August 28, 2010

How to: Know When To Stop


Stopping skating is a hard decision. Whether you are the skater, or the parent, the years of dedication (up at 5am when you really didn't want to anyone?), commitment (towards yourself, coach, and the whole entourage) and sacrifice (financial and emotional not to mention the fact you really could have used that money for a family holiday) are a lot to leave behind. It's a bitter pill to swallow. I've been through it. Sort of.

I'm in that gray area. You know, when you know that competitively it's not going to go anywhere further (the lack of men in my area is staggering) but you love skating to the core and know it'll always be with you. Still, the realization that you're not going to the Olympics is a hard one to come to terms with.

Has your child decided it's really just a lot more fun hanging out with friends, or, heaven forbid, a boyfriend! *Dramatic music*. Seemingly passing fashions in your child's life are suddenly threatening something you've worked hard (and paid hard)
towards for many years. My experience is, if your kid's heart's no longer in it, the boyfriend or the mall excursions in lieu of saturday morning patch ice is just a manifestation of the deeper sentiment; "I just don't want to skate anymore". So how do you know when to let go?

Communication is the key. You'd be surprised how many skating families simply do not communicate. I've come to find that this is sometimes simply because the parent(s) doesn't want to hear what could be a negative thought from the skater. Find out what your skater is feeling, and try and find compromises. You'll very quickly find out whether skating is something they really do enjoy or not. This is the base note for a life in this sport and if the pleasure isn't there (let alone the desire to succeed, the will to work hard, and the understanding and maturity to know it's not all going to happen in a day) then something's gotta give.

So we spoke about compromise. If your skater feels that s/he doesn't have enough "me" time (the complaints about not going out enough with friends or not having enough boy/girl friend time are the classics) try and compromise. But make sure they realize that it's a 2-way system and that you are not at their beck-and-call. Once a change to the schedule has been made, you have a life, work commitments, and possibly commitments to other family members. Learning to make your bed and lie in it is a valuable life lesson, and one that's not lost on skating situations.

Recycle your skating life. I've always been a realistic person, even as a kid. I started late in skating but like all kids had big hopes and dreams. I climbed the ranks fast. But there comes a point when you know it's not going to go any further. I knew I wasn't going anywhere in ladies singles skating at around about age 14/15. If you're not jumping at least almost a full set of triples by that time, you're not going to be able to compete with the biggest names in figure skating. I was jumping 2A, triple salchow and flip, but still had off days with the double toe (aka the jump from hell!). Then I broke my ankle.

So what can you do to stay in the sport? I went into ice dance. It's the best choice I ever made and I curse the day, when my mother said to me in front of a World Championship "why don't you do ice dance?", that I replied with a shudder and a sarcastic figure-skating-rocks-ice-dance-stinks remark. Teenagers really can be stupid. I'm no exception. Just for the record, I'm not saying ice dance is a reconversion sport. It's not. The best dancers in the world have always been just that, dancers. But it's another path to explore, more pleasure to discover, and ultimately more success to be had. There is also the synchronized route, you'll know about it if your rink has a team.

The point is, stopping skating doesn't have to mean giving up skating. It can be the beginning of a whole new chapter. The sooner you come to terms with reality the quicker you can take another path. I'm now in full time education and skating is taking a back seat. I deeply want to secure my future and see science as a way of doing that. That's not stopping me from sitting my coaching diploma and being actively involved on the testing circuit (my goal being to eventually travel to the USA to sit the high-level dance and moves tests).

Bottom line though, it's painful. Of course I've shed a few tears over it. Parents do too. It's not about the money (even if that does come splurting out of your mouth during a heated conversation with your skater). It's about the belief. The hours spent driving, the hours spent sitting in cold rinks, the cans of glitter spray emptied onto your little darling's head at countless competitions, and all the warm buzzes experienced when a test was passed. Try not to be too nostalgic in front of your skater. Whatever you're feeling as a parent I guarantee you your skater is feeling too. Remember that while you were driving and spraying and waiting, they were skating and feeling and hoping, dreaming. It's a 2-way street, after all.

How have you dealt with letting go of skating? Tell us all about it in the comments section!

Have any questions, want to know more, don't agree? Please leave me a comment!

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Photo credits:
All photos from sxc.hu
Flowers by bertvthul
Swing by dtiriba
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5 comments

  1. Thank you so much for a great post, Gigi. I'll be putting up a guest post about this soon and linking to yours.

    Another good post about the end of skating is from Olympic coach Nick Perna's daughter Brittany: A Rink is an Oval - Skating is a Path (scroll down halfway on this page: http://grassrootstochampions.com/g2cnews.htm).

    Great stuff, Gigi. Love the bit about ice dancing and maturity.

    Ice Mom

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  2. Thanks so much Ice Mom! Really looking forward to your post on this subject, I think it touches so many skaters and their parents. I wonder how many 'failed' skaters there are for every Olympic champion. Someone should calculate that.

    Thanks for the link, it's very interesting indeed and there is a ton of information on that page O_o!

    Happy skating, tweet you soon :)

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  3. I'm 15 and I am trying to land my axel. There are 7 year olds at my rink landing them. I don't know if I should stop skating or not. I also don't know where to go with it. If you have any advice, I'd really appreciate it!!! have a nice day

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  4. Hi @Emma Progs ! Thanks for leaving your comment. I completely understand where you are at this point, because I've been there myself. I started comparatively late (aged 9) and took a few years to get my axel down. Of course the kids who had started aged 3 were jumping it while I was just starting out! I think there are a few key issues you need to address:
    1) are you comparing yourself to skaters who have a lot more experience than you? This isn't fair on yourself.
    2) What are your goals in skating? Being realistic is the best way to enjoy your skating.
    3) Do you still enjoy skating? It sounds dumb, but if you can't remember the last time you just enjoying skating for skating's sake (just mucking about on the ice, doing the things you enjoy, whether that be jumps, steps, spins...), then maybe the joy has gone out of it and it's time to move on.

    I think you should absolutely not stop skating if you love it, just because other kids can do harder jumps than you. There will almost always be someone better than you. That should not stop you from going after YOUR GOALS (comps, shows, pure fun, whatever those goals are, they are yours and no one can take them away from you).

    If you are on Facebook come and like the FigureSkatingAdvice page and we can exchange messages there if you would like. Otherwise you are welcome to email me at gracie@figureskatingadvice.com

    Have a great day too Emma
    Gigi
    XOXO

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  5. im twelve yrs old n i just quit skating two weeks ago. it was definitely a sad and painful experience (three years of training n hard work down the drain!!!!) but i knew i was never going to make it as a professional skater or go to the Olympics. i hadnt even landed any doubles n with the training i was receiving, i wasnt going anywhere. where i live there r only two ice rinks and very few coaches (none of them were professional). I felt really sad abt quitting n leaving my skating friends. anyway, now that i hv finally quit, i hv more time to focus on dancing, n i hope that the same thing wont happen with dance!

    ReplyDelete

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