Please see below for a thank-you from Cathy for all of your comments.
Cathy, who is a new ice mom, sent me this question:
My daughter (9 years old) has been taking private lessons for only a few months. We have been informed by our coach that she will need to practice at a minimum 4-5 days per week, 6 being optimum. Since I work fulltime, the only time I can get her to the ice is a 6 a.m. She would then leave to go directly to school - eating breakfast in the car. My daughter seems willing, but I feel as though it is too much to ask of a 9-year-old. What comments do you or your readers have about my concern? Has anyone done this with a young child and has advice?
I want her to advance and become accomplished in the sport, but we have modest ambitions overall - no desire to raise a national champion. However, sometimes it seems that there is no middle ground to be had in figure skating. It's an all or nothing commitment.
Here’s what Ice Mom’s Advisory Board has to say:
C.L.: This is really the dilemma in our sport. Where is the middle ground? If national skating is not the goal, is it necessary to skate six days a week? Maybe if your child wants to be the best at his or her current level, it is. Natural talent does go a long way, too. I've seen a lot of wonderful skaters that skate two times a week for a couple of hours.
Each family and child is different. My daughter would never survive 6:00 a.m. ice on a daily basis (neither would I), but then again I know some of our members whose kids are early birds and probably wouldn't have any issues with that. I do think that's a lot to ask of a nine-year-old if you’re not planning on being serious regional/sectional/national competitors. Some coaches only want the best of the best...those skaters and parents who are willing to sacrifice sleep, money, and time. Other coaches are more flexible...allowing for a slower progression. As with any sport...the more time you spend doing it the better you get, but that doesn't mean someone who spends less time still won't be better than you
Ice Coach: Bottom line: if that’s the coach’s standards and the family isn't ready for that commitment yet, find a different coach with values/goals that match your skater’s. That’s really the only option here in my opinion.
kel: Different coaches have different requirements of ice time. When we started with our coach (my daughter was 7), she skated two hours a week -- one during her private lesson, and one hour during Learn to Skate. Now that she is 9, she skates maybe 3 hours a week. I'm aware of other coaches that require their skaters to skate 10 hours a week (twenty during the summer). Certainly, other skaters have progressed more quickly than she, but she's happy with how she's doing as am I. So, I think this is a matter of different coaches have different requirements -- this of course results in different speed in a skater's progression.
As far as 6am ice goes, I'm a fan. Gets it out of the way early in the day -- as long as your daughter is an early bird. We did 6am skates for a while and I felt that it was better for my daughter than later evening skates, when she was just too tired.
Xan of Xanboni!: Crazy, I literally JUST put up a post about this, in response to a reader request. It's the latest post, but it also refers to this one: http://xan-boni.blogspot.com/2009/10/yes-please-practice-why-are-we-even.html about how to judge amount of practice needed.
More specifically, if this girl has been skating "a few months" she cannot possibly be any further along than low freestyle and that's a stretch unless the coach has been "cutting" her up. Nine years old is a little young to handle early morning ice on her own, but not unheard of. If she is planning to go after a high-level competitive career, then sure, 4-6 days a week is not unreasonable. But it's hard to see them having made that judgment this early on.
Really need more information, including skating level, whether the coach is proposing just practice or additional lessons, and whether the girl is also taking classes. If the child is willing to do this and follows through without complaining (much), the family can afford it, and the skater seems happy and progressing, it's not completely out of line.
HOWEVER, my initial reaction was that this family is heading for burnout. They need to build it more slowly.
S.F.: How many private lessons per week is this mom paying for? My daughter's coach prefers an equal amount of practice to lesson time. (ie 30 min lesson 30 minutes practice) At this time with synchro, homework and school activities we aren't doing a lot of practice. Just lessons.
I can say that when my daughter doesn't put in the practice time in to go with the lessons it takes twice as long for her to achieve her goal.
Mom, skater and coach need to reach a happy medium. Mom and skater also need to decide how big a commitment/investment that they want to make.
I think that skating is something that is very individual and the level of commitment is the based on the desires of the skater and the parent willing to put the time and money in to the lessons and practice. If the Mom doesn't want do the high level of commitment that the coach wants then she will need to tell that coach that we are not ready for that type of commitment.
Ice Mom: Ice Girl skates three times a week at 6 a.m. and I won't lie to you: it's hard. She eats breakfast in the van and dresses in the van, too. Ice Girl started this nonsense when she was 12 and it's been almost 2 years that we've been doing it. I, too, have this whole work thing I do during the day and sometimes it's challenging for me to get Ice Girl to the rink, especially during the summer when the only ice is from 8 a.m. - 11 a.m. Really. Do these people work? For us, it takes a lot of networking and car pooling to pull it off.
- You get practice over with and have your nights free (well, until 8 p.m. when you go to bed)
- Ice Girl says she's wide awake for school and can concentrate better
- The ice is usually not as packed as afternoon sessions, which makes it less stressful for a new skater.
- It fits in a work schedule.
- It's 6 a.m.!
- Possible zombie kid and parent
- Wrestling with bed times
I think your coach is telling you that your daughter needs to practice so often so that the skills she's learning will stick with her and she'll advance. Really, it's a good use of your money to have a fresh lesson every time your daughter sees her coach rather than reviewing the same stuff over and over.
However, kids, especially young kids, have trouble focusing during practice ice and often skate aimlessly around for an hour without much focus. Having more lessons with the coach ensures that your daughter is using that expensive ice time well and improving her skills.
