that they are fearless, because they want to learn the next thing. The disadvantage is that they will brush off the polish of elements that they "know" because they don't understand how skating skills build on each other; it just seems like a waste of time. But they tend to be consistent, if not particularly effective workers, because they'll just keep making attempts until they get it.

The draggers think everything is hard or boring (imagine 15 year old, eyes rolling, whining) or "I can't do that." When they're not whining they are attempting to engage you in gossip, so that they can hang out at the boards, or having spin contests with their buddies, which at least looks like work, anyway. They prepare for lessons by taking 25 minutes to put their skates on, getting on the ice late, doing one program run through (but no jumps, because "people kept getting in my way"). They mostly want praise and attention, and my philosophy, particularly for a recreational skater, is to give it to them. Up to a point I'll indulge this behavior; kids who make something they love, like skating, into a chore, have other issues that need to be addressed. The skating is secondary, and it's no skin off your nose to let a teenager have a place where she can whine and not be judged or criticized for it. (Draggers are always teenagers. The little kids are still relying on their adorableness for attention.)

So, gear up your rhyming skills. Who have I missed?

Jun 23, 2010

Planning a figure skating lesson

As Icemom pointed out, a lot of planning goes into getting a skater to his or her lessons, but what about the lessons themselves? What's the plan?

There is no standard curriculum for private lessons, of course. You proceed according to the skater's needs and goals. But individual coaches do fall into categories, and you can spot the differences from the stands, by style, if not by outcome.

Some coaches have a standard lesson plan that they follow with every skater. Call them the planners. Others like to have an outcome in mind and build toward that by increments or leaps (the spanners?). There are coaches who are really good at some single skills-- jumps or gliding maneuvers or spins-- and will focus on those things (the fanners!). Some will be a little more fluid and see what happens lesson to lesson (oh, let's call them the xanners, just for sh*ts and giggles).

The planners
Every lesson follows the same pattern, for instance: 10 minutes of moves warm up with technique secondary and the focus on power, building endurance, and ice coverage; 5 minutes of jump drills like back-scratch to loop, one foot hops, check-position drills; run through jumps up to highest mastered, then do some number of repetitions of the most solid jump, and then some number of repetitions of your problem jump. Program run through, then finish with spins. Every lesson will follow this plan.

The pros: The student knows exactly what to expect from every lesson, so the coach focuses on quick, targeted comments and spends no time laying out the lesson plan. The mystique is removed from the difficult move, because it's just part of the plan. The goal here is not to finally get the jump, but simply to move through the familiar lesson. The skater has a fair amount of autonomy with this plan. These kids are always moving, which looks really good to the parents in the stands. It's a great way to run freestyle group lessons, especially where there's a wide range of age, talent or ability.

The cons: It is tempting for the coach to check out, because no one is pushing the envelope. This plan works best mid pre-season, when new things are already solidifying and the pressure is least. In some ways, this is not a lesson; it's more of a supervised practice. The skater is not getting a lot of specific technical advice. Students under this sort of tutelage run the risk of then putting their unsupervised practice on automatic pilot, and feeling like they've accomplished something simply by completing the lesson plan, without actually working on anything other than moving from item to item.

These coaches develop strong camaraderie with and among their students, and solid, workaday skaters.

The spanners
This coach knows exactly what should be mastered by when, and will step up the intensity on a given problem area, or focus area to stay with the calendar he or she has set. Not only the lesson content, but the pedagogical approach and the lesson attitude may be wildly different from week to week or even lesson to lesson with this sort of coaching.

The pros: this coach is intensely engaged in the student's progress, and will be able to zero in on problem areas while letting solid parts of the skill and program work themselves out. A coach who follows a span of progress spends a lot of off-ice time working out lesson plans. You will be able to track progress easily; further it allows both coach and student to know when to abandon something that isn't working.

The cons: the skater gets very little autonomy with a coach like this, and parent input is unheard of. Skaters will spend a lot of time at the boards getting instruction, because each lesson is different. Parents can misinterpret this as "hanging around at the boards." This coach is also likely to work either on many different things, or intensely at a geek level on one thing in a lesson, making it hard for parents in the stands to keep track of what's going on.

In my observation, these are the coaches with the champions.

