Aug 13, 2011

Leaving home

As the competition schedule heats up, kids on the cusp-- top ten, but not quite on the radar, ambitious but not delivering the medals--are asking themselves, have I gone as far as I can go where I am? I got this email from a young skater in a difficult position:
I am a skater who has gone just about as far as I can in my hometown. I know that if I want to advance I will have to move, but can I handle it? What will it be like without my parents? am I to old to train seriously? Will I make friends? Will it be too tough?
My feelings:

Everyone moves away from home.
Don't worry about it! You're leaving anyway, to go to college, when you are 17 or 18. That said, if you are younger than 14 I believe your mother, or father, or grandparent or much-older sibling has to go with you. I am personally adamantly opposed to the idea of children that young living with the coach; in fact, I don't think any minor skater or other athlete should live with their coach, but I know it happens. If you're 15 to 17, have a reliable family to go to if your own family member can't do it. When you're 17 or older, hey like I said, you'd go away to college wouldn't you? Best choice would be to go to college near the skating program.

What do you hope to achieve.
If you're one of those younger skaters who is contemplating a move, be really really sure that you cannot achieve your goals at home. Younger and untried coaches DO have skaters who achieve remarkable success. Moving is difficult and disruptive-for you, your family, and your career. Make sure it's the right choice.

How do you know if it's realistic?
If you're at a level that you need to move to training center to improve your career, chances are someone outside your immediate skating family has taken you or your parents aside and told you, hey, you really need to think about a better training situation. If you're not quite there, but feel that you're stalled where you are, ask someone trustworthy- a local skating judge, a non-involved coach, or a former competitive skater- anyone who can observe your skating first hand. Across the board, people like these are incredibly approachable, generous, and honest.

The age issue.
If you're about to age out of one of the levels, you have some very tough questions to ask yourself. Are you stuck at a level because you don't have the jumps or lifts you need to be competitive, or is your coach just sandbagging you. If you're a 15 or 16 year old girl without triples (meaning you are probably still at Novice or even Intermediate), you are getting old to have a realistic competitive career, although this, thank god, is changing, as women start skating through college. Look at your competitive record-- if you keep winning at the lower level, but the skills are holding you back, then yes, a change in situation might be what you need.

If you're approaching college age, you quite literally don't need to make the choice- home or skating. Move to the college town with the best coaching situation for you. Do your last year of high school there, or work out an arrangement to finish high school with college courses. There are lots of educational options that schools don't tell you about.

Who will be your coach?
Okay this is the big one. You don't walk into the Broadmoor and expect Kathy Casey or Tom Zakrajsek to just take you based on your self-assessed wonderfulness or ambition. Fifth place in the final round at Uppers has not put you on the map. You have to audition for them. Some high level coaches will invite you to audition, despite PSA rules against this, sometimes they'll accept unsolicited requests. Get hold of a PSA directory, which lists everyone's contact information.

In other words, don't move unless you have a coaching situation arranged.

What is Plan B
What happens if you give it a try, and it doesn't work out--you hate it, or you don't achieve the success you want, or the coach drops you (it happens). Well, you go back home, or back to school. You don't have to explain yourself to anyone, or make excuses or feel embarrassed.

That you can even contemplate such a major step at 13 or 14 or 15 puts you in a special category of kids who are able to think past the ends of noses and today's pop hit. Your reach should exceed your grasp, or what's a heaven for.

Do you know a skater who left home to train at a young age?


  1. Some helpful comments in the spins post

  2. Thank you so much for this Xan it really helped