Sunday, July 3, 2011

The times, they are a' changin'

Stitch did not pass the FS1 Program test. To my commenters who were confused about the lack of the Program component of the test, you were right. There was one, and Stitch, true to his "it's just practice so whatever" form, didn't pass it.

Well, I was disappointed to say the least. And I was disappointed in the same way I was when Stitch half-assed his way through a book, math assignment or project in school. I was disappointed because of his chronic habit of shortchanging himself and his abilities. And I was mad. Mad because now I'd have to watch Other Kid taunt him for being at a lower level for another god knows how long, when Other Kid can't make it over his own skates without looking like he's terrified for his life. This kid's knees are torn out of his skate pants, he falls so often.

But last night I got the other side of the story, and now I'm not so mad. In fact, I'm giggling a bit.

Rink Informant and I were watching Stitch jump and skate and dance, and I asked what happened.
"Well, Mysteria says he can do it better."
"I know that, but..."
"No, he can do it better than what he's letting himself do. She wants him to do better. She's pushing him, too."
I thought about that for a minute. "What does Coach say?"
"Coach Y told me, and she had this funny little half grin on her face, like she was happy about what Mysteria said. All the coaching staff is watching him. He's our next Big Skater."
"But what about Other Kid?"
"That's what everyone else is asking. But Coach N has been barred from giving ISI tests, and she's the one who passed Other Kid into Freestyle 3. Now all the tests have to go through Mysteria."
"I thought that was how you did it anyway..."
"Mysteria's going to flip when she sees Other Kid."
Of course she is. Because to have some kid skating like that at Freestyle 2 as representative of your rink is embarrassing.

I changed the subject to cats. That's a lot to digest.

Stitch did his program a few times, with me explaining that what Mysteria was looking for was the exact same performance he would give if he were competing. The same energy, the same life, not the Blah "It's just Practice" snoozer. And he delivered for me. But every time he came off the ice, he railed about how "it wasn't perfect! I can't get it perfect!"

"So do it until it feels perfect," I said.
"I can't get it perfect! That's the problem!"
Well, you're doing miles better than Other Kid, who's bunny hops look like a split two foot jump. I just have to get into your head that it's okay to not be perfect, and lack of perfection doesn't precede you from continuing to try.

We came home and watched some bad Kung Fu movie, and I put Stitch to bed. We had gone to the library and gotten a bunch of books on electricity projects, and his task for tomorrow is to build a "welcome mat" for his door that will ring a buzzer inside his room. He thinks this will be hilarious.
I left the skating alone for awhile, but I did lay things out for Stitch on Friday.
"Here's what's at stake if you don't pass this last chance on Wednesday. You will have to completely re-do your program to compete at Delta level, and you'll have just two days to do it. That will be loads more work than if you just performed for Mysteria as you would for a judge. Also, you will be competing against Gordon instead of against the Book. Is that what you want?"
"Okay. It doesn't matter to me what level you compete at. I would prefer you compete at Freestyle 1 since that's what you're capable of." And I don't want Gordon's Dad coming after me with a shovel. "So, please take this final chance seriously. Will you?"

Stitch insists he's doing his best. I know that this isn't true. I've seen his best.


What does all this upheaval mean for you, fellow Skate Moms of my rink who I know read this blog? Well, it means that if you are fine with your kid going through class levels without formal testing and zipping on up without care for quantifiable results, you can continue to do that. However, if you want to compete in ISI while affiliated with our rink, you need to go through Mysteria. Full stop. Am I happy about this? You bet your sweet bippy I am!

Which isn't to say there aren't ways around it. There are, and I'm sorry to say we've participated in that. I'm going to try to avoid that in the future.

Skating has entered my arsenal of weaponry to challenge Stitch to own himself, to live up to his capabilities, not quash them down because it's "hard work." In the end, it's harder work being dumb. "Next Big Skater" or no, this has become part of a Whole Child/Person Philosophy I'm working on, here. He can do better.


  1. So how does it work - it is all so confusing. The schedule does not have a FS1 boys group for Stitch's age. It has a 7/8 delta but only a 9/10 FS1. Do they make a new group just for him if he ends up passing? I thought there had to be 5 skaters per group. Or does he skate with the wrong age range (9/10)? Xanboi help with rules here please!!

  2. Good luck on re-taking the test! I am a much better test skater than competition, because I don't get as nervous, but it sounds like Stitch really is a pressure skater. Maybe the "last chance" pressure will help him get through it this time. You guys are lucky he can re-take it so soon - for roller tests we have a 30 day waiting period after a failure. Took me 2 and a half years to pass one of my tests because I made a big mistake each of the first two times I took it, and it took that long to get the judges we needed for the test. Luckily I passed it the third time so I could take my gold medal test last week (I passed!). In any case, best of luck, hopefully Stitch can get it together on Wednesday.

