Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top Ten Things I’ve Learned about Being a Figure Skating Mom

Ice Girl’s been skating for a year and a month. She’s now a beginner and I’m an advanced newbie.

Here's what I learned in 2008. Feel free to add your wisdom in the comments area!

  1. Don’t wear jeans. Geez. I’ll never forget every mom, coach, and skater telling me that Ice Girl shouldn’t wear jeans on club ice. Many told me twice. I get it, I get it!

  2. Pick a good coach. I lucked out here and we are thrilled with Ice Coach. However, it’s important to pick a coach that encourages your skater, has great skills, and works well with you. I know some fabulous coaches that I’m relieved we didn’t choose – snotty comments, terrible relationships with parents, diva attitudes. I also know some that we really like and admire. I tell you, I’m relieved that we have a great one from the start.

  3. Watch your mouth. O.K. Quit sniggering. I’m trying not to write anything about real people here. Well, not anymore. Anyway, figure skating is a pretty small world and tongues wag even when you’re not contracted for ice. Smile, nod, and bring a book to avoid the nasty conversations.

  4. Keep a blanket and coat in the car. This seems obvious, but when temps are in the high 80’s, it’s tempting to box up the blanket and coat for storage. Keep them in the car anyway.

  5. Outwit your skater. Make an extra copy of her music and keep it in the glove compartment. Have some skate socks stashed in the van. Buy gloves in quantity when they hit the clearance racks in May. Keep hair ties and a brush in your vehicle’s seat pockets. Stash some snacks in the van, too. Once a week, have your skater clean out the van/mobile locker room and replenish supplies.

  6. Bring your checkbook. The figure skating world runs on checks. Write ’em out and don’t expect them to clear your account for a month…or two.

  7. Make Learn to Skate last as long as you can. As I’ve written many times, Learn to Skate is the only bargain in figure skating. Try talking the skating director into advanced figure skating lessons during Learn to Skate. Your checkbook will thank you.

  8. Encourage recreational spinning. The $35 we spent to buy Ice Girl a spinner has paid off. She loves to spin on that thing and takes it to sleepovers. I’m told her on-ice spins are good and I credit that spinner. Also encourage putting the spinner away. Stepping on that thing in the dark isn’t funny.

  9. Diversify activities. We’re horrible at this, but multi-sport athletes have fewer injuries. Ice Girl loves to bike, so I’m hoping we’re covered.

  10. Keep ice schedules in the van. This is one I’ve just learned. Sometimes Ice Girl wants to walk-on to club ice. We belong to two clubs and skate at seven rinks. I can’t keep it all straight, so I’ve added the ice schedules to Ice Girl’s skating binder.

My 2009 resolution: learn more about figure skating's rules and mechanics. I want to be able to identify the jumps that I see on TV and be able to speak intelligently about what makes a quality spin or jump. I'm told that Ice Network is great for this, so I'll be shaking out the couch cushions to pay for a subscription.

Best wishes for 2009!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Parenting: American Girl Skates Sold Out

American Girl has it in for skating families this year – the limited edition doll of the year is Mia the figure skater. I posted about Mia about six months ago and you’d think I’d have heeded my own warning.

At nearly 13, I thought Ice Girl had grown out of the American Girl doll phase. She has a bunch of them in various boxes scattered from the basement up to her room. She doesn’t play with them anymore, so I thought Mia, the American Girl’s limited edition figure skater, was no threat.

“Ohmygod, Mom, I have to have Mia and all of her accessories.”

“You’re kidding.”

“I need, need, need that doll, Mom, and her cool room and her overpriced posters.”

“But you’re almost 13. You never play with your dolls anymore.”

“Mom. Mom. Mo-ooom. I love my dolls. What are you talking about?”

So. Ice Grandma popped the $100 or so for the doll, who doesn’t come with skates. On Friday I tried buying the accessory package with skates, a skate bag, and some other overpriced trinkets. Sold out.

Plain ol’ American Girl skates? Sold out.