The fanners
Fanners (because they're fans of one skill) will have kids who are absolutely fantastic at, for instance, spins or spirals. They'll spend a lot of time helping their kids perfect these skills, and will revert to Planner-type lessons for other skills.

The pros: The favored skill will be brilliant, and especially at the lower levels of competition, one brilliant skill will often catapult a mediocre skater up the ranks. Kids get a huge burst of confidence from their mastery of this skill, which colors their approach to everything else. Huge bragging rights to the parents of these kids-- "did you see that spiral! She's only 6!"

The cons: These coaches sometimes neglect other skills, and especially basic skating like stroking and crossovers. The skaters can't do anything else, or don't do other skills up to par. You'll get sloppy or heedless skating with this one flash of brilliance. If your skater doesn't naturally excel at the selected skill, she'll have a difficult time with this coach.

These coaches will often be seen teaching the skill to other coach's skaters, having developed a specialty niche.

The xanners
This coach has a general idea about what the skater is learning (Alpha, Basic 7, axel, etc.) but will move through the lesson more at seeming random, adjusting the intensity and type of exercise to a skater's current mood, and introducing new skills by feel.

The pros: this approach is very skater-friendly and puts the students in more control than other types of lesson plans. It focuses on building confidence and love of the sport, rather than on specific outcomes. These coaches will fix a problem area before they move on. Kids in these types of lessons will understand exactly what they're doing wrong or right, because it's been broken down very specifically for their idiosyncratic issues. I have it on good authority that coaches like taking on students who have been taught under this type of plan.

The cons: this type of coaching will not work for competitive or even test-track skaters, and is more recreational. Skaters with these coaches may take longer to move through the levels, because the coach wants them absolutely solid before they pass up.

These are the skaters with the smiles on their faces.

What type of coach do you have?
(If you make up another type, by the way, it has to rhyme!)

3 years old

First, she never stops talking.

But you have to listen, because she'll give you clues about how to engage her in a lesson.

This is Gia Cool Butterfly Rockstar (as she tells me), my super talented 3 year old student. She's no bigger than a minute, but skates like a demon, and will be working on the axel by the time she's 6. She takes several hour-long lessons a week, which, if her mom doesn't want to skate with her, you kind of have to do. She wants to skate all the time. So here's yesterday's lesson:

We always start with "free time." (I call warm up "free time" for beginners and very young children, because they move better when they think they're playing.) Yesterday she was having this thing about the number 23, so we decided to go all the way around the rink 23 times. And she stuck to it. When I proposed curtailing it around #16, she said no. Around #7 I started insisting on proper stroking. (23 in a row, natch. Also swizzles. 23 of them.) Gia's an aural and kinetic learner, so she'll repeat key phrases to help herself do and understand. So we got several minutes of bend-push-and-all-the-way-together sing-song, as we did stroking.

I do make her learn the proper names for all the moves, which is hilarious, to listen to this tiny three year old talk about stroking and rebend.

The "big girls" (some of them are a big 7) were on the ice with us and spinning, so we did spinning too (she loves doing what the big girls are doing), and then when they did backwards landing positions, so did we (on two feet, but I think 1 foot backwards glides are close). Then they left and she got a little distracted (oddly she's more distracted by empty ice), so we invented several invisible skaters to skate with us.

Once the other girls left she wanted more free time, so we started to do "one lesson and then one free time" (lesson for 10 to 15 minutes, free time for 2 minutes); I make her finish the whole lesson, for instance cross overs on every hockey circle, or backwards all the way around the rink.

A typical lesson comprises stroking, swizzles forwards and backwards, one-foot glide drills and games, crossovers, baby back crossovers (swizzle and cross), and turning games. She likes playing chase, but you hardly need to encourage speed with this one.

Gia's an outlier--she's the one that makes all those other parents think that their 3-year olds can skate too.

They can't. Wait another year. And watch this girl-- Olympics 2026.

Jun 16, 2010

Your coach is your coach

I got the raw end of a very bad situation yesterday, where a mother decided that I was not a child's "real" coach, and told two other coaches that her daughter did not have a regular coach (although she apparently DID tell them that she had "just done a couple of lessons with Xan"), as she arranged to have the child work with someone other than me (all unknown to me). Turns out this person "coached" the child when she was 2, so apparently that makes her the child's "real" coach. Since I had reserved a very desirable lesson time and had to turn away two students who wanted that time, and had just confirmed this with the mother, this came as quite a shock.

