Monday, August 31, 2009

Coping with figure skating burn out

It’s corny, but true: you can’t burn out if you were never on fire.

Ice Girl is burning out a bit on figure skating. She’s still interested, but she’s cutting back, at least for the coming month.

We’ve been very careful to allow Ice Girl to decide her own level of participation, so why is she feeling burnt out? And why am I not worried?

  • The struggle for success. Progress through the lower skating levels was quick and easy for Ice Girl. Sure, she had to work at some things, but she quickly overcame obstacles. Not so with the axel. Ice Coach tells me Ice Girl is landing it inconsistently, which is good. But Ice Girl is frustrated with that jump and is tiring from the struggle.
  • Our solution? She’s working on other things in her lessons and building on those successes. She is working on a flying sit spin and just got a camel – back sit spin that wasn’t half bad.

  • Pain. Ice Girl has worked so much on her axel that her hamstring is bothering her. We’ve bought The Stick to massage the muscle and I took her to her doctor for evaluation. The hammy’s fine for normal use, but hurts when she steps up into that jump. 
  • Our solution? A physical therapist friend gave Ice Girl an exercise to try. I made an appointment with the sports medicine doctor, too. We’ll see.

  • Too much of a good thing. Ice Girl skated 13 – 15 hours a week this summer. That’s a lot. 
  • Our solution? Ice Girl cut back on her ice time for September without any prodding from me. She’s in control of that contract. I’m not pushing her.

  • Pushing herself too hard. Ice Girl is new to figure skating: she’s been on the ice for just under two years. Her peers are higher-level skaters and she pushes herself to reach their level. That kid has drive, which is good, but she’s running out of gas. 
  • Our solution? Again, it’s the ice time control. She can tone down the ice time for a bit and ramp it up once she gets her energy back.

  • Blurry vision. Why is Ice Girl doing this whole figure skating thing, anyway? She's having a hard time focusing on what she loves about figure skating because her hamstring hurts and she's overtrained. Losing sight of the vision makes it hard to stay motivated. 
  • Our solution? Talk it out. We are talking about what Ice Girl loves about figure skating and why she took to it in the first place. I'm asking her to write it down, too, but she's pretty resistant.

Kids burn out for other reasons, too. Some parents push their kids, some kids stress about the money factor, and some kids can’t take the discipline that a sport requires.

I’m honestly not worried if Ice Girl burns out (she cut back ice time from 13 to 9 hours a week). If she cuts back even more, then it’s just another lesson that she’s learned from figure skating: everything in moderation.

Update (9/1/09): I have been informed this morning that Ice Girl is not burning out. Ice Girl is amazed at my overreaction to her relief that she'll have only 9 hours of ice a week, not 13. "Mom. Mom. Mo-om. Stop being so dramatic. I'm not burning out. Geez. We're buying new boots this weekend."

Isn't that something? Me, getting a lecture about drama from Ice Girl. :)

Have you or your skater experienced burn out? How did you rekindle your passion for the sport? Share!


Elisabeth said...

Honestly for me, it has been 'absence makes the heart grow fonder.' I haven't skated in years and I miss it so. Unfortunately, where I live there is no rink and I need a whole size bigger on my ice skates. I can't afford new skates at the moment. So, right now, it's a combination of knowing I can't and desperately missing the artistic freedom.

Prettybowtie said...

I can relate to this on two levels- I'm 18 and am just really getting into lessons and serious skating after loving it for years. I just had to wait until I could pay for it myself- my mum pays around $2000 a year for me to dance, I couldn't ask for skating too! That means that, similar to Ice Girl, I am behind my peers- by about 12 years! However, my coach introduced me to a girl my age who has also just taken it up. It's so encouraging because we work together and it's so much better to be with someone my age than skating with an 8 year old and becoming discouraged.

From the burnout point of view- I reached state level in calisthenics (the Australian dance style) when I was 11. It burnt me out because I persued it since age 4 and there was nowhere to go from there- so I switched to ballet very late. I did classes and private lessons, pushing my technique further and further until I reached pointe work, where I burnt myself out trying to get to pas de deux work. That 2 years of constant pushing caused me to leave ballet for ever.

However, I haven't hit a skating slump yet- and hopefully when IG gets these challenging moves she'll come flying out of hers! If she seems to be really losing passion her coach will surely notice and find out where these feelings are coming from- these coaches are smart people.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ice Mom, I have been enjoying your candid blog. As a mom of a higher level skater, I would like to say that the axel is a huge hump to get over. Even when you "get it", it will not be big and beautiful for a few years for most kids. Then there is always the next hurdle: doubles, double/double combinations,double axel, triples, and more.
The point is, Competitive skating is a marathon, not a sprint. Avoid injury, be persistent, and only do it if you love it. Also, keep in mind other avenues of artistic expression in skating that do not involve big jumps, such as ice dance, ice theater, showcase, and synchro. It is too much time and energy to waste if you are not having fun.

