Jan 16, 2012

What to wear

With the new (and always biggest) skating class session starting this week, the "what were they thinking" outfits are showing up. Here's some don'ts and how to fix them:

Tots in competition garb
I know grandma got Princess the sparkly dress for Christmas, but since it has spaghetti straps and a super short skirt, Princess is going to be Ice Princess, as in frozen solid. Let her wear the dress, with a long sleeved shirt and a heavy sweater, plus AT LEAST sweatpants, or better yet snow pants if she's under the age of 6. Pull the skirt out of the pants a little bit so everyone can admire the sparkles.

Even little beginners who can stand up and glide are going to spend a lot of time sitting on the ice, because we teach falling down a LOT in beginner classes, partially for safety, partially for skill, and partially to take away the fear of falling. If your kid's butt is frozen every time she falls, you're working at odds to her enjoyment of skating. Pretty clothes will not motivate a child to skate. Having fun in class will motivate her, and if she's cold, she's not having fun.

Ready for the NHL
While grandma was getting Princess ready for the Olympics, apparently grandpa got Stanley Cup fever, and outfitted Junior in full armor. Here's the deal--unless the skater (boy or girl) is in a "full equipment" hockey class (and in some beginner classes it's optional, so ask the coach), the only parts of the gear s/he should be wearing is the helmet and the gloves, and I'm on the fence about the gloves.

And, no, you cannot bring your stick to class.

Cleavage? What cleavage?

I'm not all that crazy about the cleavage at the Golden Globes. I should not be seeing it on a 14 year old in skating class. For pity's sake, get dressed. And, mom? Please introduce your child to the concept of the "sports bra" because the bouncing isn't all that attractive either, and I can't say anything without losing my job. Also don't want to be seeing any belly-buttons, tramp stamps, or god help me, butt cleavage.

Junior coach
If you are a junior coach or a volunteer coach, then you are a coach and should dress the part. This means a coat, preferably one that fits properly, and coaching pants, either insulated ski-type pants or yoga pants--no jeans, baggy pajamas, or rips. You should also be wearing gloves, or at least mitts (fingerless gloves, so you can write if you need to.) Dress like a professional.

Some general guidelines
All skaters need clothes that breath (i.e. nothing made of that parachute cloth stuff), that you can move in,  that doesn't obscure vision, and that fits properly. It's mid November (northern US) in an ice rink: 24º or 28º right at the ice surface, and 45º to 50º three feet up. It's just not that cold out there, so you don't need 2 snow suits (yes, I had a tot once where we couldn't figure out why he couldn't move. Turns out his folks had put him in TWO nested snow suits.) Snow pants are fine on very young children, but no one needs a parka, which are almost always 4 sizes too big, and are way too warm.

For beginner and recreational skaters a good rule of thumb is three layers on top and two on the bottom-- so a tshirt or camy, a long sleeve* cotton shirt and a heavy sweater or sweatshirt (no hood), or athletic jacket. On the bottom two pairs of heavy skating tights and a skirt, or one pair of tights with long pants.  Freestyle skaters, with the single admonition of modesty, are going to know what's comfortable for them.

Careful with yoga pants, which have wide bells that can catch blades. Pants in general should just hit the floor, or about an inch above, in bare feet. Pants that puddle in bare feet are going to be dangerously long on the ice. They also need to be mid-rise or hi-rise, because low rise pants create cleavage at the other end. As I've said before, you would not believe the number of children's butts I have had the misfortune to see. (Just don't even get me started on the concept of low rise pants on people with no hips, but that's a different blog.)

If your child is skating in class, s/he should be wearing gloves. Not giant padded mittens, but just those stretchy things. Padded mittens come off, and they are MUCH too warm. Don't get really fuzzy ones, which can stick to rough ice. Gloves are not so much for warmth (as I've said, it's not that cold), but for safety and comfort. Kids who fall with no gloves will often refuse to attempt to get up on their own because they don't want to put their hands down on the ice. If they do, they run the risk of another child running them over with a blade, which will cut them. It happens all the time. Gloves don't stop this from hurting, but do stop the injury. Just tell your child it's a rule. Children respect rules.