I walked into the rink and there was a friend of mine coming off the ice with my student. Further, the actual new coach apparently was out of town and rather than telling the mom, just stay with Xan for now, actually arranged for this third coach to work with the girl. Furthermore, they are now apparently getting ready for testing, which this mom had specifically told me she did not want to do. If she had, I would have told her I was not the right coach for her, because I don't take kids through testing.

I feel like the mother lied to me, by both commission and omission. Both those coaches should have called me first and they know it. My friend feels terrible. The other coach should know better. All of them basically defined me out of the picture to suit their own needs.

So, Skating Parents, listen up:
  • If you have arranged more than a one-off with a coach, that person considers him or herself your coach.
  • If you have asked for a regular skating time with a certain coach, that is your regular coach.
  • If you worked with a certain coach years ago, that person is not your "real" coach. That is your "former" coach. The coach you are currently paying is your "current" coach and deserves the courtesy of being fired in person.
Every one in coaching has experienced the loss of a skater. We can deal with it. It happens all the time. But coaches are colleagues, and we need to be able to get along. If you want to change coaches, well, folks, MAN UP and tell the current coach what's going on. You cannot imagine how awful it feels to walk into a rink and see someone else with YOUR student, when this is the first you've heard of it.

Jun 13, 2010

Basic Skills and Learn To Skate, side by side

There are two figure skating curricula for skating schools, designed and sold by the two main organizing structures for ice sports in the US- USFS Basic Skills and ISI Learn to Skate (I believe they actually call it weSkate now, but whatever). US Hockey and USFS also have hockey curricula.

Learn-to-Skate has a very open curriculum, based on outcomes: ("forward crossover" "3 turn"); the Basic Skills curriculum is process oriented, breaking each skill down into components and testing those: (edges on a circle, two foot turns in place, two foot turns moving, before crossovers and 3 turns). Conversely, ISI has very restrictive competition rules, i.e. you must do the moves up to your level, and only up to your level, to very exact standards and use 9 separate judging criteria. Basic Skills competitions have much fewer specific skills requirements, and use only 2 judging criteria.

You'll learn how to skate using either. I've taught in both, and I find the ISI curriculum more teacher-friendly because it allows me to break down the skills in a way that makes sense to me and to each individual class. People swear by Basic Skills because it makes teachers break down the skill in a logical way. Here's the side-by-side:

Basic skating (forward and backward motion, gliding, stopping, falling)
ISI: PreAlpha, PreAlpha 1&2, PreAlpha and PreAlpha Plus etc. (different rinks break them down differently). Gliding forwards for your body height on two feet, and on one foot both sides. Forward and backward swizzles, backward wiggles. This level needs to be fun, because if you lose them here, they're gone. Like in all ISI levels, there are only 6 skills. (My rink also adds basic snowplow stop, two foot hop, and moving dip.) ISI classes will teach proper falling and getting up, but not as a testable skill.

USFS Basic 1 & 2, conversely, has 15 separate testable skills including all of the above including the hop and dip). They then add additional skills including things Rocking Horse (one forward, one backward swizzle over and over, essentially in place), backward two foot glide, turning in place, and half swizzle pumps (slalom) which is a pre-stroking and pre-crossover skill.

Xan's take: ISI teachers will learn that these extra things, like rocking horses and pumps, need to be taught; the USFS advantage is that it's handed to the teacher on a silver platter. There's a curriculum development philosophy called "deskilling" where you write the curriculum in such a way that the teacher doesn't need to have actual knowledge of the subject in order to follow the curriculum (in other words, the teacher doesn't need any skill). This is what Basic Skills feels like to me-- it is extremely restrictive for an experienced teacher, but a godsend if most coaches in the rink are high school students.

