Thursday, May 26, 2011

Competition Guide for the Skate Mom

We're forty some days out from the comp and I'm thinking, "Huh. Hope this works out." For my first comp almost a year ago, when we were forty some days out, I was in full-on freakout mode. Notice the difference.

It's not that I've hit some level of apathy and don't care anymore, it's that I've gotten comfortable with the process, with Stitch's ability, and I'm more prepared. I've doing what I can do to ensure success and the rest is comfortably out of my hands. If we just get one of the two practice ice slots I signed up for, great. If we get both, we're golden. Stitch is out of classes but as far as I know, has lots of time with Coach available. He's shown that he can pick up pretty much whatever she throws at him, and there's nothing terribly new in the level she wants him to be at. My only concern is the "Dance Step Sequence" thing, but if it's anything like The Three Turn Nightmare, my fears are unfounded.

In short, I'm sewing and I'm relaxed. And a Three Day Weekend means I'll complete the beaded vest and the Pink Panther Ensemble easily.

Everyone focuses on the kids for comps, but no one pays much attention to The Moms. Christina Chitwood wrote a great blog post on how to prepare Kids for comps. Make idle chatter, keep the mood light, let them know falling is okay and to keep going, and that doing their best is the goal.

Well, that's the Kids. I'm going to tell you, Skate Moms, how to prepare and handle Comps. We're a big factor in this equation, and we're often overlooked. If you're anything like me, you start to get cold sweats at the slightest hint of your kid being judged, or falling and being embarassed, or heaven forbid some other kids laugh at his attempts. So let's arm ourselves.

Papers. Get the packet from Coach or the Internet, fill it out, get it back to the Coach for signatures and await orders. Sometimes she will turn it in for me, another time I had to mail it myself. In any case, consider yourself responsible for enrollment.

Music. Some Coaches apparently cut music for their kids. I do mine myself, and I'm not alone. I know a few moms who cut their own stuff. Call us control freaks, but I've noticed my music typically stands out, and it allows the Kid greater control. Yes, Stitch has a solid say in his music.

Practice. I used to make Stitch run his program at least twice every time he got on the ice from the time he learned it until a day or so before the comp. He does this now on his own. Just hops on, runs the program a few times, then goes off to harass guards. Keep your eye out for Practice Ice time so they can run it with the music as much as possible. Make sure there's adequate time with Coach.

Costume. I've got this covered. Costume is my stress outlet, but other people just buy theirs and add frouf and glitter to trick it out. Have the costume ready to go at least two weeks prior to day, and have them skate in it a few times. Watch for things that might fall off. Ask "Is it itchy? Can you move okay in it? Does it stick you anywhere? Any complaints?" This gives the Kid time to get comfortable in the Costume and you time to correct problems.

Skates. I sharpen skates about a week prior to a comp or show. It kills me when I see a kid fall and it's clearly a blade issue, not a mistake on their part. That's a Skate Mom sleeping on the job.

Locale. You're probably going to be competing in a different rink. Visit their website, get the Public Skate times, and take a road trip over there. This gets you familiar with the location, the venue, and where key things are like judge location, audience orientation, bathrooms, and dressing rooms. Have the Kid skating on their ice also helps, because there is a difference in feel between hard ice and soft ice. This is all about ease and comfort.

Schedule. You'll get your kid's specific skating times about a week prior to the day. Post this in a place the Kid can see.

Day Before The Big Day. If your Kid is skating today, don't make them run it if they don't want to. I let it rest. Sometimes Stitch will be nervous and want to run it, to which I shrug and say, "If it will make you feel better about it, go ahead." In my opinion, Skate Cramming (or Skramming as I've dubbed it) only feeds nervous energy and doesn't quell it.

Polish boots, pack up the Skate Bag; Music CD's, guards, soakers, sewing kit, Wet Wipes, Tide Pen, Hairbrush and Hairspray, boot polish. Boys are easy. Lay out the costume, bathe the Kid. Have everyone eat well and go to bed early. Don't talk about skating.

