Thursday, January 13, 2011

Why I am a Firm Believer in Standards

I've been mulling over the whole "Standards" issue and how it relates to Pre-Freestyle Skaters. I've been watching and making the casual observation that PreStyle skaters don't get taken very seriously at Home Rink. (Which is odd, because, where do they think Freestyle skaters come from? The sky?)

If getting the Level Patch involves a Formal Test and a Formal Process that is separate from the regular old Group Class test, then that is a clear indication that the Group Class test is not held to Standard. I can hear the chorus now; "Who cares? It's just one foot glides, good is as good enough!"

Wrong! Good Enough Excuses build weak foundational skills, and that cripples the child in the long run.

History lesson: I was a Girl Scout. I took swimming lessons from the time I was eight until I was sixteen. I'm a passable swimmer; I was obviously never going to win any swim meets but I won't drown. I did the basic Polliwog through Fish Group Classes at the Y. There came a year when I wanted to do a Summer Canoeing camp; two weeks prep and four days on the open water in the Chesapeake Bay. Beautiful! The Camp sent a letter back, indicating that my swimming had to pass a certain level before I could be allowed to take it. This makes sense, I had to be of a certain caliber to stand up to the tides and flows of a Big Bay. No Problem, I thought. Fix my breaststroke, learn basic Butterfly, and off I go!

How wrong I was.

I got told by the Y that my Group Classes actually were just "good enough" passing marks, and not actually up to the Standards held by the Girl Scouts. My breaststroke didn't need fixing, it needed a complete overhaul. I spent February to April in the pool with a nasty swimming coach, who jerked my legs out of their sloppy overkick and spent a lot of time sighing at the Herculean task ahead of her. I worked my ass off. I was thirteen. Eventually, it got fixed, but just in the nick of time. The paperwork indicating "pass" had the postdate of the deadline on it. I nearly missed the Camping trip of a lifetime, which I still hold dear memories of. (Ah, the night we roasted wild-caught blue crab, and stinging nettles rising to the surface of the water... magic.)

The point is, me and my mom got lied to for years. When it counted, when the test results really mattered, I had to make up the difference with my own kahunas or quit.

I can see that Skating has a lot of foundational skills here in the PreStyle Levels, and these foundations need to be taken every bit as seriously as a jump. To blow them off now, to let them slide, means that kids will get to their highest level on incompetence, hit a wall, blame themselves and quit. That's bullshit, all of it, but especially the "blame themselves" part.

So, Skating Universe, like it or not, I'm going to be in the stands with your own curricula. I'm not going to let this stuff slide, because I try to not repeat mistakes. Standards matter. The day I came face to face with a series of rapids on the Upper James with a lot of boils and a big fat standing wave that upended our canoe, I was glad I had that nasty swimming coach. While Skating Standards may not save a child's life, they may help preserve their spirit.

(Edit: I remembered later that it wasn't the Scouts' swimming standards, it was the Red Cross Standards. Which has made me think about getting myself recertified in First Aid/CPR.)


  1. This tiny corner of the skating universe thinks you rock! Can't tell you how often I watch kids jump & spin but blow chunks when it comes to cross over. In a minute, I am going to wake up JoyBoy and get him ready for his skating skills class with Xan.
    ps I think FS skaters are purchased at Rainbo. They come in a package with $65.00 pants & $150 Zuca bags and a license to bitch about the cost of skating.

  2. I see kids in Gamma and Delta who catch toepicks on forward stroking. Like, big fat, crunching toepick sounds. Eeeennnggghh!!!

    I hope you and JoyBoy had fun skating this morning, and we know he's getting good solid skillz! I think that in addition to the Ballet for Skaters class, there needs to be a Manners and Personal Grace Class for Skaters. (this sounds like my grandmother talking...)

  3. Easier to keep a roll of duct tape handy than to teach manners & grace.

  4. Everyone you talk to in skating insists that all standards are the same, that all coaches adhere to rigorous, common goals and that there is no such thing as either "sandbagging" (holding kids back from tests in order to have them compete at a low level, thus assuring them a win) or pushing kids through the levels before they are ready.

    And I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you.

  5. @Beth, I had a thought to put a Boo Box in the rink...

    @Xan, it's just frustrating. And the Sandbagging concept is infuriating. Makes it hard to maintain a Zen attitude.