Feb 1, 2011

Supporting your rink

Had a "grit your teeth and smile" conversation with a mom a few weeks ago. She was griping about the awful spring show music, that she ALWAYS hates, it's ALWAYS awful, and who benefits from spring show anyway? "The rink," she said. "It's all about the rink. My daughter could be the guest skater at any ice show, any ice show, why should she skate here for the same old people. What have they ever done for her?"

Well, let's see. What are some of the things a local rink does for its regular skaters.
  • Comp ice on the sly when they know there are family issues
  • Junior coaching programs that might include free ice or guaranteed future employment
  • Discounts on ice, shows, or classes
  • Personal, knowledgeable help with scheduling and coaching issues
  • Being, just in general, your home away from home
Let's turn that around. What have you done for your program? Have you offered to volunteer on busy Saturdays, helping newbie parents tie skates, or keeping the snack bar area clean? Have you volunteered at ice shows? Have you recruited your neighbors or friends to join the program? Do you spend money at the snack bar, the pro shop, the hockey games, the ice shows? Do you sign your child up for classes? Do you bring cookies for the pro's or the office staff?

Or do you just complain about this system that you are barely a part of?

What you will find when you make an effort to be an active positive part of the life of an ice rink (or your place of worship, or your children's school, or your local park council) is that you will suddenly like the place better.

For one thing, you've invested the most important asset you have: your time. In fundraising, this the holy grail. Get your donors to invest time, and not just dollars, and they become your best contributors as well as your best marketers. When you give your precious time (and I use the term precious without sarcasm), it becomes important to you that your decision be justified. So you'll start seeing the positives, and not just the negatives.

It will also get you out of the echo chamber, where all you hear are the complaints from one class of people-- the parents. It will put you in contact with the hockey or speed skating program, the skating school parents (who make up the bulk of volunteers, as a rule), the management, the office staff. You'll start thinking of them as people, and we all have a default position that people are basically good. When they're just "the office staff" it's easy to trash them. When they're Jane and Mark and Alicia, you start to care about them.

It works in the other direction too. You'll morph from That Mom to Mary and you'll find that your experience improves exponentially.

Every time you feel like complaining, stop and ask instead. Ask the Skating Director, not "how can you change this thing that drives me crazy, yesterday," but "why is it done this way." There might be a really good reason, and it might be that it makes someone's life easier.

I'm not going to stop you from complaining. Heck, if you stop, I'll have to stop. But take an interim step-- help out. Ask. Engage.

With apologies to JFK, ask not what your rink can do for you. Ask what you can do for your rink.


  1. If parents don't think of the rink as their "skating home", then it's merely a monetary exchange. You don't ask what customers do for the retailer besides picking up the tab.

    I wish more parents speak up to make positive changes to the program. Praise your wonderful coach, point out weaknesses etc.

  2. Blizzard: City of Evanston website: "The City’s community recreation centers will be open from 10 AM to 4 PM." So will it be possible to skate at the usual sessions if they are between those times? CPI and public skating only?

  3. Robert Crown Center, like many municipal rinks, stays open no matter what, because they are an official warming center. Depending on how much staff they have, however, they may or may not have the rinks themselves open for use. Always a good idea to call first.

  4. Anonymous, you might be interested in the Xanboni Facebook page, where I put a lot of information about local issues.

  5. "It's all about the rink."

    Um, who else would it be about?

    (And thinking of an Ice Rink as a warming center gave me Brain Break. Yes, I know there's a gym in there, but still!)

  6. teehee, an ice rink as a warming center: the disconnect never occurred to me. And, hello, it's all about her daughter, duh.

  7. Thanks for the great post! Most figure skating people at my rink really take the club and the facility for granted--and then wonder why the hockey program is taking over.