Mar 24, 2011

Figure skating or hockey?

Just a run down:

Boys v. Girls
No getting around it, hockey is where the boys are, figure skating is where the girls are. I won't make a value judgment on that. If genderizing your kids is important to you (and I say that without sarcasm, as it is important to some), then I wouldn't even fight it. Put your boy in hockey skates and your girl in figure skates.

A lot of boys start in "regular" skates and then switch to hockey skates, but I don't see this happening in the other direction, and I should. Not everyone is cut out for team sports, and a boy who skates well shouldn't feel like he has to quit skating if he doesn't like hockey. Same goes for girls-- not all the little girls are graceful swans. We need to find ways to help kids feel good about switching to a sport they'll excel in, rather than sticking to the stereotype.

Just a caveat-- I'm not one to insist on rigid gender roles, but if you put your very young boy in white figure skates, or your girl in black ones (say under age 8 or 9), please give the coach other solid gender clues, especially if the child's name is "River" or "Tegan." Kids, especially in the 3 to 7 year old range, get really really annoyed when you get it wrong.

Skills v. Rules
Hockey and figure skating both have skills and rules. Hockey lessons tend to start with the rules and bring the skills in gradually, while figure skating starts with the skills and brings in the rulebook later. With hockey, I think it's largely a matter of ice availability-- you can learn figure skating rules at a desk, or not learn them at all if you never do testing or competitions, but hockey rules you have to learn while playing, and if the choice is game vs skills, game is going to win out in limited ice time.

But my observation is, except for the very talented kids, hockey players who took the time to build skating skills like stroking (striding), cross overs and turns before game time do much better at the sport. I am adamant that all skaters should learn basic skating skills before choosing whether to specialize in hockey or figure skating. In fact, I believe that programs should include required cross-discipline workshops so kids can find out whether they might like the other side better or not.

Easy v. Difficult
It is easier to learn to skate in regular skates, especially for very young children and timid adults. Period. The blade is longer and shallower, so you don't get the tipping over forwards and backwards. A beginner may trip on the toe pick, although this is much less common than the tipping over that you observe in a lot of beginners in hockey skates.

Expensive v. Cheap
Hockey is the more expensive skill to start. In fact, hockey clubs are perfectly brilliant. You require the parents to invest a couple/few hundred bucks in skates, padding, and equipment, plus a team fee, plus a uniform, and now you've got them, because they've just laid a bunch of cash on this and by god, that kid's gonna do this. I think figure skating schools should require skates, uniforms and memberships, too. Brilliant.

Seriously, though, the sense is that figure skating is this ridiculously expensive sport that will require a second mortgage, but upfront the cost is minimal. Even if you buy new skates, your costs the first couple of years are going to be way under what you'll sink into beginning hockey. At higher levels, most recreational youth sports will have comparable costs. And a hockey player with serious NHL aspirations, like a figure skater with a serious shot at Nationals, will spend some serious money on equipment, special coaching, traveling, etc.

Solo v. Team
There is team figure skating, called Synchro, but it is an advanced skill. Unlike hockey, you can't start with the team with minimal skating ability. Your little boy who isn't good at team sports at school, or likes to go off and play by himself, or with a couple of friends, or who likes doing his own thing, is not going to like hockey, no matter how much you think that penises confer a desire to play hockey. Conversely, little girls who join everything they can, who excel at soccer and t-ball and field hockey might be better off joining a hockey team than go solo.

I sometimes watch the hockey games, and observe the kids sitting on the bench rather than hanging on the boards, or hanging back on the ice doing artistic things with the sticks, or doing little jumps and spins and wonder, am I the only one seeing this? Put your artist in the artistic side of ice sports. Leave the hockey game to Killer (boy or girl).

Is your kid really into falling, crashing, bumping? Hockey. Figure skaters fall, just not on purpose, because no padding.

I've said it before lots of times. Ice is ice. Hockey skating will not keep your girl from wearing pink (there's a whole industry now of hockey equipment for the Princess in you. If Junior wants it too, you might want to rethink hockey). That said, figure skates will not make your son gay, if he's not getting there on his own anyway.


  1. "There is team figure skating, called Synchro, but it is an advanced skill."

    Why is this? Cost? I don't see any reason why one could not have beginning synchronized competitions where the only skating skills allowed are stroking and crossovers. You could include lots of arm waving to keep it interesting.

    The local adult skating team (which is not a synchro team - I'm not sure what they compete in but I've heard they win) does not seem to be interested in skating skills, but they still make their performances interesting. Perhaps that sort of thing could be a model for beginning synchro.

  2. The Same AnonymousMarch 25, 2011 at 4:56 AM

    We have beginner's synchro at my rink. Synchro is so popular you can pretty much start as soon as you can do backward swizzles and forward crossovers. :D

  3. In other words, it's not something you do the minute you step onto the ice, unlike hockey, which they will throw you into when you can barely skate forward. The other advanced aspect of it is that you have to be able to keep up with everyone, not an insignificant or simple ability. You cannot be falling all the time, like you can in beginning hockey. We also have Beginner Synchro, for students in Beta and up, not for actual beginners.

  4. Why is it that if a boy wants to figure skate he's gay, but if a girl wants to play hockey, at most she's considered a tom-boy?

    High level figure skaters need to have a great deal of discipline and a very high level of commitment to keep up with the amount of training required to excel in the sport. Those skaters at the top are in amazing shape, both mentally and physically. If you're having an off day at a competition, you're in the spot light and it's obvious to everyone watching that you aren't skating well. If you're playing hockey and you're having an off-day, you'll just spend more time on the bench and unless you're one of the star players on the team, not too many people will actually notice you aren't on the ice much.

    I'm not knocking hockey. It requires dedication, training and commitment just like any sport. And I think both boys and girls who want to play should be supported. But both boys and girls who want to figure skate should also be supported. Being a figure skater will not make a boy gay, just like being a hockey player will not make a girl a lesbian.

  5. This post is hilarious. Love it.

  6. HOCKEY IS NOT JUST FOR BOYS! I play hockey and I'm a girl. There are plenty of girls hockey leagues out there too!

    1. Could you state with the same enthusiasm that figure skating is not just for girls? The point of this post is that we need to stop tracking our kids based on gender and start doing it based on their interests and needs. Further, just as happened with other "girl" things, like home ec in highschool, it is WAY easier for a girl to take up a "boy" activity, like hockey, than for a boy to take up "girl" activity like figure skating. The problem is not no girls in hockey. The problem is no boys in figure skating (or dance, or music, or art)

    2. Alexandra, you said it perfectly! How come when a girl decides to do Hockey or play basketball, no one bats an eye, yet a guy who wants to figure skate or for example cook or bake is quickly discouraged? He has to hide it too in fear of being made fun of. But oh of course those are "girly" things. Gotta be "masculine and really manly"...*rolls eyes* And the irony is that some of the best figure skaters and greatest chefs are male! We need to remove the stigma associated with "girly" things and encourage guys to skate too!!

      NONE of these activities are inherently male or female and it's time that we as a society realize this! :)

    3. Alexandra, you got it spot on! How come when a girl decided to play hockey or basketball, no one bats an eye, yet when a guy wants to figure skate, or for example, cook or bake, he is quickly discouraged? And he also has to hide that he's interested, for fear of being made fun of. But of course, those are "girly" things and you gotta be "manly" and go play soccer or something. *rolls eyes*

      This is harming us as humans overall. The irony is, some of the best figure skaters and greatest chefs are indeed male! We need to do a better job of encouraging guys to try what are apparently "girly" activities. And we have to remove the stigma associated with them so that they stay interested and motivated! :)

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