Jul 11, 2010

Don't be this parent

I just got back from our annual ISI competition today. ISI is the figure skating federation that focuses on the recreational skaters-- the ones who now, and probably only and always, do it just for fun and the love of the sport. Don't get me wrong, there are some very talented, motivated skaters in ISI, and their top levels- Freestyle, Dance, and Pairs 10- have more challenging tests than the comparable USFS tests.

But the focus is fun.

One of the ways we make sure of this is the "everybody gets a medal, and all tots win first place" philosophy. Flights are small-- 1 to 5 people-- so that you can credibly do this. I love hearing all the clinking hardware at the end of an ISI competition, or see the kids juggling mulitple trophies. Sometimes the kids will brag "I got a First AND a second AND a third AND a fourth" as though it's a collection. Tots get first place no matter what, so that they (and their parents) get a big shiny trophy. For a 3-year-old, this is huge.

That's the set up.

Today, we had a wonderful 3-year-old skater. She did an entire program from memory, covering the entire ice, doing what I can only call a well-balanced program: a lot of different elements, responsive to the music, with energy and personality. But the coach had changed the music, and the mother forgot that this had happened, having sent the child skating only with the nanny for the past two months.

When the music came on, the mother flipped. First she stormed into the music booth and attempted to physically remove the CD while the child was skating, screaming at the announcer the whole time. Then she went into the lobby, where she was verbally abusive of the skating director (mind you, the child is still skating; mom is not watching, she's too busy flipping out over the 3-year-old's music). When the child was done, the mother got abusive with her relatives who were trying to calm her down. Then she moved on to the child's coach, and then to another coach who tried to ask her to please tone it down (we're talking screaming f-bombs in the lobby) as there were a lot of children present.

I want to emphasize that this was a Tot 1 program for 3 year olds at a local ISI competition.

There is never any excuse for this sort of behavior.

This was not the case here, but there are probably scenarios that we could come up with where heads should roll in figure skating. Maybe the coach blows off a major competition. Or says something inappropriate to a student or parent at a competition. I don't know. I guess you could come up with reasons to be publicly upset at a competition.

It is never okay to run with that. If you feel you must, calmly remove your child from the venue, explaining "something came up, I'm sorry, we have to go." Text the coach and let the competition director know you're withdrawing. Or let the child skate, pick up your trophy and take her home, then call and let the coach or the skating director have it, when the skater and other skaters/parents/judges/coaches/innocent bystanders are not there to observe.

There were coaches who felt that ISI should be called and have this family banned from competition. Imagine that? Your child banned from competition because you could not act like an adult? Others felt it unduly punished the child, but the coach in the music booth said he was seriously considering calling the police before he managed to get the mother to leave.

There is no competition so important--not at the local rink, not at the Olympics--that responsible behavior and appropriate ethics, not to say morals, are optional. And you know the worst part? She entirely missed seeing her beautiful daughter's adorable and excellent program. (Really, the program was excellent. One of the best tot programs I've seen.)

Think about this mother--abusive, out of perspective, and out of control-- next time you get upset at a competition. Don't be the parent that everyone talks about for the rest of the day.


  1. UNBelievable Behavior - And from a parent no less. I feel bad for the poor child who gave it her all for the competition and will surely get an earful from her mother (for NO reason) about who knows what concerning a MINOR error. We all make mistakes. If the child can successfully skate an entire program to music she has not practiced with, then she has skills well beyond her mother. It is a shame, really, that parents can act this way. ISI skating is for FUN after all.

  2. Sounds like a great scene for a skating movie, but in real life? That's horrible.