There's a common coaching complaint "how do we get the boys to skate?" but really it's the wrong question. LOTS of boys skate-- in hockey programs. I routinely have tot and beginner classes that are predominantly boys. The question is--how do you get kids into the skating discipline that they'll be most successful in. Because not every hockey boy belongs in the sport, but they may belong on skates.
The problem is a cultural one. I actually had a father tell me once that if his 5 year old son wore figure skates, it would "make him gay." Not "if he learns figure skating as a primary focus." Just wearing figure skates makes you gay, apparently. I was seriously tempted to tell this dad, sorry, too late, kid's already gay, might as well get used to it. (Or ask the dad, oh, is that what happened to you?) It's always fun to go to hockey games and watch for the boys who should be in figure skates-- they're spinning, and jumping, and doing artistic things with the sticks, rather than focusing on the puck.
The idiocy works both ways. There are lots of disastrous girls trying to figure skate who would absolutely KILL at hockey. But. Girls figure skate. Boys play hockey. Sigh.
So how do you keep boys in figure skating? You may not believe it, but I have an opinion, and some ideas on this subject! (What were the odds.)
Let the boys move
And run into things. Screw technique, at least to start. The reason boys like hockey is because they're allowed to be boys. I am a died-in-the-wool feminist from way back, but boyz iz difrent. They want movement. They want physical contact. With something. The wall. The ice. The kid standing next to them. If you don't structure it into the class, they're going to do it on their own. Don't make them stand around. Don't use long explanations. (This is actually good advice for any Learn-to-Skate/Basic Skills level class.) In a hockey game, even the bench warmers are moving around. They're jumping in and out of the box, they're leaning over the boards shouting, there are all kinds of ways to move around. Nobody gives them grief because they aren't pointing their toes. Once they're comfortable on the ice, you can start insisting on technique. But by that time they're hooked anyway, because it's fun.
Promise them hockey (this is a lie)
Keep telling them that figure skating makes their hockey skills stronger (this is not a lie). If you're going to lose them you're going to lose them; at least you've given the hockey team a kid who can actually skate. And as I've said before, skating is skating. I'm happy to have a kid on the ice, in the long run.
Stop with the sparkly costumes, already
This one's for the dads. Dads freak the bleep out over the sparkly costumes. Either it makes the kid gay (see above), or it makes the dad acknowledge that the kid is, in fact, gay, which is hard to deny when the kid is totally into the sparkly costume. I have seen this happen. The number one rule of retail is keep the customer happy. And the kid is not your customer-- the parent is the customer.
Classes for boys
This is a tough one, because it impacts directly with available ice time and coaching budgets. The 5 and 6 and 7 year olds really don't care about skating with girls. Older than that and the boys start wanting to be with boys, the girls start being in the majority, and it's all over. It takes a lot of strength of character for a little boy to stick with something so against the cultural norm. My solution would be to find ice coincident with hockey games, or put a figure skating class just for boys right before, between, or after hockey classes. Price them together, with a discount.
Encourage dialog between the hockey coaches and the figure skating coaches
The best I can say about the hockey coaches and the fs coaches at every program I've ever worked at is "armed truce." The hockey coaches seem to expect us to steer kids into their program, but I've never heard of the courtesy being returned. Just as not every kid who starts in figure skates belongs there, not every kid in hockey skates is suited to the sport. Let's act in the best interest of the child, and instead of having kids who don't like hockey just quit skating, encourage them to switch.
Speaking of discounts
You want boys in your intermediate and high level classes? Give them a discount for the first time or two they sign up. A lot of ballroom dance studios comp in the men, because there are never enough. Can't give a discount (there might be legal impediments, especially at municipal rinks). Find something just for the boys that adds an incentive for the parents.
Promise them girls
Keep reminding them that this is where all the girls are in high school. They might not care now, but in a few years, all the girls will love them because they skate. This resonates with some kids.
Sign up with a friend
Then hope they both progress at the same rate.
Don't call it figure skating
Call it "regular" skating. Train the kid to call it "regular" skating. Tell the skittish Dad that it's "regular" skating. Then when friends say, do you do figure skating? the boy can say, no I do regular skating.
Please don't put little boys in white skates. At the very least, invest in a bottle of black shoe polish. Let the little boys look like little boys, not like they're in their sister's hand-me-down clothes. If the kid shows any aptitude at all, buy a pair of boy's black figure skates, or boy-colored "comfort" skates.
Give them role models
If Dad skates, have him skate in figure skates. Rinks, try putting male coaches on the beginner classes (which always have a lot of boys) or, if you've got the scheduling flexibility, on classes that have high boy enrollment. Hire teenage boys who skate to "babysit" at the rink on weekend public skating.
What's your idea to help our culture accept boys in figure skating (um, I mean regular skating). What did you do to encourage your son to skate?