Denise said...

For us it's parent burn out--our ice girl is still going strong. Personally, I'm taking a break from skating. I've turned over the skating responsibilities to my husband until I can get my enthusiasm back. In the last 4 weeks, I've only been to the rink once. It's a tricky situation because I still want to show support for my daughter without getting too involved.

Figure skating (particularly synchro) has taught her many great life skills, but I am still very cautious about the bad influences I have seen at the rinks--not so much at our current home rink but at other rinks where she has skated. I have become very cynical about skating because we've had some bad experiences with coaches and parents. (We have not experienced these issues in the other sports our daughter participates/has participated in.)

Wouldn't it be nice to have a "skating guru" to turn to who would listen to all our concerns and offer fair and impartial advice?

Anonymous said...

I think when it comes to the axel it either makes you or breaks you. What I mean is either you work to get it or you decide to quit. It can take you years to get it. I'm not sure if there's a synchro team your daughter might want to be on (I know more money) My daughter has been on a team for four years and loves it. She also does single skating. The synchro team is great because it gives you the team concept. Good Luck

Ice Mom said...

Thank you, everyone, for the encouraging words. Ice Girl insists that she's not burning out, but I'm actively trying to prevent it.

DollMum said...

I think you are doing a great job - you've got your eyes wide open to the potential for burn out and you seem to have found just the right balance between encouragement and not being pushy - something I find difficult with my very talented violin playing daughter. She had burn out at the end of last term, a violin exam that didn't go as well as she had planned (no result yet) and I gave her a complete month break from playing during the summer holidays. It seems to have done the trick, as she was happy to pick it up again and play a couple of weeks ago and is keen to keep playing. She has always said she does it for fun not a career, and though I know she could take it further, I try to stop sounding pushy when I encourage her.
We've recently returned to skating (for leisure, I was once in a synchro team) but she has saved up for her first skates, so your tips on breaking in skates in a previous post are very timely - thank you.

Ice Mom said...

Thanks, DollMum, for the reassurance. It's pretty great that your daughter took a month off from the violin and came back energized. Ice Girl is taking it easy this week - just lessons and a few practice hours. I hope it renews her desire to skate. Of course, she's insisting that she's not burning out...

Anonymous said...

i saw that ice girl recently took a test. what level was she testing? i understand how fustrating not passing can be. good luck on the retake though:)

Elisabeth said...

Here is some advice for the axel...
I have to state that I did not land many axels when I was actively skating and though I have gained weight since last skating seriously, I have, however, managed to land a few off-ice axels.

The first thing I can really recommend is off-ice practice. Easily done in the living room with the furniture pushed away or in the backyard. A lot of the helpful tips I have seen and tried include: stepping up into the jump instead of across like a waltz jump. Do waltz-loop combos off-ice. It is a little harder to do a loop from a standing position but when you can, it helps strengthen the leg muscles a bit.

Make sure to throw the arms up into the jump and snap tightly into the backspin position. One other thing that could help is if she wore ankle weights while doing off ice practice. It will force her to jump with more power and force to get herself just as high so when this translate to on-ice attempts, she might be able to jump higher and give herself more rotation.

The other thing that has helped me with not only off-ice axels but on-ice jumps in general is to repeat positive affirmation mantras- such as: 'I can do this', 'I will land this' and 'This will be great'. Et cetera.

I hope Ice Girl can avoid burnout. I initially quit for two reasons- cost and not being able to progress further than single jumps. But now I miss it so much! I can completely relate to you on the cost factor. My poor mom sacrificed a lot for me to skate. In 6 years of competition, I think I went through 4 pairs of boots, 3 pairs of blades, dozens of dresses and tights. My mom paid for it all on her own while managing household expenses too. I never realized until now just what she did for me to skate. My dad never really helped- he bought one of my boots once and that was it. He only came to 2 competitions out of dozens as well.

I did synchro for 4 years too. It was a lot of fun but it was expensive too- $800+ for the season not including dresses and travel costs.

Sorry for the ramble, I just wanted to offer some advice for Ice Girl and hope she is able to land her axel soon. I'm sure she will. :-)

Do you guys only do USFSA with Ice Girl or do you also do ISI? ISI was a lot of fun, especially with spotlight entertainments and stuff like that. If she isn't in ISI, you might consider it. Competition entry fees are a little cheaper too, though not much these days.

