The high cost of Figure Skating

Discussion in 'Moves In The Field' started by Simone411, Jul 16, 2014.

  1. Simone411

    Simone411 aka IceSkate98

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    The article is by Jo Ann Schneider Farris. It's a discussion in regards to how Figure Skating can become more affordable. There are some very interesting suggestions, and Jo Ann invites Readers to join the discussion.

    The Way Figure Skating Is Paid For Must Change
     
  2. Skittl1321

    Skittl1321 Well-Known Member

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    I get the feeling she doesn't know how much elite gymnastics and ballet costs in the United States. It really isn't that much less than figure skating.
     
  3. Simone411

    Simone411 aka IceSkate98

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    Well that's interesting to know. Thanks, Skittl1321. I really don't know a lot about the costs of figure skating because there are no skating rinks in or around the area where I live. At any rate, I thought there were some pretty good points and suggestions brought up in the article. :)
     
  4. misskarne

    misskarne #ForzaJules #KeepFightingMichael

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    I also feel like - fine, this will work for some highly-populated figure skating areas like in the US...not going to work so well here where there aren't that many figure skaters to begin with.

    Oh christ, I can only imagine how much it would cost me if the rink manager of my rink decided to put the coaches on salary. Or worse, he wouldn't bother. He'd probably just shut the place down.
     
  5. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

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    For group classes to work, there need to be enough skaters at a similar level who want to skate at the same time. As misskarne says, this requires a fairly dense population of figure skaters -- or potential figure skaters.

    The higher the levels get, the more ice time the skaters want but also the fewer skaters they want on the ice to be able to work productively. So in that sense higher level skaters would end up paying more one way or another.

    If you have a brand new rink, or a brand new ambitious (group of) coach(es) at a hockey/general skating-focused rink where much of the ice time is currently underused, it could be possible to start a figure skating program based on an academy model that would bring students into the program at lower costs. Hopefully the low initial costs and high-quality group instruction would lead to many skaters staying in the program and moving up to higher levels -- at which time the program would need to be expanded to accommodate both higher levels and new beginners. The success will depend on how attractive the program is to local kids -- and adults? -- who want to take up skating and then to keep them skating.

    Building a group-based program at an existing rink with all levels of skaters already would mean designing a program that fits the needs of that particular rink's skating community, while allowing for the possibility of expansion if successful. One size would not fit all.

    It could certainly be worthwhile for rink managers or groups of figure skating coaches to figure out a cost-effective way to offer group instruction beyond beginner levels in their area. The details would be different at each rink. Some might improve recruitment and retention of students immediately and help coaches earn more money right from the start, and be considered successes. Others might end up losing skaters from that rink and interfering with coaches' livelihoods, and so be considered failures.

    I guess we wouldn't know which would be more common until a number of different rinks try taking that kind of approach.
     
  6. jenlyon60

    jenlyon60 Member

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    As I recall, the Wheaton Ice Skating Academy does a lot of its work in a group environment. And certainly they're turning out strong ice dancers.
     
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  7. treesprite

    treesprite Member

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    The Wheaton Ice Skating Academy is only for dance. I think it is also restricted to families with less than a certain income.
     
  8. overedge

    overedge Well-Known Member

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    I'm not sure the hairdresser model is a good comparison. Some hairdressers are essentially self-employed - even if they work at a salon, they pay a fee to the salon owner for the use of the chair, equipment, supplies, etc., but they still have to draw their own clientele. But not all of them work like that. Others work on salary (maybe with some commission pay on top of that) and do whatever work comes in the door.

    And given how political skating can be, I am not sure that the model of the skating director assigning work to the coaches would be that popular.

    Another factor in the cost of skating is that coaching is fairly specialized work that takes a lot of training. Lessons with coaches are expensive, but that's because the coaches invested a lot of time and $$$ in learning their trade (or at least they should have) and the skills really aren't transferable to many other types of work. FWIW coaches in the US seem to charge more per hour than coaches in Canada, but if you want to work with someone who's good at what they're doing, it's not going to be cheap.
     
  9. Debbie S

    Debbie S Well-Known Member

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    I doubt that.
     
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  10. aliceanne

    aliceanne Well-Known Member

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    I've seen other articles proposing this model (group training) to save money. Viktor Petrenko commented on one. He said that is the way he trained, but when he tried it in NJ it didn't work. He said the problem was that whenever someone was at the bottom of the group their parents would pull them out and return them to private lessons. This would leave the next skater at the bottom of the group and their parents would get them a private coach, and so on.
     
  11. J-Ro

    J-Ro Active Member

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    Ballet is A LOT less expensive than figure skating in the United States (I know. I do both in Boston.) I am going to compare the Boston Ballet School and the Skating Club of Boston, both of which train dancers and skaters respectively at the elite level. Ballet classes still are about $20 for a 1.5 to 2 hour class, even at an elite pre-professional level. This INCLUDES the instructor. Even if a dancer takes two two-hour classes a day, six days a week (that's 4 hours of dance a day, or 24 hours in a week) that's $240 a week. In contrast, freestyle sessions at many places are at or approaching $20 for a 50-minute session WITHOUT the instructor. If a skater skates 4 hours a day, six days a week at $20 per session, that's double the cost ($480) of the elite ballet school for the same time spent training. Add the cost of the instructor for say, one hour a day (and that's conservative) , which in my area has breached $100/hour (obscene, I think), add $600 for the week. Total cost of ballet per week: $240. Total cost of figure skating per week: $1080. Let's not even compare equipment costs.

