Oct 29, 2011

The Hail Peggy

To be said before stepping onto the ice at any competition:

Hail Peggy, full of grace.
Dick Button is with thee.
Blessed art thou among skaters,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Holy Peggy, Mother of Figure Skaters,
pray for us spinners,
now and at the hour of our death drop.

Oct 26, 2011

What not to wear

We actually used to mark down for "VPL" (visible panty line) during auditions. No granny panties under a skating skirt, mkay? Skating tights have cotton crotch linings for a reason. If your squeamish child really cannot bring herself to not wear underpants, please get her "grown up" underpants (i.e. french cut or thong. They have these for 4-year-olds now. I'm waiting for the first thong diaper). If you really don't want grown-up panties on your 8-year-old, then make sure her skirt is long enough to cover the goods.

Skirts should cover your butt cheeks
Shorter is not better. It's unattractive, and unprofessional. I don't care how cute your butt is. In fact, I don't want to know how cute your butt is.

Stationary breasts please
Your bouncing bazongas are extremely distracting. Please wear one of those sports bras that actually offers support, rather than a single layer of the mush 'em flat variety, or worse, nothing at all.

NO breasts please
There's an awful lot of cleavage at ice rinks these days, from girls as young as 12. Don't their mothers see what they're wearing? Even ice dancers cover their breasts, and they barely acknowledge the concept of "fabric".

Laundry detergent
Use it, please. Do you send your kids to their piano lessons, or school, dressed in the clothes in which they have been playing in the mud? (caveat--freestyle skaters who come every day may wear the same tights for several months. Just don't stand too close to me.)

Competitive version
Illusion that isn't illusional. It's supposed to be the same color as your skin, otherwise, what's the point? If your competition dress has illusion from your mid-winter flesh tone, you cannot get a tan during the summer unless you replace the illusion. Corollary--skating tights and illusion need to be the same tone.

Flappy things
I keep thinking your costume is falling apart.

Coaching version
Please, young coaches, do not teach in a practice dress, with your butt hanging out, or skin tight skating pants. Are you trying to teach, or impress the dads in the stands?

The crotch of your pants should be at, well, your crotch. The waist belongs at your waist. It looks stupid enough when your jeans would pass for clown pants. Your floppy bits shouldn't flop either. Get over the "leotards are for girls" and put a leotard bottom on your shirt so that it stays tucked in.

Also? I don't want to see your underwear either.

Oct 25, 2011

A response to "Master"

Earlier today, several comments were made on the "Skatism" post that are libelous and untrue. I feel the need to respond to this in order to reassure my readers that my credentials are real and that I have never misrepresented myself as anything other than what I am: An adult skater who discovered a passion and talent for teaching this marvelous sport, and has worked hard to achieve the credentials I need to pursue this profession.
Your daughter Nora never even competed regionals, much less the "national" competitions you claim she has.
Nora competed in Ice Dance at Regionals, where she qualified for and skated in Junior Nationals 2006. She never competed, nor was interested in competing, in singles at the qualifying level, nor have I ever claimed this. Also, leave my daughter out of it, please.
“She passed only up to freestyle 7 and took a few USFSA test. “
Nora passed her ISI FS8 test and then stopped testing ISI. She has passed the gold USFS tests in Moves, FS and Dance, Intermediate Free Dance, and one international dance (Silver Samba). This is a matter of fact and record, easily confirmed. Also, leave my daughter out of this, you pig.
"Xanboni" tried to pass her USFSA Master Rated in group class test several times. oh and i left out she failed the test SEVERAL times
I have not yet attempted the Master Group rating although I have attended the PACE seminar at the Master level twice. I passed Registered, Certified, and Senior Group all on the first try. Again, this is a matter of record. Feel free to have your attorney contact mine for a copy of the documentation. I would be happy to have PSA, ISI, and USFS send letters with my entire skating history on them.

