"Athletes are sensitive human
beings with lives beyond sport;
they are not simply a commodity."

The Coaches' Report

Parents' Survey Responses

Is there anything that you now wish you had been able to get information about more easily when you and your child were new to skating?

"General information is hard to come by when you are new to this sport. It is a very closed society and it takes a long time before anyone is willing to share any information such as rules, club information."

"The process was very difficult to start and you had to learn by experience. [Other] parents were actually not very helpful."

"When my skater started out, it was like a secret society and no one would even say where to get boots. My attitude has been through the years to help anyone that I come in contact... I took a lot of bunk for being honest and helpful to new skaters at our rink."

"New skating parents often know nothing about the sport and information in many skating rinks is not freely shared. This includes coaches, rink staff, other skating parents, club, club board members, etc."

"No, I went directly to the coach or other parents to answer my questions. I was never shy about asking questions to parents, and who better to ask?"

"I was fortunate in that there was an experienced parent who was very willing to share her knowledge."

"In the beginning everything was hit and miss. My daughter was scheduled for a test and we didn't even know what it was all about. Her first competition was a regionals. We didn't even know how important this was. Everyone, including the coach, assumed we knew more than we did."

"We were clueless when we started. Now I know more about skating than everyone else at the rink except the professionals. Information early on would have been helpful."

"More specific information on cost of skating by skating level. I have asked USFSA for information, but they only have it for elite skaters. I would like to know what average skating expenses are for every one who is not an elite skater so I can see if my expenses are in line."

"There should be more support available for boys, and parents of boys, who participate in figure skating."

"Information for and about male figure skaters. There is so little available that I started my own web site for advice to skaters, suppliers for mens boots and costumes as well as books. The response has been good. Boys and men are treated very shabbily by sports shops when it comes to finding equipment."

"Information on how to work with your child's school. I was always in the principal's office making a bad name for myself as I tried desperately to work Phys Ed credits into skating time. They would never recognize skating as a sport. It was stressful and took its toll on our family."

"Transportation assistance. The cost and transportation problems are limiting my skaters progress. The coaches are surprised at how fast she has progressed with so little coaching and ice time (no dance, or power classes either!) They frequently recommend other options, but when I explain the cost is a problem, I receive no advice on how to get help."

"Boot/blade selection -- many coaches and other parents see the most expensive as the best, but this should not be necessary nor is appropriate to all skaters. Without a local specialty retailer in our area, it's hard to try on or look at the real choices and to get objective information."

"Treatment of routine injury / strain. Equipment costs and reasons for purchasing more expensive equipment. Test requirements. Sources of technical and other information - on-line and printed."

"Finding a qualified coach. What comes after basics. Why join a club."

"Help with expenses. What types of experiences to expecct. What is expected of me and my skater. What is testing? When does a skater test, how often, are there age requirements? When does the skater compete? Who decides all this stuff? How does one go around a club that refuses to return calls?"

"I wish I knew about the technique manuals, requirements for programs, costumes, music, just about everything."

"What is a reasonable number of hours to train at various levels? How do you know when your child is making appropriate progress? How to be a supportive parent, not a 'coach' parent."

"What judges are looking for at competitions. This is still unknown... Having judges approachable at the lower levels would be a real help."

"Test sessions at other rinks in the state or nearby states. It seems to be difficult to hear or find out about other test sessions at different locations besides your local rink."

"Everything----from boots to sharpening to testing information, nutrition, training expectations, local and national competition schedules, parent networking.....too much to name."

"Eating disorders."

"I wish someone would have told me how unfair this sport is, how prone to eating disorders the girls are (that's a definite NO-NO to bring up, but I know of many girls who have sought treatment). Basically, I wish my daughter would have never started skating. I think it is a very unhealthy environment."

"It would have really helped to have known the difference between ISI and USFSA within the first three months of their beginning to skate. Also, even now we'd appreciate knowing a way to get financial assistance, especially for my eldest skater, a boy who loves ice dance."

"How the whole USFSA level system works - it was very vague to me at the beginning."

"A simple guide explaining the differences between ISI and USFSA."

"The difference between ISI and USFSA. The country I came from only had one skating hierarchy and it was not explained to us for quite a while."

"I wish there were a book available explaining the difference between ISI and USFSA. The coaches at our rink at the time we started never gave out any information that might benefit a kid other than their most advanced students."

"Our club has now published a book for new skating parents, which I wish that we had when we had first started this. It is so important for parents to understand what they are getting themselves into."

