Dec 30, 2012

Staying safe on the ice

Who got skates for Christmas? Don't suppose you managed to get safety equipment, too, hmmm? Here's an overview:

All beginners should wear head protection. Period. I would love to see the federations start requiring it for everyone, but I'm a well-known maverick. As regular readers of this blog know, I'm sold on the Ice Halo. It's comfortable, stylish and functional for skating.  Other good choices are skateboard helmets, which have forehead protection, and a flat back. Bike helmets are not a good choice. The pointy backs on some helmets can snap your head forward if you fall backwards, adding whiplash to the injury.

Helmets must fit. A helmet that is too big or too small is essentially the same as no helmet at all. Do not wear a hat under the helmet. If you think you'll be cold without, get a do-rag, which will provide enough wind protection to keep your head warm. (Do rags are great for hockey players-- they keep the hair out of your face without having to resort to girl-stuff like scrunchies.)

Helmet alternatives
A soft hat is better than a helmet that doesn't fit. The Ice Halo is even better.

Wrist guards
I wouldn't hate to see all adult beginners in wrist guards. Adults commonly brace falls on their wrists, rather than aiming for tuck and roll. It's an instinct, very hard to fight. Wrist guards are the answer, plus they're unobtrusive.

Knee pads
I see more knee pads creating problems than solving them. If you feel you need them, don't get pads that stick out and catch on themselves or your clothing-- try to find the ace-bandage type that have a soft pad over the knee, rather than strap-on braces. Knee pads, especially on children, should not be made of slick plastic, because you won't be able to put your knee on the ice when trying to stand up--you'll just slide. Cover them with fabric, or put them under your clothes.

Hockey equipment
Are you in a game or scrimmage? Go for it-- full regalia. Are you messing around with your buds? I think you can skip the shoulder pads, at least. Shin guards should ALWAYS be covered with socks, otherwise it's an open invitation to sliding games, otherwise known as bowling on the ice, with the hockey boy as the bowling ball, and YOU as the pin. Or better yet, skip everything but the helmet when you're just out there for fun, you little wimps. 

A must for little kids. Gloves will avert more injuries than any other single item in a class or crowded public session. When little kids fall, they tend to stay on the ice, and they tend to put their hands on the ice. If another skater runs into their bare hands, they will get cut. With gloves on, even thin gloves, it just hurts. No gloves also means they'll need help getting up, because they won't want to put their hands down on the cold surface.

Not being stupid
• Don't carry things. No cameras. No purses. For pity's sake, no small children.
• Don't hold hands, or, if you do, remember to let go if someone starts to fall. If you hold hands, remember that this is not a guarantee of keeping your feet.
• Crack the whip, and pinwheels. Well, I'm not crazy about crack the whip, but I'm a known wimp. Don't play this game unless EVERYONE on the ice is involved and the guards are okay with it.
• Hot dogging. Like to go fast and crazy? Find an empty session. Hot dogging on crowded public ice doesn't prove your a good skater. It just proves you're an asshole.
• Public sessions. Not for multiple rotation jumps, hot dogging (see above). running programs, backward spirals, et cetera, unless it's one of those midday sessions that are empty.

Ice injuries are rare
If you skate only occasionally your odds are good against injury, even if you're not very good. Falls on the ice hurt, and are scary, but seldom result in injury. If you skate a lot, the odds go up, and you should consider some of the recommendations above. Beginner classes, in my opinion, should require head protection, and many rinks now do require this in tot classes. If your rink does not require helmets for tots or hockey classes, make them tell you why.

Dec 27, 2012

What's wrong with adult skaters?

There is no single group of skaters more vulnerable to dislike than what I call Adult Onset Skaters. Please note that I don't endorse, or share, these opinions. Just giving you the low down on the haters. So what is it that annoys people so much?

Out of place 
Girls Rule at ice rinks. Adults, especially at the lower levels, just look out of place, especially on freestyle sessions. In a universe largely populated by pre-adolescent girls and skinny superstars, standing out is the original sin. And there's this giant on our pretty ice. And it isn't only, or even mostly, the kids who resent us-- a lot of coaches are extremely resentful of adults on "their" ice. You'll find people don't resent you, and in fact don't notice you, if you learn how to fit in-- don't show up in a parka and snow pants; keep moving, follow the standard ice patterns, don't yell at people for "getting in your way" (they aren't).

Personally, I like slow ice. Find me ice full of skaters moving at a lumbering gait, and I'm a happy camper. Freestyle ice moves FAST. On a typical freestyle session, in fact, slow-moving (or worse, unmoving) skaters are a hazard. If you've got to skate on a fast session, learn the rules of the road. Don't hog one spot--move around the rink.  KEEP MOVING! The worst thing you can do is stop in the middle of the ice. Understand the patterns (no circles of cross overs in the lutz corner), etc.

We startle easily. A lot of adults freak if someone skates within a couple of body lengths, especially if they're going fast. But if you watch practice sessions, you'll notice that collisions are relatively rare (spectacular mishaps at the Olympics, Grand Prix and other elite competitions notwithstanding). This can be extremely annoying to other skaters, especially if you make a big deal out of it. If someone is outside the reach of your arm, they aren't close.