E-Bay? Yeah, they have ’em, but they’re selling for – get this - $75. On the American Girl site, the accessories were $28. Mind you, these $75 fake skates are for a pretend skater.

Last Friday, Ice Girl skated at the rink near the American Girl headquarters. As I drove from the rink out onto Pleasant View Road (named after Pleasant Rowland and her Pleasant Company), I had an urge to storm the castle and take the skates right from the stock room.

I didn’t though. I made a rude gesture towards the building instead. I’m sure the workers felt my negative vibes.

Parenting Lesson 1: Buy early.

Parenting Lesson 2: Hide all American Girl catalogs before Ice Girl sees them.

Parenting Lesson 3: Purchase a siege engine for the next time I drive by the Pleasant Company. The question is: catapult or trebuchet? I should buy one early, before they're out of stock.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Survey Results: Youth and Organized Sports

In my work as an education writer, I come across a lot of research and surveys. One that crossed my desk in October was a survey commissioned by the Women’s Sports Foundation called Go Out and Play: Youth Sports in America. You can download the entire report here, but I warn you: it’s 192 pages.

What I thought was most interesting was the bit about why kids drop out of sports. Ice Girl is a gymnastics dropout. She left the sport after nine years because, well, she just didn’t love it $150 worth. When we stopped, she was just fine with not going.

According to the survey, most kids (38%) drop out of a sport because they’re not having fun anymore. That’s pretty legitimate, I think. The number two reason was for studying and grades (31%) and the number three reason was because of a health concern or injury (28%). Coaching conflicts were in the number four slot (20%), number five was outside interests like school clubs (19%), and number six was teammate conflicts (17%).

The troubling numbers come from families in trouble, something we’re going to see a lot of in 2009. Kids drop out because they can’t make it to practice (17%), don’t have the money (7%), or don’t have the equipment (7%).

Kids who drop out permanently from a sport report the lowest family satisfaction, which is a measure of family communication, flexibility, and cohesion. That means that these kids who are dropping out are the ones whose families are in the most trouble. These are the kids who most need sports to give them some sort of positive structure and drive.

The report had an upside, too. Two-thirds of the kids surveyed reported that playing a sport was either the most important (11%) or one of the most important (54%) things in their life.

Kids who are involved in sports report a higher satisfaction with their family and home life than students who do not play a sport. (The numbers are pretty complex and compare single-parent and dual-parent homes with one-, two-, and three- sport athletes.) Sports participation improves family communication and parents and children spend more time together.

So, even with the uncertain economy, Ice Girl will continue with her figure skating. She loves it, it promotes fitness, and it’s good for the family.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Food for thought: genetic testing and sports

"Born to Run? Little ones get test for sports gene"
11.29.08, The New York Times, Juliet Macur
Some parents are lining up to get a new genetic test that aims to predict a child’s natural athletic strengths by collecting DNA and having it analyzed for a specific gene. The New York Times reports that DNA is collected by a simple swab inside the child’s cheek and along the gums and then the sample is sent to a lab for analysis of the gene ACTN3. A 2003 study discovered the link between ACTN3 and athletic ability. In this era of genetic testing, DNA is being analyzed to determine predispositions to disease, but experts raise serious questions about marketing it as a first step in finding a child’s sports niche.

Well, I tell you this. I wouldn't test my kid. You need to read to the second page of the article to find the neat quote about the springiest guy in Spain and lining up kindergarteners for a free race.

As I've mentioned in several other posts, Ice Girl was mediocre to lousy in all other sports she'd tried. A gymnastics drop-out (9 years), Ice Girl tried soccer, basketball, and swimming. Lousy, lousy, lousy. She was mediocre at gymnastics.

Figure skating, though. Holy cow. We weren't prepared for her to go from Basic 3 to Limited Beginniner in a year. I don't think any test would have revealed that, either.

So, I'm saving my $147 and throwing it at the ice instead. Even a free race with kindergarteners probably wouldn't have revealed Ice Girl's talent. Of course, now that Ice Girl is almost 13, I bet she'd kick those little kids' butts. Well, most of them, anyway.