Even serious recreational skaters train at a level and in a way that is very different from other youth after school activities like student government, drama club or team sports. If you've been a competitor it's even harder, because you're also giving up prestige, and a great big chunk of your identity.
A reader asks:
How do you help your child leave the sport? Mine has started talking about it in a very calm way recently. I think she is concerned she will lose her identity and her friends, but she just does not have the same drive she used to and never seems happy to go to the rink anymore. I feel like I am taking her to some after school math session every day. Only this one is really expensive.The organization Team up for Youth, studying girls in team sports found the following:
"While many girls play sports in their younger years, most drop out during adolescence. Why? Research shows that girls may face overt or subtle pressure from their peers and families to ‘feminize,’ or to take on responsibilities (e.g. studying, taking care of younger siblings) that prohibit their continued participation. One researcher describes adolescence as “a social and developmental Bermuda Triangle” in which girls “lose their assertive, energetic and ‘tomboyish’ personalities and become more deferential, self-critical and depressed.”* The girls who continue to play through adolescence and beyond are usually those who have developed an athlete identity. Being an athlete is a part of who they are. These are the girls who say, “I am a basketball player!” rather than, “I play basketball.” These are the girls who see sports participation as a non-negotiable.With girls in solo athletics like skating, tennis, skiing, et cetera, the change is even more fraught, because of the competing social scenes. People at school may barely be aware that the student is even an athlete. My own daughter tried to participate in after school activities in high school, only to be told that no absences would be tolerated for non-school sports. She eventually simply shifted her entire social identity to the rink, but other students may find that they feel pressure, either internally or externally to make the opposite choice.
(full pdf here)
Skating adds another dimension, because a lot of people don't consider it a sport, and/or don't consider recreational skating to be a worthy pasttime. Some equate recreational skating with failure. The single most-frequent question we would be asked when people found out my daughter was a skater was "oh, have you been to nationals?" This from people who had no way of knowing the answer was "yes." Society doesn't assume that every high school football player is going to the NFL, but this is a common misperception about figure skating--that it happens only at an elite level.
The thing is, there is very little downside to either choice. The tricky part is finding your way through the morass of emotion that is the adolescent, especially adolescent girls. As the reader asks, how do you support this decision?
I'll add a corollary as well--how do you support the decision to stay? This can be just as difficult, because of the social demands on adolescents, and because of the more demanding training as you increase your level. There are issues as well even if the skater just wants to keep skating--there is a lot of contempt among some coaching staffs for kids who plateau, even the ones for whom that is a choice (adults get this a lot too).
I'm going to pull a page from the late great IceMom here, and throw this back to you. How do you help your skater make the choice to stay or to go, to improve or to plateau?