The Big Day. Have as nice of a breakfast as time allows. Wash up, brush teeth, look nice. This means you, Skate Mom. Wear a nice shirt at least, but dress up a bit. Your Kid will appreciate you making the effort. After all, they spent hours practicing, the least you can do is look nice instead of showing up in sweats and a ponytail. Stitch will put on his comp pants and shirt before we go.

You need to be at the Rink an hour before your Kid's Warm Up. I like to be there before then, just so we're not rushed. Find the Event sheets, see how many kids are in Your Kid's group and if you know their competitors. Find the competitor's skates and... no, that's poor sportsmanship. Keep the mood light, find your Coach and hand the kid over.

When Coach dismisses you, you're done. Take a minute to visit the Photographer's table. Most of them offer Internet access to their photos so you can choose which ones you want later. Believe me, they do get some awesome shots that you will want. If the Rink brought in a Florist, pick up a few flowers for when The Kid comes back to you. Locate the Awards Table and have a seat in the Rink. Abate your anxiety by cheering for other kids. Be warned, this action may flummox your fellow parents who only cheer for their own kid.

At last comp, Mr V was asking me, "Do you know that kid?"
"Then why are you clapping like that?"
"Because they're awesome."

And they are. All of them. Except that one who is clearly sandbagged, or the one dressed like a harlot.

Talk with other Moms and Other Skaters. If you see someone with a trophy, congratulate them. If there's a kid who did a program you liked, let her know. Be nice. Sitting and roiling in your nerves is the worst thing you can do.

And when your kid goes on, get your camera and tissues ready. If you're like me, you will cry. And shake. Say a prayer to Lidwina that the CD doesn't skip, and the Costume doesn't choose this moment to malfunction. And will them to stay upright, because even though you spent hours telling them that it's okay to fall, suddenly it becomes terribly important that they don't. It's over before you know it, and I'm usually a mess that I have to quickly collect myself from.

When the program is done, The Kid will be shipped back to you. There's going to be a moment of "Is that it?" and then you sit down and wait for results. This can take anywhere from ten minutes to an hour, and it is agony. Other Parents and Kids will hang by the Event Sheets, which just crowds the place and is annoying. I prefer to wait in the Rink, watching other events. Support the other competitors.

When you're fairly confident things should be settled, head out and see how they did. The results will be taped over Kid's Event Sheet. DO NOT feed excessive boasting or excessive disappointment! DO NOT posit the Judges as being unfair! DO NOT take any of this personally! I've seen kids in tears, moms in fits, dads threatening Coaches, and it's just unnecessary and uncouth. Simply say, "___ place! That's great! Congratulations!"

But Your Kid has probably figured out by now that First Place is Best Place, so anything less than First is going to require some Hardcore Parenting on your part. These are teaching moments. Use them.

Once you know the score, head on over to the Awards Table. Have The Kid give their name and take their prize, you step back. If there's an engraving service, use it. Yes, it's a Scam. Just roll your eyes and pay it. Take pictures.

When you're done, pack up your things and check out with Coach. Thank her. I bring a change of clothes, so if we decide to stop for Ice Cream, Stitch won't mess up his Costume. The rest of the day may feel awkward and anticlimactic, so go for a walk or have a game night. At this point, you can ban the Program Music from your home, as I'm sure everyone is sick of it by now.

Aftercare. When you get your pro pics back, print a nice one for Coach, and give her a Thank You note. While I've never had a problem or concern with competing, this would be the time I would voice my issues. What's done is done, focus on making next time better.

And there you go. A Skate Mom's guide to Your Kid's BS/ISI competition. Stay cool, stay classy, and keep in mind that none of this has any bearing on Your Kid's shot at the Podium. I view these comps as valuable experience at performing, being judged, winning and losing, so just about any outcome is good in my book.

At Ice Show, Stitch told me, "I get flutters in my stomach before a show or competition."
"That's normal," I said. "I think you'll always get that to some degree."
"It feels funny."
"Yeah. I know. Just let me know if you think you're going to barf."
And he laughed. I have a bad feeling that Barf Jokes are going to come up again.

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