CatyDid said...

Ice Mom - Oh dear! I hope you don't burn out as well! I just discovered you blog after returning from ISI Worlds this summer. You are a great resource for this skater parents. My (10 year old) daughter has only been skating for 1.5 years. She got serious because of synchro. I hope she doesn't burn out. We had some serious ballet burn out before switching to skating. Rethinking her ballet experience - I tried to balance encouraging her to work through some difficult phases with honoring her interests or lack of it. It took a while to decide to move on - and wouldn't you know, she is talking about adding an off ice ballet class to improve her skating.

Ice Mom said...

Hey, Anony. Thanks for asking about Ice Girl's test. She was .3 away from passing her juvenile moves. She was totally cool with it because we'd done so much prework about how to react if she gets a retry. No big. She totally shrugged it off and said she'll retest next month. I think Ice Coach and I took it much harder than Ice Girl did. (One judge wrote down comments about Ice Girl's warm-up, which displeased Ice Coach enormously. Ah, well.)

Thank you CatyDid and everyone for your kind words. Ice Girl assures me that I'm blowing everything out of proportion and that she just wants a small break from the massive amount of ice she'd had over the summer. :) I'm still sure that preventing burn out is a good thing, though.

Anonymous said...

The axel lead to some skating burnout for me. I started working on it when I was 16 and it seemed impossible to land. My coach let me move on to other jumps after it was clear that I was burning out. It was very strange that I had a double loop, double flip, double lutz, and was doing double/double combos with those, yet I struggled hugely with the axel, double toe, and double sal. I finally got my axel before I left for college. I did one last competition in the fall of my freshman year and then decided to stop skating. The reason I quit ended up being financial, not due to burnout. I found that my coach letting me work on other things helped avoid burnout!

To me it sounds completely normal that she would want to scale back her ice time, especially because being in school all day and skating can be taxing. I wouldn't worry too much since she only cut her ice time by 4 hours a week. Keep an eye on it - you're a mom, so you will tell if something in her "mood" changes re: skating.

Ice Mom said...

Thanks, Anony, for the axel reassurance. I know it's a huge roadblock for skaters.

It's funny that you said you did all of your doubles before the axel. Ice Girl has done all of her whole jumps two ways: left and right. She has some neat left-right combinations and sequences. And she's working on her double sal, too.

Elisabeth: Ice Girl does USFSA. Honestly, I'm not sure if we have ISI in my area.

All the kind folks who suggested synchro: Yeah. 2.5 teams have expressed interest in Ice Girl, but I have to say the same thing: I only have so much money! :) I could switch her focus from solo to synchro, I suppose, but Ice Girl doesn't want to do that this year. Maybe next spring. We'll see.

Jillybean said...

My daughter took several weeks off from skating at the beginning of the summer. We hadn't planned it that way, it was just sort of the way it worked out due to school activities and projects for her and her brothers. The second day back, she landed her axel for the first time.
As far as the axel goes, I don't know of anyone who hasn't lost the jump temporarily after landing it for the first while, my daughter is struggling with her's now. She just started a new school this week so she isn't skating as much as she was this summer, and with school, she now has other things to think about besides the axel, so we're looking for it to return shortly. (fingers crossed......)
Before you know it, Ice Girl will be landing her axel consistantly and wonder why it had ever given her any trouble.

Ice Mom said...

Thanks, Jillybean, for the ray of hope. I've heard that the longer the struggle, the more beautiful the jump. I'm not sure if I believe it, but it sounds so hopeful.

Congratulations to your daughter on her axel. I can't wait for Ice Girl's to happen consistently.

Anonymous said...

Hi ice mom it's Season again.
India was going through some serious burn out about 1 year ago. She had a serious injury (3 hernia's, the same hernia problem Rockney Brubacker had)and she had to have 2 surgical procedures to repair the injury. When she was going through diagnosis, surgery and recovery she lost a lot of ice time and she had to regain her confidence to do the skills she was able to do before surgery.

She was seriously thinking about quiting skating because skaters she knew that she was more advanced then before surgery were now the same level as her or had passed her level. It was very discouraging.
I told her that I would not let her quite until she went back to skating and tried to see what she could do after she recovered. If she could not get back to her original skating level before surgery and she really wanted to quit then I would let her quit.

She did go back and within 1 summer she was back to her original skating level and she also decided to participate on the compulsory team at our rink.
Participating on the team really helped her find her joy and love for skating again. All the girls on the team were her skating friends that she enjoys spending time with on the ice and the program they performed was so much fun (Grease medley). Her team was undefeated in all there competitions so this really helped to boost her competition confidence.