What really struck me when I read your e-mail was that your coach is insisting on this number of hours. Perhaps your coach isn't a good fit for your daughter's goals. Does the coach know that your daughter wants to be more laid back in her training? You might want to have that conversation with her. If she doesn't accept your daughter's goals, you might ask her to recommend a coach that would be a better match. You don't want to pay a lot of money for ice and lessons you don't want, and you don't want your daughter and coach to become frustrated with one another because one's pushing and the other is resisting.
Update: This is from Cathy, the ice mom who posed the question for this post. She e-mailed me this thank-you that I want to share with you:
I'd like to express my appreciation to you, your advisory board and readers.
Thank you all for generously sharing your experiences, what a pleasure it was to read your comments! When we first began figure skating we were presented with a well intentioned but very serious approach to the sport. It was all so intimidating. Although my daughter loved to skate, the pressure to practice and master new skills was draining the fun out it. Often on the way home from the rink I ould wonder if we had what it takes to pursue figure skating. I agree with Xan that we were heading for a burnout.
To read about the different ways others have been able to successfully weave figure skating into their lives has been a revelation. I especially enjoyed the perspective from the young skaters. So much of what was said rang true. It¹s not all or nothing there is a middle ground if we choose to stake it out. I now feel confident that we can meet our goals and make a plan for our daughter that is sustainable, and most importantly - more enjoyable!
Thanks again to all your readers for such great advice!
Update: From reader Anonymous: My IG has been skating in a learn to skate program since age 3. [...] At age 9 we now average 4 hours per week. [...] We entered our first competition this past weekend. She can't wait till her next one!! Had I pushed her faster sooner she may not love the sport as much as she does now.
Update: From reader Helicopter Mom: [...] my daughter has been skating for 4 years! I think if they told me I needed to get her there at 6 am when she'd only been in private lessons for a couple of months, I would have lost my mind! I KNOW she wouldn't still be skating now.
Update: From reader Alice in Wonderland: Every session I check in with her (want to skate more/less/same) and she lets me know! We're being supportive, and at times I think I'm crazy, but when I watch her I see the joy she has when she's skating on her own and trying that "stupid axel"
Update: From reader Anonymous: Our coach is a very high level coach. She takes skaters to Jr. Nationals and Nationals just about every year. But when I ask her about amount of time to practice at first. She said" just let her have fun." If your skater is having fun out there, she will ask for more. If she really wants to learn new skills, she will ask for more. Then it's up to you and your checking account to make the finial decision on what's too much.
Update: From reader Anonymous (this whole comment is fabulous): My daughter has been skating the "early shift" for thirteen years. I actually found it was easier to keep to this schedule when we did it every day (but Sunday), because we were able to adapt better when bedtimes were consistent throughout the week. My daughter was/is a competitor and (almost) never complains about the early hours.
Update: From reader Jozet at Halushki: Here's my advice: talk to your skater and first figure out what her goals are and then start breaking it down - a year goal, a monthly goal, a goal for the week, a goal for each lesson/practice. Then start with the amount of ice time that makes you all the least crazy and see if it's a good match for your daily and weekly goals. Give it a month or so. If your skater is chomping at the bit or hitting a plateau, add an ice session. If your skater is doing well and achieving her daily/weekly goals, stick with what you're doing.
Update: From reader Rosalie: As to the age concern, I think what is and what is not right for a skater has less to do with their actual age and more to do with their maturity level. If a skater can handle so much practice and early ice time, it can give them good life skills in the future, such as sticking to a routine, setting goals, and learning how to manage themselves, which a skater who only has lessons won't learn. However, if it only stresses your skater out, you see a decline in their grades or happiness, or they start to lose sight of their priorities, it might be too much too soon.
Update: Excellent and detailed training information from reader Season. This entire comment is worth a good read. However, here's an exerpt from the very end: I hope this helps explain why a choach asks a skater to skate 4-5 days a week. The coach knows and understands the amount of skills they will be required to teach your skater to compete sucessfully and they what to make sure your skater has enough practice time to help the coach move quickly through the skills being taught and to give your skater confidence when they are competing.
Update: Wise advice from Anonymous who has seen meltdowns: I think schedule-wise you HAVE to do what's best for your kid and not go overboard for where there are with their skating. Years ago, we also had an "ice friend" that was, at the age of 7 (and skating at Basic 8 moving to low beginner freestyle level), skating every day before school, 3 days a week after school and 2-3 hours each on Sat and Sun. And she had 4 coaches because that was the only way to get that many lessons. That was one very unhappy child and her mom just couldn't figure out why her skater couldn't stay focused on the ice!
Update: Excellent advice from reader Season about coaches, synchro, and dance: I will say again I do highly recommend having all skaters that are working on Basic Skills through Intermediate MIF work with an ID coach and learn ID because it will help your skater progress through their MIF faster and they will have more confidence and be able to present their FS programs with grace and extention.
I also would recommend lower level (Basic Skills through Juvenile FS)skaters to try synchronized skating for at least 1 year because it will make them a stronger skater and a faster skater. They are required as part of being on a team to do their best to skate up to the level of all the skaters on the team. If you have a skater that is a weak skater and you want them to become stronger, faster, and progress faster then have them join a synchronized skating team for at least 1 year. When they progress to Juvenile level (qualifying level) or higher and they want to focus on one skating discipline then you would want to encourage your skater to choose which discipline of skating they want to focus on.
How much figure skating ice do you think is too much? Is there such a thing as too early or too young? Do you have advice for this mom?
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