Friday, October 15, 2010

No More YouTube Skating Vids.

If you hop on YouTube and type in "Pre-Alpha Skating Competition" looking for some encouragement, you won't find it. You won't see some little kid stumbling over a toepick or windmilling backwards. What you WILL find is a bunch of videos from parents who label their wunderkind kids as "Little Future Champion" or "OMG LOOK Future Olympian!!!"

Don't get me wrong, these kids are great skaters. They are typically just out of their OshKosh diaper covers and can move a Waltz Jump and One Foot Spin. If you, as a parent, were looking for some way to increase your Parental Inferiority Complex, this is the fastest method. If you ever wanted to sit alone at the dining room table after dark, mulling over your budget numbers with a bottle of bourbon and thinking, "Maybe if I stopped eating, I could squeeze in another six lessons per month," then start looking at the various Wunderkind Vids on the internet.

What's important to remember when watching these videos, (and I've stopped) is that Figure Skating does cost money, and no little girl of five learned a sit spin in once-a-week group lessons. This has more to do with money than talent. Talent makes it possible, but Money is what pays for the Private Coaching.

Here's a good series. This kid is two, but she has a Private Coach and the Rink to Herself. What. The. Fuck. And of course, mom has posted an entire series of her little Darling's progression, and how TALUHNTED she is. Well, duh, lady. Hell, throw me in a rink for a few hours a day with a private coach giving me Nilla Wafers for every crossover and I'd be a lumpy Michelle Kwan in a year. Most people can learn to ice skate competently, given time and good coaching.

Sure, these kids are talented. But there are years ahead of them. ISU rules have written out any future Tara Lipinski’s, sorry. These "Future Olympians" may get shot down by early arthritis from all the jumps, be downed by an injury, be burned out in general before they hit twelve, or just be hit by plain bad luck before they ever hit the Olympic running. Calling a five year old a "Future Olympian" is unfair for everyone involved. So, Little Muffy who can do an Axel at ten breaks an ankle and is out for a year. During this year, she decides to take up Softball. Mom's already dumped tons of cash, emotional energy into figure skating, (not to mention all the time she took bathing in and responding to the endless accolades online) is anyone going to believe for a moment that mom won't be mad at the switch? I watch "Toddlers and Tiaras," I know she's gonna be PISSED!

I feel confident that if I had the resources and time, and Stitch had the patience to actually be instructed rather than picking things up through osmosis, he would be rocking the rink in no time. But I don't, and he doesn't, and if I pushed, he'd quit. Period.

I love to daydream as much as the next person about what a great person my kid could be, but he's seven. It's not wise of me to pigeonhole him into something as specific and long-shotty as "FIGURE SKATER.” I'd much rather see him as an engineer with Union Pacific, frankly. Or firefighter. Or Day Care Owner. Or any of the other random life choices that pop up from time to time. The Figure Skating is supposed to be a fun sport for him, that's all. Of course I'm proud that he's good at it, and I’m pretty confident I will shed a prideful tear or six, but I don't think it's a wise career choice. I would be much prouder of a son that figured out how to run a high speed passenger rail system across the North American Continent than I would an Olympic Figure Skater. (Not to mention a lot richer at the end of the day.)

Tara Lipinski rocked the Olympics at fifteen, but after that she had a string of bad injuries and a mediocre acting career playing bit roles simply because she was OMG TARA LIPINSKI. Surely we, as parents, can do better than tossing out one trick ponies to the world.

After I run across one of these Skating Wunderkind Vids, I take comfort in the moms becoming Internet Panhandlers for “sponsors” to continue funding their Unrealistic Expectations, and then perform a ritual mind cleanse by watching Chimps perform Spread Eagles and Ice Dance.


  1. I'm reading through your archives and just found this post. That video of the 2-year old is the best thing I've seen on the internet.

    I teach lots of kids like that- in tots classes. A private instructor (who isn't even being allowed to instruct because the Mom is doing it from the sidelines) on glistening private ice for a kid that age is hysterical!

    We had a 4-year old wonderkid at our rink. She had most her "doubles" (the coach was overly generous in calling that) but the Mom was frustrated that he wouldn't let her test. She couldn't- she could do her routines and jumps and spins, but couldn't control the edges well enough to do even the basic moves in the field... I haven't seen her in the rink for 2 years- burned out at 4...

  2. There's a lot of series like that, usually with a star wipe and a "where it all began" montage. Now, don't get me wrong, I make montage videos, too... But I'm not priming them as fluff for their Nationals debut!