  3. Who knows, anonymom, who knows. At his ISI comp in November he was the only kid in his flight, because they broke up genders. At USFS comps there were three kids per flight, mixed boy/girl. At ISI, solo competitors go against the book. USFS tries to ensure you actually skate against a person.

    Thanks, T. Sedai! He did well today practicing, so maybe something is sinking in. it's an age thing and a stitch thing, so getting through to him is my biggest challenge.

  4. A new group will be formed where Stitch will compete against the book if he passes his test.

  5. so what does it mean to compete against the book? How do they determine if you are first second etc? Such an odd concept! Why are there so many skaters at the rink but so few kids in the "competition" that there is no one to compete against?

  6. When a kid competes against the rule book, they have to get 80% of possible points to take first place. Anything less and they get second. At least, that's my understanding.

    As to why there are so few kids at the Comp, that's a Rink Question and one that needs to be seriously asked of management. Our kids should be flooding that rink at this time above all others. Why is there a scrimmage over solos in shows but not for a genuine competitive opportunity at home? Let's ask these questions!!

  7. But why have so many competitions then? If the worst you can do is second place (or not first place) is a bit silly. Maybe if there were just one or two a year per area more kids would participate b/c it would be a bigger deal. Particularly at the little kid levels before they have the six jumps and real spins so that you can actually begin to see who might be really talented and who not.

  8. I don't fully understand your question. Why have so many competitions? Because you can pick and choose which ones you like to do. I know from this past year there are two I'd like to do again, and one I'd like to skip. For the Rinks, it's a moneymaker. The event itself can be profitable, and it brings people into the program. (Rink people, feel free to chime in.)

    For kids competing alone: Bear in mind my experience is with boys, and Boys are far more likely to be alone in their flight. For Girls, it's a dramatically different story. Girls almost never compete alone, and really can come in fifth place. (Bring tissues.) In Basic Skills and ISI competitions, flights are kept small so everyone gets a prize, but usually only first through third get a trophy.

    And this "little kid levels" mindset is what I have a problem with. Not everyone in these levels is a little kid, and I don't consider them easy. What's a real spin? Why do they have to have all the six jumps before anyone cares about them? (Which can be extrapolated to "they aren't doubles yet" and so on..) Do you have any idea how much bravery a side toe hop takes? For some kids, the chance to put a program to music, to skate in a spotlight, to get cheered on by an audience, and get the experience of being judged is valuable. Pretending to be a Big League skater for a few minutes is tremendous. Taking home a trophy, even if some adults deign it silly, is a whopping load of encouragement. It's not for every kid, but for some, like Stitch, it is incredibly worthwhile.

  9. By the time skaters are FS5+ (eligible for show solos), they may choose to compete USFSA rather than ISI. Also shows are cheaper for recreational skaters.

  10. mmm maybe doing it to be cheered on is not the best reasoning compared to setting a goal and meeting it. But in any case could just as easily do that once or twice a year. A real spin? change foot and sit spin. without them you will never be able to do the complicated change spins and many people can't and stop there. same with jumps - loop lutz axel. No way to know if anyone has talent before then. A lot of the rest is just the parents not the kids.

  11. Thanks jjane. and yes I forgot in all this that for USFSA the little kid beauty contests are a way to raise $$ to pay for the kids that can really skate, and thats a worthwhile thing. maybe the point of these ISI ones should be to funell $$ into a fund for kids who can't afford to skate - that would make it all make sense

  12. Anonymom, just so I'm understanding you correctly: Do you consider Basic Skills comps to be Little Kid Beauty Pageants?

  13. Sorry but yes kind of. I think they are really silly and unnecessary and even counter productive- except when you consider them cash cows for higher level skaters. They send the wrong message to kids about what is really important and waste a lot of money in the process. But if the money goes to them instead of Chloe Noel and Zuca and then that same money flows to needy skaters then I swallow all that and then say lets have more of them as long as the parents are willing to pony up the $$

  14. Anonymom, I think basic skills competitions are effective at teaching kids how to handle competition pressure. Better to learn that lesson early.

  15. perhaps yes but that pressure is really what the parents make it to be.

  16. I agree with AMS - most of the kids I know who started competing early in skating ended up being better competitors as they progressed. People like me who started in the teens and adult ages tend to over-think things and get nervous. And, to be honest, everyone must start somewhere.

    I also think it takes more skill to skate around a rink than it does to walk around a stage, but then I often trip over my own feet while walking, so I am probably wrong on that count.