Forward skating: cross overs and stroking
ISI Alpha: Forward stroking, forward crossovers, snowplow stop. That's it.
USFS Basic 3: Forward stroking, half swizzle pumps on circle, moving turns, backwards one-foot glides, forward slaloms, two-foot spin, plus part of Basic 4: forward edges on a circle, forward crossovers

Xan's take: ISI Alpha makes sense to a customer. When you or your kid passes Alpha, you know exactly what's been learned. Crossovers. Stroking. If you don't pass Alpha, it's easy to see why. Basic Skills 3 feels like a "non" level--you have to explain every single skill in it to a non-skater. To a layman, the skills in it don't relate to recognizable skills like "crossover." Basic Skills takes an awfully long time to get to crossovers-- four levels-- and it mixes in skills that kids will need two and three levels on (by which time, by the way, they will have forgotten them). As a skating instructor, I can see the sense in the Basic Skills curriculum, and in fact I use these skills within the ISI structure to teach the named skills like crossovers and the various turns. But I think it would be hard for a parent to understand exactly why Suzy in the ISI program down the street is already doing crossovers, while my Johnny, who has been skating the same amount of time, is only doing something called "slaloms" and isn't that for skiing?

Backward skating: cross overs and backward stroking (backwards one-foot glides)
ISI Beta: Backward stroking, backward crossovers from lift, T-stop.
Basic 4: backward half-swizzle pumps on circle, backward stroking, hockey backward snowplow stops, and part of 5: backward edges on circle, backward crossovers from cut-back, one-foot spin with optional entry, side toe hop. (lost yet? And I left out some stuff for the next level.)

Xan's take: You start to see the problem. Basic Skills teaches necessary things, but they are all things that you have to teach anyway. When kids learn backward crossovers, they learn how to balance (i.e. one-foot glide) going backwards. If you can't do it, you can't do the crossover. No need to test it separately. Teach, yes. Test, no. Backwards glides are an integral part of backwards crossovers and stroking, and one-foot turns. For me it's like testing spelling by learning half a word at a time.

ISI Gamma and Delta: 3-turns inside and outside, forward inside open mohawks and mohawk combination (essentially skating into the turn), forward inside and outside edges on serpentine pattern, bunny hop, lunge, shoot-the-duck
Basic 4, forward outside three turn on half circle (they call it "from stand still" but they mean on half circle); Basic 6 forward inside three turn on half circle, moving backward two-foot three turn, lunge, bunny hop, spiral, T-stop; Basic 7 forward inside open mohawk, back outside to forward outside step on a circle (this is the same step that is part of the ISI mohawk combination), back crossovers to landing position (back one-foot glide with free foot extended), inside pivots.

Xan's take: At this level, I start to like Basic Skills better. There are fun skills mixed in with the difficult ones, like mohawks, and the progression from half-circle three turns to moving three-turns is nice. But you can see the problem-- parents can understand "three turn" and "combination" but everything else in this level is very wordy. You have to be a skater to understand the skills. I also disagree with taking the alternating forward edges out of the curriculum. This is skill left over from the old School Figures days, and is the first place where kids have to really think about precise upper body control in a considered way. (That's supposed to happen with turning skills, but it really doesn't.) Again, however, ISI is much more customer friendly-- you can really understand exactly what you need to do to pass, and the skills have short, familiar names.

Getting ready for freestyle
ISI: ISI does not have a formal transitional level, which I think is a failure of this curriculum. At the freestyle levels, they are still teaching skills in isolation, rather than making kids move into them. Many rinks add a "pre-freestyle" or "delta plus" level to overcome this omission, using patterns from USFS Moves, or making up their own, and adding in specific testable freestyle skills like Waltz Jumps, two-foot spins from backward crossover entry, etc.
USFS Basic 8: This includes Waltz Jumps, Mazurka (also known as an Albright or Scissor, essentially a backward-entry bunny hop from an outside edge. It's my favorite jump.) moving three turns on a circle, and a mohawk combination move (crossover into mohawk, forward step).

Xan's take: Basic Skills finally gets it right. ISI needs to add a pre-freestyle level.

Update: Here's a discussion from FSUniverse that brought up this post!

Have you taught or learned in either or both? Which did you like better?

Jun 8, 2010

Summer Skating

School is out today or tomorrow in most districts. Summer's here and with it all those conflicting treats: sunshine and vacation, the beach or the pool, tennis and baseball and hiking. The last thing you're thinking about is skating when the sun is high.

But skating is a great thing to do in the summer, for lots of reasons.

First of all, it's cool. And no, I don't mean the in-crowd does it, I mean it's cool, as in, not stifling hot. Nothing like walking in to a lovely cool ice rink on a 90 degree day. Most places they don't keep it freezing either, so you can comfortably skate in your shirt sleeves.

