May 5, 2011

Since you're already pissed about paying for vacation...

I thought I'd write up some home truths about the skaters.

I don't know why I'm in such a bad mood lately. But I find myself completely unwilling to play the game-- the little girls who've been told that acting like they're 2 when they're 5 is cute. The children who completely fall apart when told that they cannot do something that they, um cannot do; the ones who lie to you about how much time they've spent in class; the self-promoters, who take 2 classes at level X, hide for a week, and then show up in level Next and tell you they passed the other class.

Here are some of the things that parents, and skaters, just simply have to start being honest about.

Don't indulge them. It's bad enough to baby an 8 year old who falls but isn't hurt, but a child who is encouraged to sob uncontrollably because "teacher was mean" should be disciplined, not comforted. For the safety of the child, I need tears to be real. I need to be able to tell the difference between a child who is injured and a child who is spoiled. I have a child who takes terrible falls and never cries, so when she does cry I know that something is really wrong. The child who falls apart when you look at her cross eyed is not going to get the same level of concern. Ever hear of the boy who cried wolf? Don't parents teach that story anymore?

Jesus, what happens when your child makes mistakes on the math test, or something else that actually matters? The inability of children to accept criticism these days is astounding.

Standing still
Please. Stand. Still. Please don't talk when I'm talking. Why am I saying "please"? I used to jokingly ask the kids "do you act like this in school?" and they would get all sheepish and say, well no, they didn't it's not allowed, and then they'd behave. Now, they look at me like I've just asked them whether they're allowed to breathe in school. Apparently, this is how children behave now.

Actually mastering the skill
So, based on the way coaches, kids and parents just blithely move their skaters up, actually having to learn the skills is old hat. This has been a problem with coaches in the past, but nothing like when the parents/kids take control. I've seen coaches move kids up a level when they aren't ready, but have at least had the 10 weeks of class. I've seen them move their private students up several levels for whatever ridiculous reason, but at least they're getting private instruction in the deficit areas.

But this new thing where you take 2 classes of gamma (not 2 sessions-- 2 classes), and then skip delta because it's at an inconvenient time, and show up in PreFreestyle for a day before finally landing in Freestyle 1... All in the space of 7 weeks. I have 4 kids in classes right now who fit this profile. What The Bumblepuck! Do parents understand the danger involved in putting a child in a level they aren't ready for?

Sorry, no As for Effort or Attendance in Figure Skating. You gotta deliver the goods.

Four year olds with no social skills whatsover
I've met a lot of 4-year-olds. Far more than you will ever meet. Here's what a four-year-old can do: Respect the teacher. Listen to instructions. Ask for help. Restrain from tantrums, screaming, kicking, spitting, biting and hitting (not kidding). Share. Make friends. Don't talk when someone else is talking. Spend 30 minutes away from a parent (who by the way, is standing just 20 feet away). Speak clearly enough for a stranger to understand. Stand, even on skates. If your four-year-old cannot do these things, either stop babying him or get him evaluated. If your 5-year-old cannot do these things, skip the "stop babying him" and just get him evaluated.

Skating class as a socializing experience
If your 4-year-old has never been in a class, skating class is NOT the place to start. Go to Music and Me, where the danger of injury is less.

Leave the teens alone
Stop helping your 16-year-old get dressed. Seriously.


  1. IMO; There are a lot of parents who either have no expectations of their children, unrealistic expectations of instructors, or simply cannot see their child objectively. Possibly all these things at once. Hang in there.

  2. I'm currently in a situation I hate with group lessons. I've been taking the "Axel Plus" freestyle class because the High freestyle class I'm supposed to be in is filled with kids who fit pretty much every description you are in here. The skate director put me in this class, I didn't self promote- she joked with me I was in "attention span plus". I take on Tuesday when A+ has 2 kids, rather than Saturday with 12-14 kids, so she doesn't think I'm in the way (I'd be in the way on Saturday). Thus far, I think it's worked well- I do half/single jumps to their doubles. Spins I do the same, they are just better. Moves, I work on the same, I'm just slower. I work my butt off in the class, because I don't want to annoy the coach that I'm there, or waste any of the higher level kids time.

    But now a new coach is coming in. I get the feeling he doesn't really want me in that class. The skate director has said it's okay, so I feel like I can just go "nanny-nanny-boo-boo" but what kind of relationship with the coaches (and once my hip is better, I'll be back to coaching snowplow, so it's important to have a good relationship with all of them) does that create? So I'm going to have to go back down to high freestyle. Where about 10 minutes of a 30 minute lesson will be filled with skating, and maybe 2 minutes of that will be corrections given to me. The other 20 minutse will be the kids argueing with the coach, waiting on them to start off down a line, so I can then do the same thing, or waiting on them to do an element if we are doing "one at a time". It's a lot of waiting. And I'll go back to thinking group lessons are a complete waste of time, and rationalize that with practice ice included it's only about $3, and surely I'm getting $3 value from the class.

    But these kids are almost teenagers- how do they not realize it's not just their time they are wasting?

    /sorry, I realize this rant is only loosely related- but the group lesson dynamic pisses me off. When I skate with axel plus (who are the kids I started basic skills with) I think I get more out of it than my private lesson. When I skate with the kids who don't care at all, I wonder why I bother.

  3. I only skate on patch, and totally get the "tears mean they're actually hurt thing". I see the same kids fall over and over and over again in a session, and get up and go for it again. When those kids stay down or cry they're actually in pain, or at least shocked and a bit of pain.