    Also, while roller events may not have a recreational track like ISI, we do have local beginner events, which, by the sound of things, are similar. Do these ISI "kid divisions" go to national level competitions? If not, I don't really see the problem with having these events at local competitions. I don't really see how it is any more ridiculous than lots of other youth sports where all of the teams get a prize at the end of the day? I mean, sure, ice parents get crazy, but parents get crazy about all sorts of things. I think it is just the nature of ice skating that most people have the money to go way overboard with the insanity, and the fact that they can point out their kid as an individual doesn't help with the crazy.

    Also, I just want to point out that there is a difference between talent and drive. I will be the first to say that I am probably one of the least talented skaters I know, but I will also say I have achieved a lot more than many more talented skaters because I wanted to do it and so I worked until I did. Since it was never easy I always had to work hard, but for the talented ones, once it "got too hard" they gave up. Granted, I will never be a really great skater, because truthfully you really do need some combination of talent, drive, and luck, but I don't think you can qualify talent by who can land a loop, Lutz, and Axel. Landing jumps is a skill that can be learned like most others in skating. Sure, the talented kids might get it faster, but really, the determined ones will get it eventually too. On the other hand, that special "it" quality of a performer is much harder to teach and to learn.

    Sorry for the long rant, but I don't see how discouraging participation in skating is in any way constructive. No, it isn't the Olympics, but yes, it is good for something. Discouraging participation and reducing the opportunities to do so can only hurt the sport and the skaters.

  17. Anonymom, by your logic, ISI and adult recreational shouldn't even exist. How do you feel about USFS's program for Therapeutic Skating?

    Where do you think those high level skaters come from? Dad and I had this discussion in reference to a few coaches at the rink. I think that this mindset is really deadly to Youth Sports in general, and why I believe 75% of kids quit sports by age 12.

    Yes, I agree that Parents add a lot of stress to children to perform in skating competitions. I've witnessed it. I've listened to a mom groan and sigh and lament her daughter's camel spin to everyone in earshot during a compulsory event. I agree that facet of it is wrong.

    However, to discount the early competitive events as a whole as either useless frippery or only serving to support high level events is an All-Or-Nothing mentality that is becoming frighteningly prevalent in kid's sports. To claim that skating ability is only determined by jumps is an insult to a sport that had its roots in blade and edgework, and insulting to the thousands upon thousands of kids who aren't jumping yet but kill at solid footwork.

  18. Maximum 6 skaters per group; if there is only one skater in a category s/he skates "against the book" for a 1st or 2nd place (no lower than that against the book). Average of judge's scores needs to be 80% of the top possible score for 1st; below that gets 2nd. I have been trying for years to snag a judges sheet to share with parents but they guard them like original copies of the Constitution.

    On the rest of the thread: don't impose your own goals on someone else's trajectory. We all do things for lots of different reasons. Doesn't make us wrong, just makes us different.

    Having had Stitch in classes, and watched him compete, here's what I see-- he's not so crazy about lessons. He doesn't seem to listen. It can drive you nuts. And then he goes out there and has quite apparently been listening, because he does the job. Take that away from him and what you've got is not a lesson in reality, what you've got is an ex-skater.

  19. Not sure how you got to "by that logic ISI shouldn't even exist" from what I said. It think the skating programs themselves are fantastic. Its the competitions at the low levels that I find a bit silly. It shouldn't have to be about the trophy and applause but about being as good as you can be and setting and achieving goals.

    Making it about the competition is what feeds into not putting in effort at lessons etc - "why should I try when I am not going to get something for it. "

    Its actually the doing it for the competition aspect that is the better analogy to what is wrong with youth sports overall these days. You can't just play ball, you have to be on a competitive team with a fancy uniform and expensive equipment and its less about being great at the sport and all about winning the trophy at the end of the season.

  20. "maybe the point of ISI comps is to funnel money for needy skaters," which implies they don't have a point. If ISI, the recreational league, is running pointless comps, then why not just jump to USFS Basic Skills which has a similar curriculum and a pipeline to a point?

    Low level comps in skating are the equivalent of Pony Leagues in baseball. The kids have to play against someone, and for skating, competition is the equivalent of a game. The definition of sport is, "an athletic activity performed competitively." Okay, so just skating around for years until someone deigns you able to compete? My problem is skating with the express purpose of Qualifying Competitions feeding into the Team Envelope and nothing else has value.

    I totally understand the concept of setting goals, but for some kids, like Stitch, those goals get fuzzy. If your kid can set a goal of "Axel," hold it and meet it after years of work, that's great. Mine can't do that, so we focus incrementally with the Patches, and the Low Level Comps which provide tangible outcomes for short term goals. Yes, the stupid trophy.

    If you believe it silly, you don't have to participate, but don't critique those that do. We have our reasons.

  21. Pony league is exactly what you were complaining about as the problem with youth sports, so its not clear why you want to hold that up as an example for figure skating. Fact is, kids would be perfectly happy striving for the patches (like merit badges in the scouts) if we didn't tell them they should be striving for something else. And when that something else requires costumes and expensive entry fees that price some kids out, well thats even worse.