Second, especially on public skating times, no one is there. You know those hideous crowded sessions in the middle of winter? Gone. There will now be maybe 30 people there on Sunday public, on a crowded day. Classes are smaller, and in some places even practice ice has fewer people.

If you're a competitive skater, summer is "Pre Season" when you solidify the new jump, clean up that Level 4 spin, learn and refine your new program, and design a new costume (fun!). You're gearing up for the late summer "non-qualifying" competitions. Every region has a big competition where you'll find the top skaters trying out their new programs-- Alissa Czisny skated in the DuPage Open (click on DuPage Open in the sidebar-- you'll see Alissa at the top of the board and my daughter at the bottom for 2006. Oh well. She was a mostly an ice dancer.) here in the Chicago area every year right up until her Nationals win. The annual Lake Placid competition is the place to be seen for ice dancers-- a lot of top teams skate.

If you're not a competitive skater, think about attending one of these just to watch. Ask your coach or skating director what the big club competition is in your region, or check the USFS events page. Top skaters often show up at these, and you can watch for free (they'll also often have exhibition fundraisers at the end of the competition, but even these are easy to get tickets to and relatively cheap).

You should set a goal for summer skating. It can be a standard goal--pass a level, land a jump, learn a jump--or a special one, like "start private lessons," "no rules skating" (i.e. skate a lot, but just for fun), "teach my mom to skate," or "make up a program with my best friend."

If you decide just to stick with classes for the summer, don't forget to leave a skating bag in the car with a light sweater or sweatshirt, leggings, socks and gloves. Look into camp options at local rinks-- some have special skating camps, and many include skating as part of the regular camp program if there is a rink in the district. Do your girl scout or boy scout skating badge in the summer-- there's more and emptier ice, and it's a topsy-turvey thing to do--everyone will enjoy the idea of skating in the summer!

Summer is my favorite time to skate. There's an exciting kind of buzz in the air around the competitive kids as they gear up, and everyone there is there because they love skating and no other reason.

Plus, like I said? It's nice and cool.

What are your goals and plans for the summer?

Jun 4, 2010

The competitive kids

There are major training centers throughout North America where the elite coaches work their magic- Southern California, Florida, Toronto, Detroit, Delaware, Boston, Colorado. If you've got an ambitious skater and you're lucky enough to live near one of these facilities, a lot of the anxiety created by travel, lack of resources (monetary, physical/facility, and human), and their associated costs will be allayed.

But you can develop national talent outside these centers as well, and frankly you have to, because simply not every national medal winner is going to magically come from a family near these places. (There are 480 skaters/teams competing for 90 national medals in the US, remember; it's not just about Olympic gold. Five levels Juvenile through Senior compete nationally, with 24 finalists in each discipline reaching for 4 medals awarded starting with 4th place Pewter.) A lot of them move to the training centers eventually, especially at the Junior and Senior levels, but they start out in Your Hometown USA.

So what happens when you suddenly find yourself with a nationals skater? You freak out, that's what, if my experience is anything to go by. Here's where the freak out happens, and what to do about it.

Coach just got me to nationals, now she wants a raise. This is perfectly reasonable; you reward your employees for merit, and you give them cost-of-living increases as well. In fact, if you did not come up with the concept of a bonus for the coach after your kid won, shame on you. If the coach increases her rates, don't use the request as an opportunity for threats or blackmail (i.e. "if you charge more we'll go with someone else"). You're in Backwater, Vermont, remember? There is no one else. But you can negotiate, because the coach does not want to lose her national skaters.

We used to work with a coach four hours a week, now he wants us to work 10 hours per week. Yup. Spotlight's on you folks, you better deliver in year two or it's all over.

But he wants to charge us for all the extra time! He won't do it for the same money as 4 hours! Um, hello, what? Personally I don't think coaches of elite skaters should be giving more than about a 25% break in cost anyway (sort of a volume discount). It's just not fair to them, because the coaching time that your skater is using is coaching time he can't sell to someone else at full price. If your coach offers you a deal that seems too good to be true, it is. Paying a coach too little is going to cause resentment and a feeling of entitlement on the coach's side, and a painful increase in costs for you when she realizes that she cannot afford to do this anymore, or when you decide to go skate with Brian Orser and find out that he does NOT do volume discounts.