I am flummoxed by the vitriol exhibited here, and would love to know why this person feels the need to try to destroy my career and my credibility. If this person had the courage to comment with their name and contact information, like many of my commentors do, I would consider these falsehoods to be actionable.

I'm just trying to live my life here folks. I'm trying to share my passion, and inform parents and skaters so that they don't have to keep reinventing the wheel, or the ice rink, as it were.

I am extremely concerned about this apparent hatred, as my daughter and my students continue to skate with my old program, where I assume this person is from. It was to protect them from this sort of vitriol that I cut all ties with the program, including finding new coaches for all of my students. This was a wrenching decision, as I was part of that program for nearly 20 years, as a parent, student, and coach. If I learn that anyone there is targeting them in any way, I will consider legal action.

Oct 24, 2011


(with apologies to Wikipedia)

Skatism, also known as skating discrimination, is the application of the belief or attitude that there are characteristics implicit to one's skating background that directly affect one's abilities in unrelated areas.

It is a form of discrimination or devaluation based on a person's skating ability or level of training, with such attitudes being based on beliefs that what you knew or could do at the age of 17 is the most you can ever hope to achieve. The term skatism is most often used in relation with discrimination against adult-onset skaters, especially those who desire to teach, in the context of high school as peak experience, or against recreational and low-test youth skaters in the context of also having a life.

Skatism involves hatred of, or prejudice towards a class of skaters as a whole or the blind application of skating stereotypes. Skatism is often associated with coaching-supremacy arguments, and in peer-group dynamics.

In philosophy, a skatist attitude is one which suggests human beings can be understood or judged on the basis of the essential characteristics of the group to which an individual belongs—in this case, their skating group, as former competitors or high test skaters, as opposed to, um, everybody else. This assumes that all individuals fit into the category of skater or non skater, and that this is the only useful defining characteristic.

Occupational skatism refers to any discriminatory practices, statements, actions, etc. based on a person's skating background that are present or occur in a place of employment. This can manifest as wage discrimination, seniority assignment, access to choice class levels, exclusion from high-status groups, etc.

At many rinks, skating discrimination – i.e. the unequal treatment of equally productive individuals only because they belong to a specific group; or the favoring of non-productive individuals because they belong to the "right" group – is still a crucial factor inflating disparities in employment, participation in program activities, and the quality of job and skating opportunities. While employment and youth-sports rules generally require that individuals participating under the same job or program description be treated equally, in practice this is difficult to enforce.

Have you encountered skatism at your rink?

Oct 22, 2011

What to wear

In about a month, everyone with a skater or potential skater is going to be hitting the stores, looking for holiday gifts. And one of the main things they'll be getting is clothes, because man do they have cute stuff for skaters these days. Here's a guide on what you should be wearing, whether gift-giving, or just to know.

The biggest thing that tots need is comfort. It's cold, slippery, and mom is inaccessible. They don't need need pads or elbow pads or giant mittens. The little stretchy mittens, a long sleeve shirt and a light sweater, plus jeans or sweats and snowpants, is a good outfit for a beginner in the 3 to 5 year old range. Don't put them in big bulky jackets as it's too hard to move. Don't tell them they are cold, or that they are going to be cold. It's not that cold in an ice rink if you're properly dressed.

Yes, I like to see tots in well-fitting, flat-back helmets (skateboarding helmets are the best).

Older Beginners
Long sleeve shirt plus sweatshirt or warm sweater, pants in two layers--tights plus sweats or jeans, or leggings plus sweats. Again, light gloves, not bulky mittens (mittens are too warm, and it's hard to hold hands). Younger children are fine in helmets or a soft or padded hat. Please don't put your 6-year-old or younger in low rise jeans (whoever came up with this concept was an idiot). You would not believe the number of baby-butts I see in a week.

