Sep 14, 2015

I can't afford lessons!

When you get to the jumps and the competitions, you can't do it on your own any more.

You literally cannot compete without a coach-- it's against the rules. Jumps and advanced spins are complex and sometimes counter-intuitive. Trying to figure them out on your own is ineffective and not safe. Having another skater who is not a coach help you is, um, ineffective and not safe. Having another skater who is a coach help you is exploitive. Here are some options:

Take every class you can find
This is easier, obviously, in a large market. In any market, if you're an adult skater you're likely to have to take Freestyle 2 with a bunch of 8 year olds. Unless the rink specifically prohibits it, (some do), just go for it.

Share lessons
Every rink I know allows coaches to do lessons with two kids at a time; many allow 3, and some even allow four or more.

Space the lessons out
And ask the coach for week-by-week goals and to designate some milestones in between. You might be able to get away with a lesson every 2 to 3 weeks. Be prepared to be extremely flexible, however, as the coach is going to give priority to her regular students.

By the minute
See if a coach will give you ten- or fifteen-minute single-skill lessons. It will be slower, but this is actually remarkably effective.

Do you have a desirable skill? Set up the coach's website, or do his books, or I don't know, mow his lawn. 

Get another job
People do this, but it doesn't have to be drive a bus on the overnight shift. It can be make skating costumes, or work in the concession stand a few hours a week.

Make the kid get a job.
Many teenaged skaters do this.

Save up 
And then blow it all at once-- spend six months saving for three months of lessons. In the interim, do some or all of the things above.

It's an expensive sport
Finally, there is actually the option of not taking lessons. This is an especially difficult decision to reach if you have to tell a talented child who loves to skate that you can't afford it. But it's another reason that I love skating-- it's an amazing place for life lessons.

What have you done to help with the cost of lessons?


  1. "You literally cannot compete without a coach-- it's against the rules. "

    Can you say which rule this is? Is it new? Only ISI?

    I've entered both ISI and USFSA competitions without a coach. And there have been skaters at USFSA Nationals without a coach (not only present, but also reported to not be working with a coach at the current time.)

    1. A member if USFS/PSA/ISI in good standing must sign the registration form, and if you want someone to stand with you at the ice, they must be members of USFS plus either PSA or ISI, depending on the competition, in order to get credentials. These rules went into effect in the past 10 years. If you're thinking of someone like Michelle Kwan competing without a coach (and we saw how well that went), I believe that occurred before the rules tightened up. And even she got her father credentialed so she would have someone at the ice with her.

    2. OK, my own blog is not letting me comment. Anyway, I suppose you don't have to have a coaching relationship to get a form signed, but you certainly have to have a coach sign the form. At the Nationals level, one assumes a certain level of familiarity with the process. Sending a child to a USFS or even an ISI competition without a professional coach who knows how it works would be irresponsible, in my opinion.

  2. The skater could take lessons on public to save on freestyle fees.

    1. Unless a skater can attend a middle-of-the-day public session when the ice is empty, most rinks prohibit freestyle lessons (or at least jumps) on crowded public ice, and even if they allow it, it's not a good option for a higher level skater. Just no room, and not very safe.

    2. Also worth mentioning, some rinks have "scholarships" to assist skaters who show talent but are otherwise underfunded. Check with the skating school director.

  3. Nice post, Xan! Skating is so expensive. I always cringe whenever I hear about someone self teaching themselves jumps and spins. IMO, stuff up to crossovers and Mohawks are okay, but I draw the line at spins and jumps. And even then, self teaching at all probably isn't great for a serious skater.

    I think sometimes cutting out other things can help too. Buying coffee from the cafe every morning and spending money on overpriced food (some caf├ęs charge like $5 a muffin!) is a total waste of money. If the skater does other activities, they may have to stop and pool the money towards skating.

    Of course, there's always the second mortgage option or downsizing their house, but that's less than ideal and way out of range for 99% of the skating population.

    I guess in the end, if someone doesn't have the money they just have to wait. The ice will always be there! I like the idea of it being a life lesson. :)

  4. Honestly, helping your kid choose a good coach is one of the most important things a parent can do...

    For a serious skater, their coach is like a third parent.


    I ultimately took the final option. For me switching to roller skating (mostly outdoors) was a good choice - although setting myself up with roller skates was expensive, and there's ongoing maintenance, skating outdoors is cheaper than paying for sessions. And since I was never a particularly good figure skater, being able to skate trails enables me to have new skating experiences without learning new skills. :)

    As a late starter/adult skater, I didn't have the option of a competitive career anyway, and I can always go back to skating if my financial situation changes. As you say, this would be much more difficult with a young, talented skater who had a shot at competing, though.

  6. We have no coach. One coach in town and they are a LTS coach. They make do until we can travel outside the state for training.