I'm always trying to get more folks on the ice, skating, taking a few lessons so they can enjoy skating recreationally (especially in 99 degree weather like we're having now.) I always get the same reply: it's tooooo dangerous.Why can't beginners skate? It's not that hard!Seriously, it's not that hard. The number one reason beginners can't skate is crap rental skates. (Number two would be "we found these in grandma's garage! Why are the blades black? Haha! We stuffed socks in the toes because they're 4 sizes too big. But if Precious can't skate it must be the coach's fault!)
I get that it's on ice, on blades, and takes a bit more skill then walking and chewing gum, but I think these massive numbers of broken bones and head trauma that people quote just aren't accurate. So what do we tell people?
Lobby your local rink to care for their rental skates, and to replace them every couple of years. There must be an industry standard on how often skates should be replaced, but I can tell you that at the rinks I've taught at only one doesn't wear skates to the nub. For a while we had a sharpening service that was using a hockey setting on our figure skates, so that they were too curvy, wrong hollow, and ground to a point at the back. It was amusing, in a schadenfreude sort of way, watching the little kids tip over backwards. I pointed this out to the facility manager, who said "oh, there's a difference?" (True story) They did not correct it. 100% of our rental skates are garbage.
My advice is don't take a beginner class. Take the hundred bucks it would have cost you and buy a decent pair of recreational skates, then go to public skating for 6 months. If it's your kid and you don't want to skate with them, hire some skatergrrrl to "babysit" Sunday afternoons at the rink, at a babysitting rate. High school skaters should not be allowed to charge $50/hour to teach tots, anyway. THEN take a class.
*Do* beginners fall? And how many get hurt?
Fewer beginners fall than you might think, and almost all beginner falls are skaters who don't listen, or can't employ, the coach's advice not to "dance" their feet or wave their arms madly when they start to lose their balance. Among beginners who fall vanishingly few get hurt, and vanishingly few of those get hurt badly (concussions, soft tissue tears, broken bones). But if it's you, or someone you know, then that seems like a crazy statement--"well almost no one gets hurt, but my friend got hurt, so the odds must be really high"
Why do people fall on the ice?
Well, it's slippery if you're moving. (It's not slippery if you're not moving. True fact. It is the movement that creates the slip--your blade melts the ice and you glide on the watery interface, i.e. hydroblading-the scientific definition. No movement, no melt, no glide.) And you're on a stiff, curvy metal tightrope. Beginners try to duplicate familiar movements--walking--which doesn't work, or they try to duplicate "skating" like they've seen on tv, attempting to push and glide before they're ready, or they put on hockey skates because figure skates make you gay. But the most common reason that beginners fall is because some idiot is giving them bad advice. Friends tell them "it's easy, do this!" (hard move follows). They want to keep up with their experienced friends. A coach refuses to "baby" beginners "no need to start off the ice, just come out and skate" (I said that in my head with a Russian accent, haha).
What are common injuries?
Far and away the most common ice injury is soft tissue damage in high level skaters. I tore my MCL once and could not get the stupid emergency room to do an MRI. They insisted I'd been skating so I must have broken my knee cap (only knee cap injury I ever heard of was Tonya whaling on Nancy, so I guess that counts as a figure skating injury). I'm pounding away at my knee cap, going "see? Not Broken! I tore my MCL please do an MRI". The other common injury I've observed is adults breaking wrists, because they're afraid to drop and roll when they fall, and instinctively put out their hands to brace the fall. The fact that this, instead of tuck and roll, is instinctive, is in my mind proof positive against intelligent design, because it's a stupid instinct. Heads would be a little ways down the list, but still high enough to count as common. This is why the resistance to head protection is so inexplicable. (Great new head protection product).
Uncommon are other broken bones, and cuts, although I've seen my share of blade-in-the-muscle accidents, and chin splits are fairly common. This is not to say these can't happen, just that they are rare. I've been teaching more than 10 years, have observed thousands of skaters and off the top of my head can think of only around a dozen hospital-level injuries, most of them intermediate or advanced skaters.
However, common sense and statistics is not going to get the skittish onto the ice. It doesn't matter that it's one of the safest youth sports, or that it's great for adults trying to get back in shape. (I had a doctor once describe it to me as "low impact"- another true story. Yes, I still go to that doctor, she's a keeper!)
The worst thing you can take onto the ice with you isn't bad skates; it's a bad attitude. People who believe that they can't skate will make that happen. Take them for a nice long walk.