Learn to Skate levels, especially tweens
You're going to start getting agitation for the cute skating clothes at this level, and your degree of indulgence is entirely up to you. I like to see kids deliver the goods before they start dressing like skaters, i.e. mastering the first jump is plenty of time for the Chloe Noel pants. In the meantime, your upper body and gloves are the same as the prior two levels--long sleeve shirt plus sweatshirt (a zipper one is good at this level, for easy removal if they get warm), and stretchy gloves. Tights plus workout pants are great; you can get perfectly adorable yoga pants in any size at Target, for a fifth the price of the ones at the skating shops. Personally, it makes me insane to see some Delta or even low freestyle skater in $150 worth of skating clothes, especially when parents then turn around and complain about the cost of lessons. That's 5 privates or two 10-week class sessions that kid is wearing.

At this point, your skater is committed and needs to start dressing the part. Hair combed neatly and pulled into a high ponytail. Yoga or skating pants, or skating tights and dress (you can get inexpensive ones at resale or a Big Box store, or specialty ones at a specialty skating store). Skating pants are usually a little longer than ordinary yoga pants, or come with stirrups or other skate-specific details. Let your budget and frou-frou tolerance guide you. But at freestyle the coach needs to be able to see the line of the skater's body, so body-skimming styles are best.

Some places to get nice specialty skating clothes are Rainbo Sport Shop, Chloe Noel, and Seku Skatewear (my favorite, but oy, the prices).

Years ago at one of the rinks I work at there was an unspoken rule that only freestyle girls wore skating skirts. As time went on, younger and younger, and lower and lower level girls started wearing skating skirts. Low and behold, the high level girls all started wearing pants instead. Now everyone's in pants. I'm waiting for the high level girls to reassert their preeminence and switch back to skirts any day now.

What do you like to wear, or to put your kids in for skating? What are some places to go for good skatewear?

Oct 20, 2011

The gag rule in action

As you know, I had to release all of my students last week because of moving to a different rink. All of them wanted to stay at the Ice Rink of the Damned, so they started looking for new coaches.

I got lots of calls from friends saying, "hey, Parent X called me about skating with Precious, is that okay? Also, what's going on?"

To review, what I call "the gag rule" is supposedly a protection against solicitation, defined as actively seeking to subvert a coaching relationship by suggesting a student move to a new coach. The Professional Skaters Association and USFS apply this rule rather broadly, encompassing pretty much all conversations around changing coaches. In other words, if a parent/skater is unhappy with their current coach, this rule makes it very difficult for them to quietly try to test the waters elsewhere, because other coaches are required to report the conversation to the current coach or face sanctions.

It apparently works, because several people called me.

Or maybe I just work for classy parents.

What will be interesting is to see if any of my students end up with coaches other than these, who followed the letter of the law and called me, highlighting another weakness of this rule: you have no way of knowing if someone is talking to your students unless they choose to self-regulate. In other words, in the hands of the unethical, the gag rule doesn't work, because they won't call. In the hands of the ethical, you don't need it. (Two of the people who called me are not members of the PSA and therefore not subject to this rule.)

As an opponent of these anti-solicitation measures, I appreciated getting these calls, but would not have faulted the coaches for not calling me. I would have liked calls from the parents,which I didn't get in every instance, because you should ALWAYS talk to your current coach once you've made the decision to move (okay to hunt around behind her back when you're deciding whether to move, but once the decision is made, common courtesy demands direct contact with the old coach).

One of the difficult things about bad situations like this one is having your convictions run right up against your emotional needs--I needed everyone to flip that place a giant bird and quit en masse. But my coaching philosophy says the most important person in the equation is the kids--their need for stability, adults who put their needs first, and a safe place to learn and have fun.

Oct 18, 2011

Get over yourself

I had to quit my job.

Right now, it looks like I won't be finding another one. Whether this is the economy, bad timing, or a vast district-wide conspiracy to keep me from teaching I don't know. But right now, I won't be doing group classes.

I not only quit, I don't ever want to walk through that door again. Since that isn't practical I gave my students the option to stick with me at the old rink until the end of the session, and then to follow me to a different rink. No one took me up on it. They are all staying at the old rink, and looking for a new coach.

