Monday, January 25, 2010

Figure Skating Ice Time: It Doesn’t Happen without the Grades

Ice Girl’s not going to like this post, but she never reads my blog anyway. It’s nothing she hasn’t heard before, so if you tell her, she’ll just roll her eyes. She’s a teen. That’s what teens do.

Congratulations to Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu. They earned first and second place at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships and are the only two women the U.S. will send to the 2010 Olympics in Ladies’ Singles Figure Skating. That’s just two spots out of all the many fabulous figure skaters in the U.S.

Think about it. What if we were to take American Idol seriously and listen to only the top two female winners on the radio? That’s it. Just two. Oh, and three guys. So, that’s five. And five duets. So that's...15.

Our libraries would look very different if we selected just five solo writers to pen novels. Imagine movies and t.v. if we limited the number of actors to five. Well, we could include ten more for the pairs and ice dancers, so let’s increase the dramatic cast to 15. Still, many more fine actors would be waiting tables and pouring drinks.

The town where I live is known for high school football. Our football coach runs a football machine and cranks out state trophies like they’re widgets. Still, this is the first year that one of his kids has earned a spot on our university’s football team. I tell you, that kid owns our town. I doubt that he’ll make it to the NFL, but if he does, he’ll be one of 1,696 players. Not two, but hundreds of players.

So to all you ice moms out there who dream of Olympic Gold for your son or daughter, I say: keep the dream alive, but don’t forget about Plan B.

I tell Ice Girl: Shoot for the moon. If you miss, you’ll land among the stars. (I know. Cheesy. But, she’s taken it to heart and written it on all of her folders.)

Lofty goals and expectations are what create drive. That’s good.

However, if your ice kid isn’t quite good enough to make the Olympic team, you have to make sure that Plan B works. Plan B isn’t just good grades. It’s a good definition of self, too.

Ice Girl’s semester ended last Friday. Today is a day off, but she’s at home finishing up some homework. Ice Girl’s looking to raise one of her grades from a C to a B, our minimum standard for ice time.

It kills me to cancel ice, especially if I’ve already contracted and paid for it, but I tell you: grades are more important than ice time. Yeah, figure skating gives Ice Girl pride in her achievements, goals, drive, and confidence. She’s very fit, too. But, let’s face it: she’s gotta have those grades. I don’t care how much she hates the teacher, the subject, or the class. I don’t care about the tears, the protests, and the drama. Kiddo, you get a B on that report card or you lose that ice.

The second part of Plan B is: what if you don’t land on the moon? What if you have to settle for the stars? How will you define yourself off the ice? Ice Girl is in chorus and is working on a duet for a competition. She’s a mediocre gymnast, but she takes gymnastics at the high school during the summer. She takes ballet to improve her figure skating, and, after over a year and a half of dragging her feet into class, she’s discovered she likes it. Ice Girl is a funny kid, not the class cut-up, but his girlfriend. (I know. Ice Girl has a boyfriend. He seems like a nice kid.) She loves art and resists foreign language. She hates to read, but loves to write. She has a terrible Facebook and texting addiction. I try to teach her how to sew. She tolerates my efforts.

Look. I’m a realist. Ice Girl will probably go to Regionals, but it’s unlikely that she’ll go beyond that. She’ll probably coach after high school and she’ll probably be good at it. Figure skating will always be a big part of Ice Girl’s life, which is great. But, ice won’t be the only thing in her life, which is even better. She’ll have those grades (or else), go to college, have a career, and move out of the house (we hope). She’ll define herself in many ways, but if her figure skating doesn’t go beyond Regionals, she’ll still have many, many stars to choose from.

Again, congratulations to the fabulous figure skaters, both male and female, who skated at U.S. Nationals. Getting there is a testament to your hard work. Congratulations, too, to the 15 guys and gals who will be representing us at the Olympics. Your achievement represents many hours of work, sacrifice, and determination. It was a joy to watch all of you and I’m glad that you give all the current skaters a target to shoot for. May you succeed at figure skating and beyond.

Update: From reader Red Shamrock: Here, here! Does not matter WHAT your moon is (music, dance, math) there must be a Plan B. Life has a pesky habit of making the moon move.

Update: From reader Jozet at Halushki: Music, language, art, athletics, science, academics, outdoorsmanship...all these and more are ways our children relate to the world and learn to understand people around them as well as themselves. Of course, much might be learned through rigorous attention to one facet of who they are or could be.

