To most people, summer is just hitting its high, with the hottest days and the August vacations still to come.
For skaters, it's time to start thinking about autumn ice.
For competitive skaters summer is what we call "early pre-season." It's the time to choose music, work on the new program, nail the new jump and create that perfect level IV spin. You're working hard, but the goal right now is simply working hard. Late pre-season starts in August, when you're revving up the intensity of your work outs, starting run throughs, and putting the finishing touches on the costume. The first significant non-qualifying club competitions are in August, and Regionals comes in late autumn.
Seriously competitive skaters already have their schedules and their training plans in place, but what about the rest of us? From once-a-week class participants to recreational competitors (who don't necessarily go to Regionals, or haven't a prayer of getting any farther than that), it's also time to start thinking about the fall. Here are some things to line up:
What's your goal for this year?
This can be to master a skill like a jump or a spin. You might be aiming to pass a level (or more) in class, or to take (or starting taking) tests, whether USFS or ISI. It can be to skate a certain number of hours per week, or to start private lessons. Whatever it is, you should define it, and work towards it. If the skater is a young child (8 or under) you can guide this goal, but the skater has to own it, even a very young one (for skaters this young, call it a "promise"). For tweens, 9 to 13, the parent and coach can start the conversation, but the skater has to set the goal. Teenagers might be given a nudge to think about it, but most of the process has to come from them.
Goal setting for skating is one of those skating-teaches-life-lessons things, and aside from knowing your budget is the most important thing you'll do in skating each year. If you can afford either private lessons or synchro, but not both, you've got to think hard about what your goals are, and be happy with your choice.
What else are you doing, besides skating?
This is critical to understand for many reasons. First, the other things you're doing take up time. Other sports, school government, church, mosque, or temple responsibilities, college applications all require commitment. Know where these commitments will balance with skating, where they'll take precedence, and where they can be deemphasized. Check the schedule for conflicts and resolve them now, including letting the coach know.
What's your family up to?
Are there vacations planned? Is grandma coming for a visit? Are there going to be transportation issues? All these things will affect your skating schedule and progress; if you understand upfront what's going on in the rest of your life, your skating life will run more smoothly, and you'll be able to adjust your expectations (both up and down).
What can you afford?
This should probably be first on the list, because along with time, it's the thing that somehow seems to creep up on skating families. Have a skating budget ("we can afford $$ per week for ALL skating expenses), but also have a contingency budget so that if an uexpected expense (let's call it an opportunity) comes up, you can cover it guilt-free. We take all the singles out of our wallets every night and set them aside. You will be amazed at how quickly this adds up. Remember that skating expenses includes not just classes, lessons and practice ice, but also off-ice training, training clothes, synchro fee, USFS & ISI membership, competition fees, costume, and travel (even a competition across town is probably going to involve a meal), etc. Don't be afraid to tell the coach exactly what your budget is, and how much flexibility you're likely to have.
And finally, the most important question for a skater to ask themselves, now certainly, but also at every step of the way:
Are you still having fun?