Oct 27, 2013

Boys and teasing

Two boys suiting up for hockey. One jumps up and asks the other-- hey!!! do you like singing? Isn't singing fun? Second boy says singing is stupid. First boy agrees. Singing is stupid. The parents, who are all there, do not say anything. The parents of the singer (and they must know this child thinks singing is fun) simply allow their child to confirm that singing is stupid.

And that is how it starts. That is why it is so difficult for boys to be artists in our society.

Or figure skaters.

I've seen hockey coaches making fun of the boys in figure skating (who by the way could kick most of their skaters' asses). I have seen many many skating directors push boys into hockey, whether or not the child has expressed an interest.  Even at the tot level the non-hockey classes at many rinks are overwhelmingly female. That's not an accident.

It's common to see figure skating teachers recommend hockey for kids who seem like they'd enjoy that. I have never heard of a hockey coach suggesting that a kid switch to figure skating, although it defies imagination that no hockey coach has ever encountered a child who might be a better figure skater than hockey skater. When I proposed this to a hockey coach once he told me that they encourage the kids who don't like hockey to switch to football or soccer. For real.

My son was a musician from infancy; fortunately so is his father; he also went to a school that very much honored artists whatever their gender so he never experienced the type of input that I observed at the rink between those two boys.

At the rink figure skating boys do not get anything but support within the figure skating community. But at home and in school they need positive reinforcement; the idiots who equate art with homosexuality (because that is frankly at the heart of it) need to be educated. Here are some suggestions, if you have a boy in figure skating:

Throw a skating birthday party for the boys
In addition to making skating seem like a normal thing to do, it also takes the mystery out of it. Let the hockey boys see how well your boy skates. Let the non-skaters see how hard this is. With older boys, a skating party has the additional benefit of demonstrating how popular your figure skating boy is with the girls, because God has not created an individual more popular with the girls than a high school boy who skates well. 

Bring the cub scouts
or other youth group. Figure skating is accepted for the sports pin. Many rinks partner with local girl scouts groups for their badge (girl scouts has an actual figure skating badge); see if you can get your rink to do a program like this for boy scouts, or set up the necessary documentation for regular classes. More about boy scouts and skating here. (Thanks Blue Eyed Cat for the link.)

Create classes for boys
Segregated classes, especially for middle and high school boys, has been a strategy for dance companies for decades.  Older boys don't want to look stupid to girls, and very few middle schoolers want to take a Pre-alpha class with 5 year olds. Boys also have very different pacing and learning styles than a lot of girls-- they need classes that move faster, that have less standing around, and that involve an unavoidable level of crashing into walls (just kidding, haha no I'm not). Further, by middle school, the girls are really good and the boys feel dumb stumbling around in front of them.  The thing is that athletic kids who start skating at 9 or 10 or even older very quickly catch up. You don't have to start skating at 4 to be doing doubles by high school. Get them into boys-only classes and by the time they're in high school they'll be all caught up.

Honor the boys
There are lots of pictures of hockey boys at every rink I've ever worked at. Yet even at rinks where there have been extremely successful skaters there are no pictures of boys in figure skates (we're talking Ben Agosto-Jason Brown level of success. But no pictures). This is partially a structural problem-- the hockey shrines are generally funded by booster clubs, which tend not to exist in figure skating. This is another one where parents of boys need to talk to rink management about making sure that there is an affirmative action plan, so to speak, that gets the boys recognized.

Our society needs to get over its conflating of artistic talent and homosexuality, which is what is at the heart of this. (And not to get cliche'd , but 'not that there's anything wrong with that'). Parents of figure skating boys are the front line in the battle.

What have you done to help promote boys' involvement in figure skating (and this goes for the parents of girls, too)?

Oct 6, 2013

Happy Anniversary!

Just wanted to pop in quickly and say Happy Birthday to Xanboni. I put up my first post on this day in 2009, and I have lots more to say (albeit more infrequently than in the past).

The best part of the blog is the great friends I've made online, so shout out to Blue Eyed Cat, Jeff Chapman (LA Skate Dad), Josette Plank, Maria Mom of 2, a couple of Anons whose voices I now recognize, Jenny from Ice Charades, the late lamented Ice Mom (blog, as far as I know, Ice Mom herself is fine), "St. Lidwina," and many many others.

Let me know your favorite posts from the past 4 years in the comments!



(P.S. Thanks, http://www.claryandersonarena.com/ for the image!)