I actually expected this. I have seen it before, when coaches have gotten fed up and moved to a new place. Sometimes coaches float the threat "give me my way, let me get away with my bullshit, or I will take my toys and go home." One coach tried to move the entire synchro program. They always end up backing down, because in the end, parents are looking for location and convenience, and kids want familiarity--to be with their friends at a place they know.

However much you think your kids and their parents love you (and they do), in the end, they will make the economic choice, and seldom the one from the heart.

As a coach, you have to be able to accept this. People move on. Yes, I wish my kids would follow me, in fact I wish the whole staff would follow me, because nothing will get better there if people don't start voting with their feet and their wallets, but in the end you have to make the choice that works for you and your family. I reached a tipping point where the unprofessional behavior of certain members of staff and management became intolerable. My students were not at that point, and frankly what affects me does not affect them.

Here are some tips if your coach moves to a different rink:

Don't send the coach emails about how upset the kids are. If the coach needs to leave, she needs to leave, and you adding guilt to what is probably already a difficult decision is just pointless and mean. (This is not the same as thoughtful emails or calls explaining what you are going to do. It's the ones that start "Mary just cried and cried when I told her." I can't tell you how helpless that makes me feel.)

Don't talk to another coach without alerting the old coach FIRST
. The old coach is going to know you're looking, because the gag rule requires that the new coach tell her. Further, if your coach is leaving, as I am, because of intolerably unprofessional behavior from coaches or management at the old rink, and you know this, don't you think you'd like to know who to avoid?

Don't talk about the change to anyone at the rink. This is how career-damaging rumors get started, particularly if there is bad blood which has forced the coach's hand. If anyone asks what's going on, the correct answer is "she had another opportunity" or "she decided to make a change." Don't feed the gossip mill.

This is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I stayed as long as I did because I couldn't bear to leave my students, and because I kept thinking I could effect change from within. This turned out to be an idealistic fantasy.

In the meantime, I'm hoping to have a soft landing at a new facility, or to set up my own mini-skating school through a local home school network. And of course, I'll keep writing. What would you do without your Xanboni?

Have you ever had to leave an intolerable (for you) situation? How did you handle it?

Oct 15, 2011

Heatmolds and hollows and blades, oh my!

My favorite excuse for poor skating is "blame the equipment." Seriously. Especially for adult skaters, you feel so incompetent out there, even though in your dreams you're Peggy Fleming, sailing etherearally through a misty forest in a flowing white dress (true story). It simply must be the ice surface, the mold, and most especially the skates and blades.

You're stuck with the ice surface, but I'm going to help you choose a boot and a blade that will keep you from being able to blame them (sorry).

First a word about brands. Brand is important in figure skates, even low-end figure skates. I've never seen a no-name brand that I could recommend. (This includes the ones they sell at L.L.Bean. These are the worst skates on the market.) The brands to look for in the States are Reidell, Jackson, SPTeri, Klingbeil, and Graff (help me out and let readers know 1-who I'm forgetting, and 2-any Canadian, UK, or Aussie brands that I don't know about). I know that the first three make recreational-level skates. Don't worry about blades yet (more below).

Boot and blade set. A lot of adults swear by what I call "comfort skates"-- those recreational skates that look like sneakers. If you're a brand new skater these are probably your best bet, although some adults (cough*me*cough) find that they don't feel like they're giving you enough support. Try a few brands--Reidell and Jackson brands are fairly easy to find.

For children 6 or younger a beginner recreational skate like Jackson SofTecs are the only way to go. Standard figure skates are very uncomfortable for a child used to sneakers 2 sizes too big. Children this age have an easy time switching to standard skates after a year of skating, and it's simply not worth the barrier of uncomfortable skates. Older kids I would put straight into standard beginner skates like a Jackson "Mystique." Kids over the age of 6 are going to understand the concept of fit better, and also tend to learn faster, so you want them in a skate they can wear through several levels of skills.

