Wednesday, June 1, 2011

First Rule of Figure Skating; Don't Talk about Figure Skating

I've been mulling all day. I know this isn't good for me, but I'm stuck and I can't talk to anyone about it. I can't talk to any Professionals because they are bound to some Ethics. I can't talk at the Rink because Some People might get mad that I went to the "wrong person" for help. I can't talk outside the Rink because Other Parents don't know Stitch the way I do. I can't talk on this blog anymore because it's not as anonymous as I'd planned. I can only marginally talk to Dad, because he's only vaguely aware of the kind of pressure Suburban Moms and Some Women can exert on each other. I'm stuck.

This morning I ran into a Coaching Friend on the way to work, and he asked me how Stitch's Power 3's were. Good, I said. Better all the time. And before I knew it I was close to spilling just about everything in this poor man's lap. I stopped myself, saying that I just needed some outside third party advice on Clubs and Tests and stuff, and he said he could help me with that if we kept it quiet.

God, what is with this sport, anyway?

In my heart, I know that none of this really matters. Whatever levels there are, Stitch can get them as he gets there. Whatever tests to be taken, Stitch can take them whenever. It's all going to be okay.

But I feel a tremendous pressure from around me to get moving, and I know why. It's because I don't have a twelve year old. I can't even imagine what PrepSchool's Mom must be going through, he's ten. No wonder he's doing Haxels in the lobby, he has to.

I asked Coaching Friend what my first steps should be. Figure out what Stitch wants, he said. Go from there. Well, okay.

So I talked to Stitch tonight, and it wasn't pretty. I set down the USFSA structure in front of him. "You are here," I pointed to Basic Skills. "Coach wants you here," I pointed to Pre-Pre, "by the end of summer. I don't think that's realistic, so we'll say end of the year."
Stitch studied this thing.
"This is how the Skating thing works," I tried to explain. "If you really want those gold medals, to be on TV, and to have girls throw things at you, then this is how you get there," I pointed down the list. "Fab Skater is here," I pointed to the level I was pretty sure she was at. "So, people at Home Rink can do it, but,"
"Yeah, and she struggles at it," he said sagely.
"Well, yes, skating is hard. We've established that."
"I don't want to struggle like that."
"What do you mean? You say you want gold medals,"
"But you don't want to work hard."
"But that's how it works. You have to work hard to get that medal."
"It seems scary."
"Why scary?"
And he ran down a list of things he was scared of from the dark, to hockey pucks hitting him, to people saying "boo" when he fell, and wound up back at "hard work."
I studied him. There are times when you hear your child and times when you listen to them. I was hearing him now, telling me that this was scary and too hard. But on Saturday night I was listening, while he danced and laughed and tried all sorts of hare brained stunts. "Stitch, we have to work for the things we want. You tell me you want to be a famous skater,"
"But you aren't willing to do the work to become famous."

And here we were, back at the disconnect in Stitch's mind, that gap between getting first place and working hard to earn it. I thought about this while we sat outside for awhile. I thought about it while he fought me on Spiral stretches yet willingly did near full rotation hops.  I remembered the previous evening when he made up his own program to his music for the first time, doing little hops and looks and spins. That gap is fucking huge, and he has to cross it. Not just for the skating's sake, but for Life. I was thinking of all this in the front yard when a man and his two year old wandered into the courtyard. The boy had a toy golf set.

We struck up a conversation about neighborhood schools and parks and things, and the man asked me about the local recreational programs. I said they were fine, but Stitch only did the skating thing. The man expressed concern about broken legs, then asked me if his son should specialize in a sport. Namely, golf. 
I looked at the cute kid, throwing golf balls every which way and said no. "He's too little. Let him explore, let him play. Sure, do the tot classes that the parks offer, but don't specialize."
"Oh. So when do you think he can start to play golf? Maybe four or five?"
"Even that may be too early. He won't have the attention span until at least six."
"Do you think any coaches would take him sooner?"
"Probably not. Attention span."

I believe that the Universe puts people in my path for a reason. This Man came along to assure me that my next steps were not completely insane.

I was putting Stitch to bed and I asked him one last time. "Why don't you think you can do it?"
"Because I have no talent."
Well, there's a moment of blunt honesty I wasn't expecting. "What makes you say that?"
"Because my spin is terrible, everyone hates my waltz jump, and everyone yells at my spiral."
"Your spiral is in the Bahamas, but your waltz jump and spins are fine."
"See?!" he laughs at me. "And Coach is always yelling, 'Higher! Higher!'"
"Yes, but she has a valid reason for saying that."
 "I just can't do it."
 "Nonsense. You have a lot of talent. But I will tell Coach what you told me; that you think it is too scary and that you can't do it. I think you can, but we'll see what she says."



  1. Now we can all use the comment section to guess what you want to ask but feel you can't.

    You can still ask for advice anonymously on skatingforums. Also there are several adult skaters you probably have not met yet who might comment on things from an expert, but non-coach point of view.

    Relax about pre-pre. It's purpose is to be encouraging.

    ST doesn't need to make long-term skating goals yet. He can decide later if he wants to put in the work to earn the medals. It's okay to take a few years to cross the gap.

    Ignore what your peers think, they're idiots.

  2. Do not worry. All children have this gap and it will be overcome with age and desire for their goal, and if their desire for the goal dose not overcome you need a new goal. The usfsa test system would be good for a kid by stitch. Maybe he can get pre-pre quickly it is designed to encourage young skaters so pre-pre test almost never fail. I wish luck on your families skating journey because the decisions only get tougher.

  3. I think it's great he's learning these lessons so young.

  4. I took a look on Youtube at the actual Pre-Pre MIF test, and if Stitch gets hard lessons on how it's run, he could easily do it. I had him watch, and he then said it was boring and easy. (Just stay off your toepicks, kid.)

    I think what scares me is that this is moving really fast, much faster than I'd ever imagined. I checked dates, and according to the real math, he should be in Delta, not flirting with FS2.

  5. It's smart to start preparing early. I imagine after landing the axel all the pressure will be even crazier.

  6. jjane, I don't even want to think about that right now. I have axles in my car, no axels at the rink.