Dec 21, 2011

Who do we talk to?

I'm a squeaky wheel.  I also like to know stuff.

Which is a problem when you're a new skater or skating parent. Skating culture is very insular--people hoard information. Further, since so many people in skating have skated literally their entire lives, they often do not understand how mysterious it can seem to neophytes. If you unluckily stumble onto a rink with a poisonous culture like we did, they take your questions as evidence of either stupidity or overreaching, which discourages the inquiries. (And will punish your child in subtle ways in retaliation, not kidding.)

People are sometimes afraid to get information from rink management or the clubs, because they're afraid of looking stupid, they're afraid of retaliation, they're afraid of stepping on the coach's toes.

So they: Ask the Coach, Ask the Gossip Moms, hunt the blogs, try to navigate the USFS site, the PSA site, the ISI site, the CanSkate site. (Which doesn't seem to have a parents' page? Can this be right?)

And you end up getting the not-always-accurate info you need by the seat of the pants.

But each of these places actually have people whose job it is to talk to you. Remember to go in with an open mind, don't snark at them right off the bat; assume they are there to help you, which in fact, they are (unlike local rink managements and club leadership, where that is not always the best assumption you can make). Here are some people to contact:

Susi Wehrli-McLaughlin (
Susi is the Senior Director of Membership at US Figureskating.  She's also very accessible, extremely interested in your needs as a coach, skater or parent, and very responsive to issues.

US Figure Skating Parents Committee
They've just introduced a Parents Committee Facebook page. The website has email addresses for contacts in every region. If you're concerned about your inquiry blowing up in your face, contact the chair, or someone from a different region.

Professional Skaters Association 
While this organization is set up for coaches, parents and skaters can also get trustworthy, confidential advice from this organization. Plus, they're in Minnesota, and you just can't believe how nice they are. I think they put something in the water up there. For coaching issues, try talking to Elizabeth Peschges (

Randy Winslip at the ISI 
This guy knows everything there is to know about skating in the US. While the ISI website is an utter nightmare, their staff is terrific. Randy's email is  If the ISI conference comes to a town near you, or just for a vacation, go.  (They usually take place in vacation destinations like Florida or Las Vegas.) They always have sessions for and about parents and you'll meet a lot of people who have no stake in your child's or your career, so they are trustworthy to talk to.

If you're a competitor, Junior Nationals and the US Figure Skating Championships (which after this year will be one and the same), have seminars for parents and skaters. And I'm betting you don't have to be connected with a competitor to go. If you're at Nationals as a spectator, or they're in your town, call up Susi and ask her if you can attend any of the sessions for parents.

The worst thing you can do as a parent, and especially the parent of a legitimately competitive skater, is to get all your information from a single source. If your coach feels threatened by you trying to get information from people other than him, my advice is to start questioning everything he's telling you, because unless he's feeding you bullshit, why should it matter?

Long story short: educate yourself. Meet other people. Get out of the rink!


  1. "Skating culture is very insular--people hoard information. Further, since so many people in skating have skated literally their entire lives, they often do not understand how mysterious it can seem to neophytes." SOOOOOO true!!!! For the first couple of years that my daughter skated, it was like they were all speaking a foreign language - and that was just my trying to tell the difference between USFSA and ISI and why (or IF) my daughter needed to join either one... Never mind the confusion when it came to the jumps and spins or how long it took me to understand that a spiral was just a skating arabesque and not a spin!! LOL!!!

  2. I agree with Helicopter Mom! Within a couple of weeks of hiring our daughter's first coach, the coach handed us a multi-page questionnaire about our daughter's goals in skating. The coach wanted to know how far we were interested in going in USFS testing and whether she was interested in state, regionals and nationals. Frankly, at that point, we didn't even know there was testing involved let alone anything about the structure of competitive skating. Our daughter's only goal at that point was to learn to skate like the girl who had a featured solo with her group in the ice show.

    When I handed the unfinished questionnaire back to the coach, explained we didn't know what most of it meant and could she please explain it to us, she just huffed and looked at us as if we were idiots--we never got an explanation from her.

    Xan, I'm like you, I like to know about things so I dig and ask questions. Before agreeing to private lessons, I had talked to the skating school director and gone to the USFS club exhibition and open house to ask questions about skating. The club representatives, who were supposed to be there to answer the questions of perspective members, had no information and couldn't answer the few questions I had. They didn't seem disorganized so much as elusive and some secret society and I didn't know their secret handshake.

  3. Helicopter Mom--you won the Ice Halo! I've been trying to figure out how to contact you--send your shipping info to

  4. Anon 5:59-- I KNEW there was something. I never learned the secret handshake!

  5. Xan, I cheated. I dated a male skater.

  6. LOL @ Babbette, quick and dirty way to know it all. Hope our rink wiki can benefit new skaters / parents, I certainly learned things the hard way.

    Merry Christmas Xan, thank you for excellent blogging all year around! Wish you all the best at the new position!!!