  22. Entry fees for low level comps are $50 to $60 bucks per event. Talk to your coach about what he or she charges for a competition. I and many other Skate Moms make our kid's costumes. If it's about money, you can make it work. MySkatingMall (link in the sidebar) offers gently used gear. And again, if you only want to do one or two a year, that's your choice. No one is saying you have to do all of them (except maybe your coach but you can say no to her.) Stitch enjoys competing, and in fact does his best skating when he competes. I won't take away something he enjoys. If it's not right for you or your family dynamic, then don't participate.

    I have no issue with Pony League or Youth Sports, it's when kids are driven to perform solely for the basis of getting into the Olympics or Team Envelope (to be specific) is when I have a problem. Now, bear in mind that when kids get skimmed off the top of that Pre-alpha or Beta class to be shoved into a Pre-Freestyle class, Coaches are well aware that they only have a few years to get those kids to Juvenile in USFS for them to qualify for anything. Axel by 12 or it doesn't count. What kind of pressure is worse, doing a Beta level competition to Little Mermaid, or doing Salchows a year in when the kid may not be ready?

  23. I wonder how often they are skimming kids off they think they can get to juvenile, vs skimming kids off they think will make good private students (ie their parents will pay for lots of lesson time) before another coach signs them up. Not all them of course, but then not all of them play these skimming games.

  24. Like I said, just a theory I have, but one that happens to fit what I see.

  25. I hate to burst everyone's bubble, but frankly I think the competitions were started as a business move by ISI, to increase buy-in, participation, and therefore income.

  26. I can't believe your entry fees are $60 for local competitions! The roller national entry fees just increased to $60 this year and people are still reeling.

  27. $65 for the Rink's little one day event - and that if you only skate one category. its more for multiple events. thats a whole lot of money for some people- and its on top of the coaching fees.

  28. Yup. $65 for the first one and $15 for each additional. I let Stitch do two events for this one since most of the family is arriving to watch him skate. He has two costumes, both of which I made. The coaching fees will be the same for an hour lesson. (Less, if I tell Coach about the weeklong angina attack and palpitations all this testing has inflicted on me. Maybe she'll have pity!) Plus the ice time during the weeks of prep and training, learning the program. I cut the music myself, but the song was $.99 on Amazon. Plus $15 for a sharpening this week, and $45 for pizza afterward.

    But look around you. Some kids have a $500 video game system. Some families dump $80 a month on cable TV. Some families go to that indoor water park/hotel for a weekend, and that place doesn't even list prices. Some moms wear $$$ clothes and drive $$$ SUV's. Some kids get season passes to Six Flags, their own TV and bathroom, and McLaren strollers. What else do families dump money on that I consider silly, yet never say a word to them because that's their choice. We simply have other priorities.

    Maybe we're just different.

  29. Oh, and at other rinks, the comps are so booked up they can be two or three day events because they're so popular. Better, they're Team events, with skaters scoring points for their rink. The rink with the most points takes home the Team Trophy, so it becomes a team building event to foster camaraderie among the skaters.

  30. The $65 for first event $15 for the additional events is not expensive (and the one ISI competition I was in was $35 for one event, $10 for each additional event). I miss ISI for that reason, USFS is MUCH more expensive, a recent competition was $80 for the first event, $20 for additional events (and I've seen higher than that). I have a hard time justifying competition at that price, and I'm an adult with expendable income! I wish we still had rinks that held ISI competitions around here.

    On my blog I outlined all the costs of a competition- the only skating thing I did this year. As I reuse costumes etc, it will become less expensive, but this competition, without including my regular private lessons or skate sharpenings to get ready for it was about $450!

    It's absolutely insane for a weekend! And that was without a need for a hotel room. A local coach wanted me to go to ISI World's and it was going to be even more than that because of hotel rooms (but lower entry fees, and gas because I could carpool). Not to mention the "cost" of vacation time.

    But if you have the money, spend it. I agree with Xan- ISI created these competitions as a way to create revenue. Didn't ISI form as an organization of rink owners? It has only branched into an organization of skaters and coaches.

    I really resent people implying I'm a bad person because I spend my money on something frivolous like skating. That's pretty much the ONLY thing I spend excessively on. Everything else is scrimping, so that I can skate.

    As for competitions at low levels- I they exist because they are fun. I see no problem with "participation" awards, because a young child deserves a reward for being brave enough to get out there, and an older child isn't fooled into think it is the same thing as a placement medal. I will never get to a high level. If there weren't competitions at the low levels, I probably wouldn't skate. I can't test anymore, and I'm not the kind of person who can set myself to work hard in lessons without a goal.