I can't work if anyone else is on the ice. I'm worried about where they are, what they're doing, whether they are judging me. This makes me skittish, and slow.

Adults, unlike most kids, are not at the rink to meet people. We do, of course, meet people at the rink. But the kinds of adults you find working on skating (as opposed to recreating), are usually extremely focused and can come off as unfriendly or even rude. Mostly I think, though, they're just shell-shocked from all the hate and have retreated into their happy place and screw you anyway.

We aren't, actually. But it's one of the criticisms you hear from coaches about why they don't like to work with adults.

So what do you do with the haters? Well, happily, you're not a pre-adolescent girl anymore, so who cares what they think. Get out there and skate!

Dec 8, 2012

There are other skating blogs?

Help me out. A couple of my favorite skating blogs, like Ice Mom, Axels Loops and Spins, and Mr. Zamboni man, have stopped writing!

Here's what I'm still reading, find me some more and I'll add them to my resources page!

A former show skater with an attitude: Ice Charades 
Hockey Mom with toe picks: Ice Pact 
A champions' mom (if your kid competes, read this): Life on the Edge 
A former champion's mom:  Raising Skaters
An adult skater with a sense of humor: The Ice Doesn't Care 
The Executive Director of the Professional Skaters Association: Over the Edge 
There are skate dads?: l.a. skate dad 
Currently in archive, but really worth the read: Ice Mom  
Indepth videos on skating issues and skills: ManleyWoman Skatecast
Skating mom with a wicked outlook: Josette Plank

I'd really love to learn about a skating blog like Mr. Zamboni Man and Axels Loops and Spins that goes beyond fangirl/fanboy gushing and party-line regurgitation.

What do you read, and why? Include the link!

Dec 4, 2012

What to get the coach for Christmas (redux)

I first posted this in 2010. Here are my thoughts on gifts for coaches, with some updates!

For some reason that escapes me, a lot of parents are hell-bent on giving gifts to their skating coaches. And it fills them with anxiety. It's a weird sort of relationship-- this is your employee, but on the other hand the coach is kind of the boss. Plus, she's your friend? Or not? Personally, I love getting those clumsy hand-made pictures from the little kids, or a "certificate" promising no back talk for a month from the teenagers. But parents persist-- they want to give presents.

So what do you get your skating coach?

A bonus.

That's right. Give your coach a bonus. Your coach is your employee. I do understand that he or she is also your friend, and that you entrust her with your precious child (I mean that in the best way, no sarcasm intended), but in general, this is not someone you would otherwise have much of a connection to.

Now, because of the intimate nature of the relationship, sometimes parents are uncomfortable with handing over extra cash. It seems so cold. So make it a gift card to a local department store like Target or Macy's, or a pre-paid Visa card that can be used anywhere. If there's a concession stand at your rink, see if you can set up an "account" for your coach with a set amount of money in it.

If you really insist on an item, make it coaching related: the latest hard cover "tell all" book about skating scandals, or a pair of gloves or a scarf. I wear those little trading pins all over my coaching jackets, and I had a student once get me a collection of Olympic figure skating ones. A very thoughtful gift. (I confess, while I personally don't care if you get me a gift, I do like swag as much as the next person.)

I knew a coach who had a system that just made me shudder: she actually steers her kids toward a certain store that she likes, and tells everyone to get her a gift card from there. I guess there's a certain practicality to that, but my grandmother would be rolling in her grave.

A Tweep asks: is there a formula for how much to give? And you'll be happy to hear that, yes, there is. A week's lesson fee. If you take one lesson per week, then Christmas or Hanukkah week, double the check, with a notation in the memo line "holiday bonus." This might seem like a lot if you're doing multiple lessons, for instance national qualifiers will be paying upwards of $500 per week for multiple lessons approaching unlimited. This seems like a big bonus, yes? On the other hand that coach got your skater to Nationals. Or helped her land her triple salchow. Or doubled her component score in a season. Or just spent a lot of time nurturing your child. Work it into the budget.

If your coach is only working with you once a week, then I think it's fine to just send a card, or yes, that $10 Starbucks gift card. (I confess, the $5 cards drive me crazy-- so, I spent a year with your kid, and you're, um, buying me a cup of coffee? I have gotten $2 cards, which doesn't EVEN pay for a cup of coffee. Really, folks, think about this. Better to do nothing but "Happy Holidays" and a hug.) The more lessons you're getting, the more progress your skater is making, the more you really should be considering this not as a Christmas present, but as a bonus for a job well done.

P.S. to my parents reading this: I like unmarked, non-sequential bills in small denominations and condo timeshares in Aruba. No no no, just kidding. Adorable pictures and hugs are fine.

Here's the late great Ice Mom on the topic, and some very specific suggestions from The Examiner (old article, internal links may not work).

Are you giving your coach a holiday gift?

Dec 2, 2012

Outdoor skating with my honey!

Xan and Wei-Gung happy as can be!
S - K -A -T -I -N -G!

Yes, of course those are Ice-Halos we are wearing! (They just won a nice award!)

Do you have an outdoor rink near you?