However, a smashed-up knee a few months ago clarified for us very quickly what the risks are of identifying oneself mainly via one definition.

My skater is back on the ice, and she's going at it with gusto and determination and discipline. However, I am also making sure that my kids learn about and define themselves and their abilities and the world by exploring many road. Firing many rockets, as it were.

Update: From reader PrettyBowtie: I spend a bit of my time with ex-Olympic skaters, and the thing they always say is that they wish they'd finished school/gone to uni/done something in case it didn't work out. Lucky for them it did, but I can imagine how hard it would be if skating was your whole world.

Update: From reader SzuSzu: So if you believe there needs to be a healthy dose of achievement in childhood how do you find the balance? In our home the balance is arrived at by setting simple rules and priorities. Academics are king - school comes first. Commitments are honored. Free time, piano, sports, socializing, TV are all juggled through the week. Not everyday is the balance perfect, and we have plenty of conflicts and occasional late night homework sessions. But this is a lesson too. Hopefully we provide a good mix in the long run, teach some time management skills & self discipline.

Update: Very smart update from reader, Advisory Board member, coach, and blogger Xan of Xanboni!: I agree that academics must come first, but I'm going to add a "usually." My daughter went to Jr Nationals as a junior in high school, and her school would not let her miss more than 2 days. So she had to fly in (from sea level to the mountains with no time to acclimate), do a late night practice session, an early morning practice session and the competition, all in a 36 hour period. She missed everything about competing except the stress. She did poorly at the competition and never really forgave the school for not understanding how important skating was to her. It isn't balance if it doesn't work in both directions.

Update: From reader Season: I completely agree with your blog comments on this matter.  I have always told my daughter that she should skate for herself and to make her happy and whenever this sport no longer makes her happy she should do something different. If she wanted to persue going to the Olympics I would support her but if she just wanted to skate for the pure fun of skating that is okay with me. [...]I also agree that every athelete should have a Plan B because you never know if injury, financial problems or burnout are going to take you out of the sport you enjoy. response by: Season

Update: Great post from blogger Mr. Sports Blog about Rachael Flatt and her determination to succeed on the ice and in the classroom.

Update: From reader Jozet at Halushki: Xan, This drives me nuts. If a kid is doing well in school and is involved in an outside activity in which they are disciplined and progressing - and that discipline will only carry over to other areas of their life - then why the heck can't they get off some school time for a national level competition. Because we all know that if it were football players or even band, those kids get off school time to travel, etc. 

Update: From reader Anonymous: My daughter adores skating but she also loves alot of other things like art,lacrosse,cheering,and dance. I really believe that kids should have a variety of interests to keep them happy and balanced,and of course academics should come first.

Do you have a question for Ice Mom or the Advisory Board? Better yet, are you terrific at some skate mom thing and you want to share your expertise with the rest of us? Great! E-mail me at icemom.diane@gmail.com 

13 comments:

RedShamrock said...

Here, here! Does not matter WHAT your moon is (music, dance, math) there must be a Plan B. Life has a pesky habit of making the moon move.

Anonymous said...

thank you ice mom for reminding me i have finals to study for (but how do you do that when you wake up for 6 am ice?).
can't I just take a final in skating?

Jozet at Halushki said...

Exactly and precisely and perfectly said.

Music, language, art, athletics, science, academics, outdoorsmanship...all these and more are ways our children relate to the world and learn to understand people around them as well as themselves. Of course, much might be learned through rigorous attention to one facet of who they are or could be.

However, a smashed-up knee a few months ago clarified for us very quickly what the risks are of identifying oneself mainly via one definition.

My skater is back on the ice, and she's going at it with gusto and determination and discipline. However, I am also making sure that my kids learn about and define themselves and their abilities and the world by exploring many road. Firing many rockets, as it were.

Have you read "Warrior Girls"? It's a great book about the higher risk and incidence of sports related injuries in female athletes and how to prevent them, but there is also a very smart and thoughtful discussion on the sometimes skewed view of importance of sports in our children's lives - especially, maybe, in American culture. A good read. I'd like to hear your take on it (if you haven't already reviewed it?)

Prettybowtie said...

I spend a bit of my time with ex-Olympic skaters, and the thing they always say is that they wish they'd finished school/gone to uni done something in case it didn't work out. Lucky for them it did, but I can imagine how hard to would be if skating was your whole world.

I wish more parents had the inspiring and positive outlook you do!

Also- would you mind if I send a link of this entry to the head of my skating club? I feel they need to see this, as they're of the 'skating above all' persuasion.