The best moment was on the weekend of her 14th birthday she was participating with her team in a team competition event and an individual competition with a friend on her birthday.

The team event was first at one rink near our home. She brought cupcakes for her teamates and they loved the treats before they took the ice. After the team event was done all her teamates came to another local rink to watch and cheer for India and her friend that she was competing against during their individual event.

Having the support from her teamates helped her to win a silver medal for her individual event and her friend win a gold medal.

After both competition events India, her friend and all her teamates with their families went to the local pizza place to have a party to celebrate India's 14th birthday.

1 gold medal, 1 silver medal, great friends, fun skating and an awesome birthday party, Priceless!

If your skating is experiencing burn out have you skater try something fun with their friends to help them find the joy of skating again.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ice Mom... Could you address more on the parent burn out issue? I agree with what Denise had written. We have attended several competitions where parents/coaches, who deem themselves above all others, treat volunteers/staff rudely and expect the red carpet treatment. We were just at a test session for dance and the behavior of some of the mothers, coaches and even the skaters was appalling. Snobby coaches, mother's with a self absorbed attitude,with rude skaters do not make a great impression. Can't tell I am burned out can you??? Just happy I don't have to deal with them at our rink! It is bad enough seeing them at every competition.

Ice Mom said...

Hi, Season. Great comment, as always! It's fantastic that India came back from her injury/surgery and triumphed. You must be so proud.

Hi, Anony. Yeah. Parent burn-out is a big problem, isn't it? I can try to address it next week, but I think we'll all have to contribute what works for us. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ice Mom, Good luck to your daughter passing her retest for her Juvinile Moves. She seems to have a very good attitude about testing and a good support system with you and her coach.

Regarding her axel and wanting to skate less hours during the school year. It is common for skaters to skate less hours during the school year. Especially teens because they really need to have time to spend with their friends and to do homework.

I think your daughter may be right is saying that she is not burned out. I think she is being smart and you must be doing something right to teach her to have good time management.

Tell her not to worry about the axel it will come back. Working on other skills will also help her axel to be stronger.

Try to encourage her to practice the axel off the ice if she does not want to work on it on the ice. She could also work on off ice exercises to strengthen the muscles she use to do the axel. Also have her read the last page of the Aug/Sept issue of Skating Magazine. There is a great article by Cathy Casey regarding the axel take off and helpful hints to help her with her axel.
Have a great school year and keep up the GOOD WORK!

Anonymous said...

Hope your daughter is doing well. Another idea that might help your daughter is to have another activity that she might like. It could be a book club, or crafts or something like that. My daughter also horse back rides. She does it for fun, but it's nice that ice skating isn't the only thing she does. Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

Definitely had some burn-out with the axel. I just got it consistent, but working up to it all was tough work. No special tricks that motivated me, just the love of the sport, and wanting to get back on the ice whenever I could.

I've become frusterated many times, but I learned that it's just not worth it to avoid the skating, I embrace it even more. :)

angel said...

I really think that coaches need to be honest with how long that jump takes to get.And I agree with an above poster who said even when you get it, its not nice for awhile.
I think it took my daughter at least two years to go from a axle that just barely looked like one, to a cheated one to a ok one. That was two years ago and this past May she grew an inch and lost her axle and doubles. They just came back last month, right after a competition!. That is a part of skating.She has to know inside of herself that is normal to take along time for that jump .
My son landed his first last july 08 and just now has a decent one MOST of the time.
Skating is like that all the time.. Kinda like a football game on any given Sunday :}

EDarcy said...

Hi IceMom
Just wondering if you have any advice for a little girl who still loves skating and wants to skate every day but is not her usual self on the ice (tired with some tears, missing her usual enthusiasm, no more smiles) I'm thinking of removing her from the ice for a week or so despite her coaches unhappiness about it. Any help would be most appreciated!

Ice Mom said...

Hi, EDarcy.

Tell you what: I'll put this question out to my advisory board and see what they come up with.

In the mean time, I think a break is a great idea. Does she really miss it? It's a good way to find out.

Another bit of advice is to ask your skater what's going on. The three parts of motivation are competence, connection, and control. We know she has a connection with the ice, so is she missing the the competence or the control?

That should give you a starting point.

Good luck!

Ice Mom

Fiona @ bed and breakfast said...

Skating is really a good way to release your stress.

Georgia said...

Hi elisabeth. I agree with you that "absence makes t he heart grow fonder". I haven't skated in years and I miss it.