The coach has started being "mean" to my kid. This is where I went hugely wrong (among other things. I was like a textbook for "how not to prepare for nationals"). I did not understand the difference between strict and adult, and mean, and I let my kid know it, so she lost her respect for the coach. Skating in a national competition is a very adult thing to do. Immature kids, and touchy parents, don't cut it. If your skater (or you) cannot handle criticism without the sugar coating, find a different activity. Best thing you can do if it bothers you is get out of the arena. Stop watching.

The coach won't listen to me no matter how much I scream at her in the lobby. Unfortunately, everyone else is listening, and possibly writing it down, so they can post it to Facebook later.

This other coach told me that our coach is [fill in inappropriate interference here]. You are in violation of USFS Parents Responsibilties (at the national level they make you sign them) for engaging in this conversation, and Other Coach is in violation of every principal of ethics there is. Turn him off or turn him in.

This other mom told me that our coach is [fill in inappropriate interference here]. Stop sitting with that mom. If you can't avoid her, just smile and nod smile and nod smile and nod.

There's a major pre-season competition coming up, but we always go to California for the three weeks just before. We can just work with someone down there, right? Or skate a whole bunch when we come home. Nope. The competition schedule now rules your lives. Adapt. There's this time of year called "Rest" when the coach will kick you out of the rink. That is now your vacation time. Rework the schedule.

My kid wants to start skating at 5:30 because the ice is more empty then. I don't want to get up! (Corollary- the coach found better ice, but it's almost an hour's drive and that's too far. Additional corollary- we just got tickets to Billy Elliott during his regular practice, so we won't be there tomorrow.) Now I'm not even listening to you. Notice that look of utter incredulity on the kid's and the coach's faces? It's because you're not getting it yet. But they are. This is now your skater's job. And just like your job, you are not in charge of the schedule.

I have no one to talk to about my anxiety and concerns.
Okay, now I AM listening. Because this is the hardest part. At one of the big training centers, there are lots of skaters on national tracks. Once you hit the podium at Novice, USFS puts you on the team envelope, which means additional training and competitions for the kids, and therefore contact with other parents in the same boat for you, as well as seminars put on by USFS Parent Committee. But right now, you feel really isolated, and you are. You can't talk to parents of less successful skaters, because it looks like bragging, or fishing, plus they won't really understand what you're going through. It's awkward to talk to parents of equally successful skaters whom you know. It's against the rules to complain to another coach.

Here's what one mother of an elite skater told me:
"It is difficult to speak to parents without emotional involvement. Someone is going to get their feelings hurt. [At the lower levels especially,] they have such a LONG way to go in this sport. While the kids may get along, parents who get over-involved usually are the result of [a skater's stalled career or a team's breakup]. But there are parents out there who have been there, done that. There are sources through PSA and USFS parents' committee, too. Just know that some things [the coach and their friends] can control and some [they] can't. Either way, there is no win-win. You're either going to get involved more than you want or you're going to have to step back. So much depends on them, not on [the people around them]."
But there are things you can do before you reach that level, and trust me, if you don't do them, you won't reach that level.
  • Read the blogs. There's a couple of great ones from parents who have done this. Check out Life on the Edge by Allison Scott, mother of Jeremy Abbott. Allison's wisdom, courage, and spirit are inspirational. Especially go back and read the posts about Jeremy's road to the Olympics, and read this wonderful post (hoping that you don't recognize yourself). Deb Chitwood, mother of a former national US pairs skater and a current UK world team ice dancer writes Raising Figure Skaters, another great source of insight into the world of elite skater parenting.
  • Find other parents in your area who have been there and done. Go out for coffee, far away from the rink, and vent. You'll find that, first, what you're experiencing is not unique, and second, that they'll have good advice (some of which may hurt) because they'll have the perspective of distance.
  • Get in touch with your local representative of the Parents Committee at US Figure Skating (or its Canadian counterpoint if you're in Canada) and ask them if there are resources in your area, or if you can just relay your concerns to them.
Your skater is one of fewer than 500 kids who has done what 50,000 little girls and boys in UnderArmour leggings dream every single day. You and your skater are unique, lucky, and blessed. That road can dump you on what could have been, or it can take you on an empowering journey for your whole family.

On behalf of those of us who missed the turnoff, don't blow it.