Ice Mom said...

Hey, Prettybowtie!

Absolutely! Link away! :)

I hope you're doing well,

Ice Mom

Ice Mom said...

Hey, Jozet.

No, I haven't read Warrior Girls I'm about to do a library search.

Thanks for the recommendation!

Ice Mom

SzuSzu said...

Sorry for the long post, but I often wrestle with this topic.

In the many things that our children will seek to attain, it’s not a matter of wanting bad enough – but wanting the same thing long enough to make it happen.

If you wish to play piano, or figure skate at a high level of competency you must practice for years to achieve that goal. How do our kids get this concept? By doing. Just as learning certain skating elements needs to be a “muscle memory” excelling at a sport or instrument teaches a young person who lives in a world of instant gratification the simple formula: Work + time = success. This is the “muscle memory” that they will need pursue advanced academic degrees in later in life, to save for a home purchase, to build a business, etc.

So if you believe there needs to be a healthy dose of achievement in childhood how do you find the balance? In our home the balance is arrived at by setting simple rules and priorities. Academics are king - school comes first. Commitments are honored. Free time, piano, sports, socializing, TV are all juggled through the week. Not everyday is the balance perfect, and we have plenty of conflicts and occasional late night homework sessions. But this is a lesson too. Hopefully we provide a good mix in the long run, teach some time management skills & self discipline.

bethalice said...

This is so timely! I just had discussions with my skater's personal coach and synchro coach. With their support, if she has not improved dramatically with her school work (we homeschool) she will be pulled out of all skating after the next competition. I would pull her out now, but I already spent way too much on the next competition.

Xan said...

I agree that academics must come first, but I'm going to add a "usually." My daughter went to Jr Nationals as a junior in high school, and her school would not let her miss more than 2 days. So she had to fly in (from sea level to the mountains with no time to acclimate), do a late night practice session, an early morning practice session and the competition, all in a 36 hour period. She missed everything about competing except the stress. She did poorly at the competition and never really forgave the school for not understanding how important skating was to her. It isn't balance if it doesn't work in both directions.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with your blog comments on this matter.

I have always told my daughter that she should skate for herself and to make her happy and whenever this sport no longer makes her happy she should do something different. If she wanted to persue going to the Olympics I would support her but if she just wanted to skate for the pure fun of skating that is okay with me.

The pressure that this sport puts on our children to become Olympic Champions is rediculous. Other than gymnastics, I can not think of any other sport were it has every person you tell that your child is involved in skating or gymnastics, illicet the question "Are you going to the Olympics?!"

I really wish they would make synchronized and theater on ice skating Olympic events. This would open the door to allow more skaters to live the Olympic dream because they are team sports.

I also agree that good grades and academic success should come before skating. If you look at most elite figure skaters they are very academically successful. Most of them go to ivy league colleges (Harvard, Prinston, Yale, U of M).

I also agree that every athelete should have a Plan B because you never know if injury, financial problems or burnout are going to take you out of the sport you enjoy. response by: Season

Jozet at Halushki said...

Xan,

This drives me nuts. If a kid is doing well in school and is involved in an outside activity in which they are disciplined and progressing - and that discipline will only carry over to other areas of their life - then why the heck can't they get off some school time for a national level competition. Because we all know that if it were football players or even band, those kids get off school time to travel, etc.

I think this topic deserves and entire post itself. We recently have come up against needing time off for test sessions and competitions. I had to go all the way to the school board and beyond to get someone to listen and show how having high-achieving athletes, musicians, artists in the school and allowing them the time they need to be the best they can be while still balancing academics only benefits the school. Argh! Yes, an entire post there waiting to be written.

Anonymous said...

Perfectly said Ice Mom! My daughter adores skating but she also loves alot of other things like art,lacrosse,cheering,and dance. I really believe that kids should have a variety of interests to keep them happy and balanced,and of course academics should come first. A skating mom at our rink absolutely decompensated a few weeks back when her daughter didn't take first place in a competition. The child is a great skater and loves it but has no other activities or interests. Her mom has put such pressure on her to skate that I can see the stress wearing her down and now I hear that she wants to quit.She has no plan B. Thankfully she's young enough to start a Plan B now. Maybe she'll discover something new that she loves and her mom learned something.

Ice Mom said...

Hi, Anony.

Thanks for the great comment. It's really too bad when young girls have overbearing mothers. It's too bad that the terrific skater you mentioned is wanting to quit and she has no Plan B.

Ice Mom