Jul 23, 2010

The Senior's Dilemma

It's fall of senior year. You're filling out college applications, and trying to stay in your seat, knowing that by March you can phone it in. Senioritis is creeping up. You're done. You're about to turn 18 and the world is opening up.

If you are a skater, what you are apparently NOT doing is now clear: you're not going to Nationals. You're not going to skate on the top competitive Synchro team because you're leaving town. You're not going to land all your triples.

So what ARE you going to do with your skating during that Senior year? You've invested a lot of time, energy, money, and fights with mom in this and you love it. Is this it? How can you be done, at the age of 17, with something you love so much (continue this in teenage girl fashion, "it isn't fair, and it's all your fault, mom!") (jk)

Actually, there are lots of things you can still do, and if you've been listening to your Xanboni, you know how to set and adapt a goal. Here's some ideas:

Make a serious commitment to moving up the USFS test structure. If you're only tested through Juvenile, try to get through Intermediate Moves and FS, and even Novice. With an Intermediate Freeskating test you qualify to teach at just about any rink in the U.S. If you're at Novice or Junior, commit to getting through the Senior test by the end of your last summer at home. With a Senior test, you're putting yourself, at the age of 18, in the top pay bracket at many skating schools.

Ask the synchro coach and skating director at your rink if you can start a "baby synchro" team, for kids in the Learn to Skate levels. Even strong PreAlpha skaters can do a lot of synchro moves. Make the project a Senior year Independent Study for credit. If your Synchro coach has a PSA Master rating, join the PSA (more about that in a minute), and make the project an official PSA Apprenticeship. (A good resume builder for that skating job!)

Join the PSA, the Professional Skaters Association. If you're going to be looking for skating jobs, PSA membership is another big sign saying "this is a serious coach." You can sign on as an Intern (ages 16 and 17), or Associate or Full Member once you're 18. Go to local PSA training seminars, take the Basic Accreditation and the Sports Science Exams (on line), and start working toward your first ratings. Commit to having a couple of ratings by the end of college. (Doing the ratings exams is a great summer project for a college-age skater.)

Don't like Synchro? Do an independent study by arranging, promoting, directing and skating in your own year-end skating exhibition. Ask the rink to donate the ice, and find local sponsors to cover photocopying and other costs. Invite all the seniors at the rink, the synchro team, and selected other skaters (for instance, everyone who skates with your coach). If there's a "name" skater at your rink (i.e. someone who's made it past regionals), or one of the coaches is a well-known skater (we've got a former World Champ at our rink, for instance, and this is not uncommon), ask them to skate as the Special Guest skater.

Tired of training? How about learning hockey or speedskating? Figure skaters who switch to hockey absolutely kill, because their skating skills are so far superior to the kids who have come up just through hockey. Plus, that's where all the boys are. But hockey is not the only ice discipline you can switch to. If you've already got your Senior Moves and Freeskating tests, think about trying to test as many of the compulsory dances as you can. (While you still can. They just got rid of compulsories at the Qualifying levels.)

Are your parents cool? Tell them you want to do a "gap year" (or three, ahem) and skate in a show on a cruise line, or with one of the traveling shows like Disney on Ice. There are always ads in the PSA and USFS magazines, or ask around your rink and see if any of the coaches are former show skaters who still have connections. (Most shows require tests of just Novice or above, and two solid doubles. Show skaters with double axels are superstars; it's not that common in shows.) Put in the college apps as planned; most colleges will defer admission for one or two years or more. (My daughter's college was still trying to get her to come after three years-- in fact, they were willing to defer not only the admission, but the aid package as well.)

Find out if you can do Junior coaching at your rink, either through an established program, or as the assistant of one or more of the staff coaches, for both classes and privates.

You could also do skills goals, like "land a triple jump" but I think these are harder to pursue when there's a specific calendar date by which it must happen.

The point is, the goal-setting doesn't end with the dream. If you're a talented, competitive skater who hasn't made it out of Regionals by your sophomore year, you already know that you're done.

But, remember, you're only done with that. Skating is a huge world involving all ages and abilities. Old ice skaters never die, they just glide away.


  1. "Skating is a huge world involving all ages and abilities." Exactly, the adult program is huge. While you do have to be over 21 for most of it. I have seen some of the local non-qual comps list a "young adult" category is age 18 to 21. Also, some colleges have competitive teams. They seem to be very popular with east coast schools. I haven't checked midwest area schools. I know that I haven't seen if offered at CA schools. So that is also an option as well for keeping involved in skating.

  2. There is also Theatre on Ice. If there isn't a local group start one. You can also start an adult synchro group. I know quite a few younger skaters in Lake Placid who prefer teaching us older folk to the little kids.

    Silver Blades

  3. Silver Blades, thanks (this and the .pdf on the other post; I added the link to the copy). Indeed, there is so much more to skating than working toward competition.

  4. This is a really great post. I am at this exact cross roads right now. Just had to pull out of my last senior nationals because of an injury occurring 2 weeks before. Boohoo.

    I'm taking my coaching diploma even though I know I wont be coaching for a while. It's a sort of validation for all my years of hard work, the comfort of knowing I'll always have my place in 'my world'!

    I would like to get into choreography, but seeing as there is no real route, it's a tough one if you're not a renowned skater.

    I've done the show bit, it's pretty hard going. A lot of people would be very happy at it I'm sure. I suppose there is judging and even tech specing now too.

    I really feel skating is lacking a sort of gala event where skaters can go along and show off their skills and everyone would get a medal and no marks. Something to bring back the sheer pleasure of the ice and to validate so many years of hard work.

    Very thought provoking post in any case, thanks Xan!!

  5. I've been thinking a lot about choreography lately. Probably because I've been following the Young Artists Choreography challenge on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/user/G2CYAS#p/u

    Choreography is so important and is largely ignored in figure skating. I think the best route other than being famous is to study choreography through dance and then apply it to the ice. I find that some of the best choreography has been done by nonskaters. For example John Curry's After All by Twyla Tharp http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXJqsoFwUic

    Silver Blades

  6. Thank you so much, Xan, for this post. As Ice Girl enters high school, she can think about her options.

    I think I'm a cool mom. I'd let her skate in an ice show, if she auditioned and made it. Ice Dad would be a tougher sell, though.