Sunday, September 18, 2011

Did you Hear? Skating moms are getting a show.

I was going to wait on this one, but after being quoted by JoAnn Schneider Farris (I think twice) on this, I have to state my rather virulent opinion.

I love reality TV. I love Hoarders, Intervention, Dance Moms, Obsessed, and a few others. You know why? Because I can watch these shows and think, "Wow, I'm not doing so bad. In fact, I'm the picture of sanity compared to these nuts!" And I'm not the only one who thinks that way. In fact, Tuesdays at the office are a round table of "Holy crow, did you see that kid? What a mess!"

This show specifically asked for "involved mothers" and "coaches with strong personalities." In other words, they're looking for Abby Lee on Ice.

There's a deep mythology surrounding competitive kids and their parents; that we're all obsessed, maniacal weirdos who will do anything, spend anything, and dispose of anyone who stands in the way of our kid's success. This show, "Kids on Ice," isn't going to dispel that mythology. It's going to entrench it. It's not going to show normal folks in secondhand Reidells, with the once a week private lessons and takes third place gracefully at the neighborhood ISI comp. Oh no. It's going to show the moms and kids and coaches spending hours upon hours upon hours at the rink, stitching rhinestones, doing marathon skate fittings,  fretting over every minor detail and if anyone thought that I swear too much, then they haven't heard the censors knock out most of the screaming matches between Abby Lee and her moms. If people think a Coach with a "strong personality" won't give the audience, people like me looking for a reassurance of their sanity, a repeat performance, they're dreaming.

This show won't encourage kids to skate. It's going to scare off potential skating families who will believe that all other skating people are hyper-competitive, that they have to spend a fortune to be involved to any degree, and it will take an incredible time commitment if they do it at all. Like it or not, that's the common perception of Figure Skating. There are people right now who believe Stitch is up at 5:30 every morning to practice.  (Cue laugh track.)

Worse, what about the kids? I always do feel kinda bad about mocking Dance Moms, because those girls really do give it their all. It's not their fault that they're tied up with Abby Lee, who sorts them into a "pyramid" a cording to their arbitrary value each week. I do feel there is a good deal of exploitation going on with that show.

So. Will we be auditoning for Kids on Ice? Heck no. Will I watch it? Absolutely.

But here's a question no one has answered for me; How does USFS feel about this? Would a truly "serious" skater need to get their permission to do it, and would USFSA say yes? That might be the only safety net for such a show, as USFSA seems terribly image conscious. In that case, we'd have the polar opposite problem: folks who only get the rose colored glasses view without the tough realities.

I honestly don't think any good can come of a skating reality show. Sorry.


  1. I don't see how any skaters with national ambitions could do this, because you have to sign off on parent ethics, one of which is no public trashing of the judges. Plus, even a "coach with a strong personality" can't trash another coach in public. I think they should just follow a Synchro team around. That would be enough drama for any tv show.

  2. I agree with Xan. I don't think it is going to be National level skaters. More like "Toddlers and Tiaras" on ice. Besides, there was already the "Ice Diaries" series back in 2005/2006 focusing on skaters trying to go to the Olympics (Alissa Czisny was the big name there). That show was very much the hard realities of hopes and dreams and painted the skating in a realistic and favorable light. The new show will probably be like all the other reality shows today - screaming and craziness and obsession, lots of rhinestones and insane amounts of money being spent by parents with delusions of the Olympics. I know people who would have been great for the show. Their kid was going to be the next Tara Lipinski. They even started her in roller first. Too bad, she is probably too old now, but yeah. They would have been perfect.

    I agree with the assessment that figure skating probably would not benefit from such a show. It is sort of strange because right now roller is dealing with a somewhat similar issue. Roller Derby is sort of becoming the "in" thing (with Whip It and reality shows it has gone much more main stream). On the one hand, the image of derby is not exactly the best. It is a bunch of "bad girls" beating each other up on wheels. On the other hand, it is bringing people into the rinks. It is generating skaters and revenue and equipment sales. The number of roller rinks have been on the rapid decline, but derby is helping a lot to slow or prevent that. So it is sort of a love/hate relationship. They are doing good things because they are getting people in the door. On the other hand, it is working against the family atmosphere that they rinks are trying to project. In either case, it is interesting to see how reality tv actually can affect reality.

    Also, as a side note, I am sort embarrassed to admit it, but I would totally watch the Ice Kids show too.

  3. You know, we've been to some pretty high level competitions this year, and I haven't seen one stereotypical Evul Skate Mom. Mostly, the parents seem super happy to hand off their kids to the coaches and then go find a cafe (or bar. ;-) )

    Maybe with really young kids, the kids allow more fussing and so they get fussed at/over. But when your'e dealing with pre-teen and teen kids with the discipline, drive, and focus to do what it takes to even compete at no-test and beyond, those kids take the driver's seat pretty early.

    I'll get a little grouchy and demanding if I feel like Skater Grrrl is wasting my time when she's having a normal pre-teen meltdown day and I've hauled my butt out of bed to drive her to the rink. Or if I've signed a check for the month/competition and she's having too many "public ice" days. She's still between kid and young woman, and sometimes we need to have reminder lessons in fulfilling commitments or working hard instead of goofing off. But even that gets turned over to her more, i.e. here's your rope, what are you going to do with it?

    I mean...I suppose if I thought hard, I could think of one or two colorful parents or coaches of higher level skaters, but honestly, not anyone I'd want to watch. They just aren't THAT that interesting.