Higher level boots are stiffer than beginner boots, because jumps require more support. They will tend to have a higher shaft, although this is changing with a lot of high level skaters choosing a cut-down back so they can point their toes. And this is the single most misunderstood aspect of skates. Skates are padded at the sides of the ankle to support and minimize lateral movement. You want to be able to bend your ankle forward, very very deeply. High level skates actually put in things like "scallops"--little cut outs, sometimes as many as three, so that you can bend your ankle in a stiff skate. The thing for recreational skaters to remember is that it takes a lot of muscle power to "break" a skate like that-- i.e. to get the ankle to bend properly. Put a 60 or 80 pound Beta-level child in a high-level boot and they will simply not have the weight or strength needed to bend their ankles properly, which certainly affects how well they skate, how comfortable the skates are, and can also lead to injury.

Let your budget guide you--you don't have to spend a thousand dollars on skates, although you can; there are excellent choices around $200. Think of it as comparable to the cost of a decent bike.

Factors in blades are: toe pick, hollow, and radius.

Toe pick

Get a toe pick appropriate to the jumps you are doing. No jumps? Beginner blade with a small, high toe pick. Beginner jump? Beginner blade like an MK Pro, Wilson Majestic or the blade that comes on a skate like the Jackson Freestyle. Again, talk to a skate technician and be honest about your skater's level and ambition. Don't put a class-only skater in a $400 blade.

The hollow is the curved area between the edges. You can get it in different radii, from 3/8" (very deep/sharp) to 1" (very flat/shallow). Unless you're a really really serious skater, don't worry about it. I mean it. However, the technician who sharpens your skates does need to understand hollow. Never never never get your skates sharpened by anyone except a certified technician. Don't go to the local bike shop that bought a machine because they thought it would be a good sideline. If the nearest sharpener is farther than you want to travel, ask around your rink--often the high level coaches will have their own machine and be trained and skillful at this, and will not charge any more than the skate shop. And seriously, you do this twice a year, maybe 4 times if your kid skates a lot (a skater can get 40 to 60 hours of skating out of a sharpening). It is ridiculous to risk ruining a $100 blade to save six bucks or to avoid a half-hour drive.

Again, don't worry about it until you're ready for your first pair of expensive blades. The rocker is the radius of the curve that the blade is cut on; i.e. a blade is basically a little piece of a circle of either 7 feet or 8 feet. An 8-foot rocker is a little flatter than a 7-foot rocker. Beginners tend to like the 7 foot one better, although it really doesn't matter which radius you use, at any level. You should know the "profile" of your skate (basically the silhouette), but the specs don't matter that much--they all work, and the depth of the hollow and radius of the blade are entirely personal preference. Again, your skate technician needs to be able to tell which radius your blade uses-for instance, hockey blades use a very large radius, with a sharp curve at the toe and heel. If your technician doesn't know this, and doesn't reset the machine for figure skates, you're screwed (this happened to a large group of the rental skates at my rink--they sent the figure skates to a technician that gave them all a hockey grind--took the back of every blade right off. Sadly, when I pointed this out to them, they had no idea what I was talking about.)

Never put a beginner (through Gamma) in a freestyle blade. A beginner blade has a toe rack with all the picks roughly the same size, and starting high up the rocker (curve of the blade). A freestyle blade will have a larger top and bottom pick, and the whole rack is farther down the rocker, i.e. closer to the ice. The time to switch to a freestyle blade is whenever the child outgrows the pair she's wearing around Delta or low freestyle. Freestyle skates come in both boot-blade sets, and separate boots and blades.

If you buy separate boots and blades, the blades can often, but not always, be used through a couple of size changes in the boots. Talk to a skate technician at a specialty skate shop to determine whether your old blades are appropriate on your new boots.