"I wish that there had been a comprehensive handbook available spelling out the journey from Canskate through Seniors, with explanations for the rookies of the land."

"More information on the testing and competition structure would have been helpful. More goal setting and individual planning sessions would have been nice. When you are new to the sport it would be nice for the club or rink to supply information about what is the USFSA, what is ISI; what membership in these organizations mean. It would also be helpful for clubs to offer parent seminars for new members to explain the relationship between the levels of testing and competition levels. Parents are left too much on their own to find these elementary facts about the sport. When you are new you do not even know the questions to ask much less where to find any answers. I think rinks and clubs are very remiss in not communicating with their customers and members. Every rink seems to be run differently and it takes time to learn the rules. It would also help if parents were made aware of the rules governing coaching. I do not think that most of the parents know that there may be restrictions on who can coach where and when. There is also initial confusion about ice-time, and who you are buying the ice from - club or rink. I also wish that I knew that ice-time for figure skating is so limited for it seems so much ice is sold to and devoted to hockey, even though surveys report that figure skating is a more popular spectator sport."

"The process of how to look for a good coach, what is expected of a coach and information about the organization that your child is joining. How lessons should be handled and how testing works? Maybe a parent magazine or newsletter from the organization when your child registers. I didn't receive any information from USFSA when my child joined. If it's left up to each club, it should not be, as some clubs have problems communicating with their members."

"How kids with 'ability' should progress through the system. Our club seemed to have a 'policy' where kids went from 'learn-to-skate' to a recreational group figure skating program, rather than directly to the test/competitive stream. In our case, our skater sort of 'lost' a year where she might have progressed earlier with private lessons. These were not offered or suggested."

"How the progress up the ladder from group programs to private lessons work."

"I wish someone had sat me down and explained what I was getting myself into before my daughter fell in love with the sport. I wish someone told me the correct way to choose a coach, beyond using one that is available and convienient for me and my skater."

"How competitions work, choosing coaches - when to leave a coach."

"Selection of quality coaches, and earlier training in switching how to switch a coach. The 'no-poaching' rules [in Canada] are detrimental to parents and skaters -- locking skaters to coaches until parents sense the coach is not as skilled as necessary to allow the skater to progress."

"My daughter now has a wonderful coach, but I wish I would have had information on what to do when you have a coach that is abusive, as her first coach was."

"I wish I knew of the correct way to report physical and mental abuse amongst coaching professionals."

"I would like to know how to deal (as a member of my childs club executive) with an abusive coach. What is the procedure, what can we do."

"I think that there should be some way of identifying a coach's record. There should be some form of parent survey regarding coaching behavior. The coach that my son was involved with had a long history of verbal/emotional abuse of skaters but that was not known at the time. He also had a long history of excellence which was widely known. Many parents tolerated these circumstances because they felt they had no other choice."

"Credentials for coaches, resumes of coaches' past jobs, education and experience."

"The qualifications of the coaches. What does 'Gold' really mean when you see their bios?"

"If coaches have ever taken their ratings."

"I wish there were a more clear way to understand a coach's skills and abilities. I find that the current PSA rating system is useless. Some of the highest rated coaches I have observed are also some of the least competent. And some unrated coaches (who chose not to go through the rating system due to the time, money and politics involved... they would rather spend their time improving their techniques) are some of the most qualified."

"How to discern a coach's personality/style quickly enough to know if his/her relationship with the child will last. Most people choose a coach based on what the parent(s) think of the coach's record/credentials, but not on a track record of long-term, successful relationships. The new parent should also investigate if the child feels listened to and understood (which may take time to see patterns). This is not to be confused with the skater's inability to follow instructions, just the context of legitimate questions by the child to the coach. Parents need to be ready to be aggressive in learning about the sport, because ultimately, they are responsible for the decisions being made and pay the expenses of the sport."

"My daughter began skating at the age of 7, she is now 17. At that time, the competition between coaches, all aspiring for the potential champion student, far outweighed anything printed in any rule book. In looking back, the most desperately needed information is to remind some low test coaches (and parents) that figure skating is a beautiful sport, but that it is only that... a sport. Many children, mine included, wear the scars of sad attempts to become a coach's favorite, basing their life worth on skating alone. Remind the aggressive coaches and parents, these kids must first learn to be happy with themselves, they need to skate for themselves in order to succeed. And remind the kids; hey, you can't please all the people all the time."