Your best guide to dressing properly is not aesthetics, it's common sense. Dress for November, and think about hazards you're likely to encounter on the ice.
* Shameless self-promotion. Don't forget about the contest! Think of a t-shirt slogan or design and send me an email!  Details here: http://tinyurl.com/XanboniContest


  1. Xan,
    Why gloves on Junior Coach? Is is for safety or? DS likes to do his volunteer coaching with bare hands, but would wear gloves if this is better...

  2. It's about modeling the behavior that you want to see. If you want the kids to wear gloves, then you should wear gloves.

  3. All parents should read this.

    Another reason for Junior Coaches to wear gloves: they are the ones who usually spend the most time with the kids who can't get up (not the coach who has a ton of other kids to wrangle). If a kid is NOT in gloves, I often put my hands on the ice, and have them set their hands on top of mine to get them to stand up. I've left handprints in the ice when it takes them a long time..gloves prevent that (and then also, I don't have to be cold. There is a reason the kid is refusing to touch the ice...)

    Does your rink have a coach dress code? Our coaches don't wear jackets, unless they are actually cold (our rink is not always cold, even in the winter). And almost all of them coach in jeans.

  4. The Ice Rink of the Damned did not have a dress code, nor did they provide coaching attire for their staff. Every other rink I've worked at provided jackets at the very least, and many provide insulated over-pants as well. I think it looks really sharp for there to be a coaching uniform provided by the rink.

  5. An aside about coach clothing: We have a male coach who starts out practice ice in an insulated skating jacket, then strips that off to a light windbreaker and by the time group starts he's in a tight white T-shirt over his flat abs and bulging muscles.
    I'm not sure how I feel about that.

    Back on topic. I was at the rink this morning when it was 15°. Since I don't jump or spin, I wear a fleece hat when I skate. It has never been a problem. I was wondering why you left that off the list for the kids. Do you see a problem with it falling off, or over kids eyes? Having one on, certainly is very warming.

    1. @Babbette, Most rinks require tots and beginners to wear helmets -- which makes a hat impossible. Although our rink is notoriously very cold (coaches wear ski pants over other pants, as well as padded parkas and hats), I get so hot skating that I often find myself peeling off layers as I work. (I do jump and spin -- though not well.) I would imagine that by the time most kids are beyond the helmet requirement, they are also at the point where they are working hard enough that a hat would be too much.

    2. Just a total space out! I like hats on tots; again, even tots who "won't wear hats" will wear them if you make it a rule, and don't have mom at the door undermining it. Helmets are a whole topic on their own. I would almost rather NOT see helmets because people make really bad choices about proper helmets.

  6. @Xan and Jessim
    Thanks, for the glove etiquette. Both reasons totally make sense. DS will be wearing gloves this week at LTS... if we can get through the snow that is...

    About Jackets and pants. Would be great if the rink provided the uniform, but unfortunately, we have to purchase them...He did get a name tag though LOL...

    1. On the plus side, if you had to purchase them, you get to keep them. I've had to leave jackets EVEN WITH MY NAME ON THEM at rinks when I've left.

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  8. Good stuff as usual!

    I'd point out that not everyone lives where it's cold though! Around here (Phx) telling people to dress for "November weather" would be shorts and t-shirts for half of them. :-)

    1. In my defense, you'll note that it says "November (northern US)" ;)

  9. My daughter skates in a quad-pad rink. The rink closest to the condenser is absolutely frigid and then they get progressive warmer as they get further away. On the rink farthest from the condenser, it's typical for skaters to start off with a jacket and end up with a tee or athletic tank top. On the coldest, my daughter wears a tank top, a t-shirt, a fitted polar fleece jacket and gloves and still comes off the ice red-faced and shivering. Seasons don't seem to change that. I wish they'd figure out a way to level the temps more.

  10. My rink is in a shopping centre (a mall, I guess you'd call it over there) - it's comfortable shirt sleeves temperature if you're stationary (probably about 18 to 20C). As soon as you start to do anything, it's roasting! I'm skating in a thin t-shirt and leggings (sometimes jeans), mostly, and I'm still too warm!

  11. "adjust for local conditions" ;)