    My friend pulled her then almost three year old out of a group lesson (that the coach encouraged her to sign up for!) because she wasn't listening, was wandering off, and the other little girls (all under about 6) were distracted by her. There are parents who wouldn't do the same, and they're the problem ones!

    can I add one to your list? - skaters (and their parents) who sign up for the show and miss half the rehearsals, so they don't know the choreography, waste time learning what everyone else already did, and insist on making the same suggestion that everyone already said no to the last three times they bothered showing up and suggested the same thing

  4. "Standing still"

    Dear Coaches,

    If I wanted to hold still and listen to an expert I could go to work and be paid for it. Please keep me skating.



  5. @Turnip
    Ice show attendance at our rink is a huge problem. 95% of the time, the rehearsal schedule for the show comes out along with the sign-up information. Parents have access to this information before committing their kids to the shows. Show rehearsals begin and, oh wait, Jane decided to sign up for an extra-curricular at school that just happens to be at the same time as ice show rehearsal. What do the parents say? "Oh, well she'll be ok if she only comes to half of the rehearsals!" Yeah, I'm sure she will be, but somehow parent has forgotten that the other 20 kids in the number will not be since there is no body there to fill the space at rehearsals. So the coaches end up doing exactly as you described: waste time repeating instead of moving forward.

    ...or how about this: before you sign your kid (or let them sign themselves) up for an activity that coincides with another, you sit them down and discuss with them if, perhaps, one activity might be more important than the other, and WHY it's not feasible to do 2 things that meet at the same times. Teach them that sometimes difficult decisions have to be made and that yes, you do need to see it out through the end.

  6. Dear AMS-- if you know so much about skating that you don't need to listen to instruction, why are you wasting everyone's time by taking a class.

  7. And, finally, my darling skittl, ranting is what this blog is for, why do you think *I* do it! Take it from me, "one at a time" is the first refuge of scoundrel coaches. I have NEVER seen a skating class so huge that a coach can't get a sense of everyone's weakness from just skating back and forth all together. Most of the time "one at a time"="I don't have a curriculum" When I want to do one at a time I make the kids watch each other and then offer two compliments and one correction each. They all start learning what to watch for, and who to copy.

  8. "one at a time" = "I don't have a curriculum"

    Yes, the class consists of "warm up this move" and "demonstrate one at a time". That's it, easy! Coach does not even need to say anything else nor watch.

    Rant over, I am perfectly happy with my current coaching situation now :)

  9. Yeah- for the most part I'm not a one at a time fan (like in Basic skills- everyone doing a one foot glide).

    In freestyle, it makes a little more sense, as we have smaller classes (on Tuesday at least- none are bigger than 5...there are 5 classes, 2 coach specific, FS1/2, FS3/4, and Axel Plus) so it's really useful to see everyone's sit spin, and see what each person does right, and try to incorporate that into our own spin. In Axel plus for example, we all jump one at a time, in that one person is skating back to the start point, one person is skating across half-ice to set up the jump, and one person is jumping in front of the coach. It's a well oiled machine when we do it right. (when he makes us hold our biceps and not use our arms and jump from a standstill, then we all jump at the same time.)

    I took a PE teaching class in college. The biggest objective was to learn "everyone always moves". I did a lesson where I had 20 kids jump roping and 20 kids hula hooping at once. It was a little crazy, but the kids were safe and most importantly on task. My field teacher gave me (and all of the student PE teachers) a "C" on the lesson, saying that no more than 5 kids should be using an apparatus at once, to maintain calm in the classroom. Thankfully our professor adjusted our grades after reviewing a video tape. The PE teacher at the other field school was on board with this method, but apparently no one thought to check that this field teacher agreed with it too!

    But "I don't have a curriculum" - I'll agree with you. I think most of our LTS coaches wing it each day. But some of them are VERY good coaches, so I'm okay with winging it. It's also made YEAR 3 of Freeskate 4 a little more tolerable, because we don't do the same thing every single class. (I don't think I'm ever going to get that loop...)

  10. "If you know so much about skating that you don't need to listen to instruction, why are you wasting everyone's time by taking a class."

    I wasn't clear enough because I see no relation between holding still and listening. I am equally distracted while holding still as while I am skating.

    If I wanted to be told the principle of how to perform a skill I would read a book (and I am reading books) or watch a video. Coach's job most of the time is to tell me the difference between what I am actually doing and what is in the book. That means I need to move, and Coach needs to project his voice.

    You were good at doing that in group lesson.

    Also the portion of my skating time that is in class or lesson is pretty small.


  11. I'm with AMS on this one-I had a coach (for a very short time!) that would spend 10-15 minutes talking in detail about what we were going to work on. That's nice, but I only have a 30 minute lesson and I can't afford more. So we wouldn't even get to most of the stuff she talked about. I would politely try to move it along, or have her skate next to me while warming up, but she really liked to stand still and talk. Slowly. Doesn't work for me. Still a valuable experience in that I now know more of what I want in a coach and what I need as a student.

  12. OC and AMS-- I'm talking about the students who won't stand still for 10 seconds, not 30 minutes. Of course you shouldn't be sitting and listening in a sports class for 30 minutes. Like AMS says, you can watch a video in the comfort of your home for that. However, skating around, or skating off while someone-ANYONE-is speaking is disrespectful. It is impossible to run a class without at least some standing and talking. Most of the time I spend talking it's telling the people who won't stand still the information they just missed. Waste of everyone's time.

  13. LOL! Fabulous post, made me laugh so hard. I wish more people would be so damn honest!