Used skates
If you're a beginner I would simply not buy used skates from your neighbor, friend, Play-It-Again Sports, or that nice mom at the rink. You don't know enough about it. I cringe every time I see some 6 year old PreAlpha skater in a freestyle blade and heavy boot. It's like putting a new rider on an Arabian dressage horse instead of a pony. Not safe, and not fun. If you get used skates, get them from the specialty skate shop

A lot of information. How do you choose?
You can do your own research--there's tons of advice on the web. But a better way to do it is to ask a coach or a specialty skate shop. Give them your budget and your skating level, and they'll be able to steer you to a good skate. A lot of coaches will simply recommend the boot and blade that they like; this is fine. As you progress as a skater, you'll get more knowledgeable and start being able to make your own choices--my daughter skated in SPTeri's for years because that's what I wear. Then one day, about the age of 14, she decided, more or less on her own, to try another brand, and now she's a dyed-in-the-wool Reidell advocate.

A lot of coaches, even high level coaches, do not educate themselves about skates, but their advice to just buy the skate they like is still probably fine. The Professional Skaters Association, strangely, requires knowledge of boots and blades only from coaches taking the Group Instruction rating; it's not part of the Free Skating, Dance, or Moves exam, which seems utterly bizarre to me, but of course, they don't ask me.

Long story short? (Or as they say now in web parlance tl;dr-too long didn't read) It's a good idea to understand all the techinical aspects of boots and blades, but not necessary to end up with a decent set appropriate to your level. Talk to your coach or a specialty shop and you'll end up with a decent boot.

Oct 10, 2011

It needs to be said

I wrote this last year:
Some skating relationships become abusive, either emotionally, financially or I hate to say it physically. If your child complains that she feels uncomfortable with a coach's physical presence, end that relationship immediately. The coach may not be stepping over any lines, but the child's discomfort is crucial. A child's unwarranted discomfort with a coach can ruin an innocent coach's career. Better to simply end the relationship before things get out of hand.

Sometimes, the coach is physically inappropriate. If you suspect this, please go to your child's doctor and have her interview the child. Do NOT go to the skating director first. The skating director is legally obligated to report suspected abuse, but may not have the proper training to identify it. This is how careers get ruined. Better to go to a physician, who is also obligated to report suspected abuse, but has the training and background to interview the child and recognize the signs.
It bears repeating every now and then.

I would like to emphasize that you do not need proof to remove your child from a suspect situation. The child's discomfort is enough. If you cannot, or will not, ask someone for help, don't worry about it. Just get your child out of the situation and make up an excuse (schedule, cost, your rotten kid, whatever).

A larger problem is that sometimes the abuse is hard to see. You may pass inappropriate touching off as necessary coaching--correcting a position, hands-on. It may be subtle from the stands, but enough to discomfort the child.

Physical abuse is not only sexual; I have heard of coaches pinching, pushing, and tripping students, or forcing them to continue practice when they are clearly too tired or hurt.

It may be emotional--I had a difficult conversation with a coach just this morning, who simply would not let me talk. Every time I tried to voice my concerns (about another matter, not about abuse), and tried repeatedly to end the conversation, the coach simply talked over me louder and louder, eventually resorting to calling me names and questioning my right to teach. This is emotionally abusive behavior, and is another bad sign--if a coach treats a colleague like this, imagine how that coach is treating helpless children. Be concerned.

I have actually witnessed coaches telling kids that they'll never be able to skate because they are fat. (Sometimes these kids are not by any stretch of the imagination fat.) I am ashamed that I did not immediately call this coach on it.

Here's the advice my doctor offered:

Pay surprise visits to the lessons. Don't sit in the stands every time. Come and go, on no set schedule. And remember, a coach who tells you that you may not watch lessons needs to be put in his place-- whether and when you watch your child is not his call.

Ask the coach about actions that bother you, directly.
"Why do you need to touch her like that." He may have a perfectly good explanation, or may not have realized that it made the child uncomfortable. Once he knows this, a good coach will pull back on even the innocent physical contact, so that the child does not feel uncomfortable.

Ask the child occasional, non-leading questions: "How was Coach today?" If the child says "coach is mean" explore that. It might just be that she made the child work hard. Children are reluctant to voice discomfort with adults, but conversely are easily led into the wrong answers. Make sure your mind, and your questions, are open.

Financial abuse takes two to play. A coach cannot get you into a financial situation that you cannot handle without your collusion. Don't let a coach add lessons that you can "pay for later." Don't agree to lessons or extras that you cannot afford. Set a budget and stick to it. Know how much you're spending (even if you're hiding it from your husband). Never never let a balance build up.

If you find out years later that there was physical or emotional abuse in the past, and this coach is still teaching (and is therefore still at it, almost certainly), then you have a dilemma. You cannot confront the coach with years-old allegations, but you cannot morally allow him or her to continue to get away with it.

I'm open to suggestions on that one, because it has me stumped.

Oct 6, 2011

To compete or not to compete, that is the question

There's one at every rink--a fantastic skater who can't win a competition because the jumps just aren't there. Maybe she falls, maybe the jumps are small, or underrotated, or she doesn't have the doubles, or the triples that she needs.

One skating mother asked me whether it makes any sense for a skater to quit competing and focus on the skills for a while instead?

It depends. It would be impossible to make a blanket judgment, but in general I would say, no. A skater who wants to win competitions, who wants to go to Nationals eventually, needs to keep competing.

However, at the developmental levels (through Novice), competing, and especially winning, should never be the focus of the skating career. They call these levels developmental for a reason. A major club competition like Broadmoor, Detroit or DuPage, a local club competition, and regionals is plenty of competing for a skater who needs to work, to develop, skills. You may have seen the headlines the last couple of years about skaters who have medaled at every level, or won a developmental level twice. This sort of thing makes headlines because it is rare--developmental level skaters--Juvenile, Intermediate, Novice--are notoriously volatile. Skaters move up and down the ranks is wild disarray.

There's a certain value to staying in front of the judges--not just you but also your coach. Your coach is learning what the judges think about you, and getting advice on how to help his skaters develop. Further, however well you jump in practice, putting those same skills out there in competition is a completely different animal.

Being able to compete well is a skill in itself.

Competing is also a good way to get an unbiased assessment of your improvement. Especially with the Code of Points scoring system, you can actually see, by increasing or decreasing point totals, and through the very detailed protocols (which mark each skill in isolation), whether and where you are improving, devolving, or struggling.

This mom is right that preparing for competitions takes away from practice time, especially if the skater is like most skaters with limited time, scarce financial resources, and non-skating interests. The skating world, in fact, divides the year into "Rest, off-season (early and late) pre-season, and in-season." You never never compete during Rest, and you need a really good reason to compete during Off-season. So you should always work a long stretch of time--3 months or more--during the year when there are no competitions to distract you.

One of the things that concerns skaters and their parents is losing time--getting stuck at a level for multiple years. Skaters stay at a level for numerous reasons. Foremost, because in most cases there's no rush. Even if a skater ages out of Juvenile (at 13?) and ends up skating Open Juvenile for a couple of years, they are still competing and improving, and have plenty of time to compete a year or two at Intermediate. Coaches will often hold even a successful skater back if they are young for a level. This has happened with the last 3 Intermediate Men's champions- all in their tweens, the coaches kept them at their level, to allow their bodies to catch up to the maturity needed for the more challenging Novice level. Skaters below these lofty heights can also stay at a level, to bring their repertoire up to par.

How long do you stay at a level, if you're not doing well at it? First, define "well." With Code of Points, "doing well" no longer needs to mean "winning a medal." Doing well can now mean all positive GOEs, or increasing point totals, or full credit for jumps that you used to underrotate. If you don't compete, you're not seeing these very important assessments of your skating.

In other words, winning medals, especially at the lower levels, is not the only value in competing.