    If the group model works in Russia, it can work here. It's just a matter of getting used to the idea of classes vs. private lessons. Private lessons have always had more prestige than group lessons, which are associated with beginners. It is about changing the perception of skating training. You'd also need very competent instructors.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2014
  12. treesprite

    treesprite Member

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    WISA is a not-for-profit organization that takes donations and uses them to help pay for skating items and skating costs that less wealthy skaters need but can't afford; in order to qualify underthat WISA scholarship fund, there is a maximum allowable income. Wh eaton Ice Skating Academy started at Wheaton Ice Rink, which is the companion to CJ where I work and skate, both being owned by the local park department.
     
  13. Bunny Hop

    Bunny Hop Perpetually learning Dutch Waltz

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    Indeed, one size does not fit all. The article also seems to assume that everyone in figure skating is a young person aiming to test and/or compete. Recreational skaters who just want to improved their skills, and adult skaters, who have to fit lessons around other competing commitments, would be unlikely to be accommodated under this more rigid system.
     
  14. J-Ro

    J-Ro Active Member

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    Private lessons should always be an option. However, there are many adults signed up for group lessons at my rink. I'm sure many would stay in group lessons after advancing beyond what is offered for groups. It wouldn't be just for competitive skaters just like ballet classes for adults and recreational dancers aren't for elite dancers but for those who enjoy dance.
     
  15. treesprite

    treesprite Member

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    Here is something people may be able to suggest to their skating directors and rink managers: One of the ways skaters can save money, is by rinks allowing custom classes. Some rinks do - "mine" does, and those "groups" are by invitation only, so they are not listed in group lesson offerings. It only takes 3 people to get group lesson rates for what is basically a semi-private lesson, and just like with the listed group lessons for the general public, there is a punch card for practice sessions (publics, but it works for practicing things at uncrowded times... most of our adult sessions are like adult dance/freestyle sessions, and most of the year there are 4 adult sessions every week).

    The issue with the above, is that you have to already know a couple people who want to work on what you are wanting to do, have to do the coach-finding yourself, and have to have everyone available at the same time there is a period of ice time available. It would be nice if the rinks would have a custom class matching system which lists available ice times, names of people interested in this or that type of instruction, available instructors who are looking for students in those areas/at those times. It's a lot harder at rinks where there is only one ice surface (the one here has 3 rinks so it is not too difficult, with some of the classes being very early morn and some at 10pm).
     
  16. Bunny Hop

    Bunny Hop Perpetually learning Dutch Waltz

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    It does depend on the person though. Some adults can't commit to a certain number of weeks of group classes at the same time due to, for example, travel for work, shift work etc. They need a more flexible approach.
     
  17. Simone411

    Simone411 aka IceSkate98

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    Wow! I never truly realized just how expensive skating, especially lessons and having coaches really is. I've donated in the past to USFSA (Friends of Figure Skating) and have also donated in the past to The Michael Weiss Foundation.

    I can just imagine how hard it could be for some families to be able to afford the lessons and coaching. I think some skaters also have sponsers in which I'm hoping that it would help with some of the expenses. I don't know how hard it is for skaters to get sponsers, and that could be a problem at times.
     
  18. J-Ro

    J-Ro Active Member

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    Only a very lucky few have sponsors. I would say that's a very small minority. The rest either have money (figure skating historically has been an elite sport) or have parents that work a ton of overtime in order to support their childrens' skating. Many skaters teach to earn extra money for their own training. I should add that the dollar amounts I have mentioned do not include the cost for competitive outfits, practice outfits, equipment (an elite skater will go through at least two sets of boots and blades a year--add another $2400), competition fees, and air travel and hotel expenses for competitions. In contrast, ballet dancers in training do not have to travel (yes, there are competitions but schools such as the Boston Ballet School, the NYC Ballet school, and other top schools do not have students compete). But in truth, many top figure skaters have parents who are on the higher end of the socio-economic spectrum. Simon Schnapir's parents are both chemical engineers. Max Aaron's father is a doctor and his mother a nurse. Rachael Flatt is an only child whose parents are a biomechanical engineer and a molecular biologist. Michelle Kwan's parents owned a Chinese restaurant. Sarah and Emily Hughes' father is a very successful lawyer. Here are some other skaters who made it to senior nationals but did not skate much internationally: Harrison Choate's mother was an executive at Gillette, Katrina Hacker's parents are lawyers. Go back even further: Dorothy Hamill's father was a mechanical engineer. Tenley Albright's father was a doctor. So you get the picture. The socio-economic makeup of families of elite skaters tends to support the expensive private lesson model of skating instruction.
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2014
  19. clairecloutier

    clairecloutier Well-Known Member

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    Sadly, I think you're very much correct, J-Ro. These days, it takes everything most people have just to pay the regular bills. How on earth can families support skating on top of that? The answer must be: A lot of skating families are at the higher end of the socioeconomic scale. It's the only way it adds up. In addition to those you mentioned, Gracie & Carly Gold's dad is an anesthesiologist (anesthesiologists are among the highest-paid specialists in medicine). Kristi Yamaguchi's dad was a dentist. Jenny Kirk's dad was a Hollywood producer or something like that. And I don't know what Polina Edmunds' dad does, but judging from the location and look of the family home in her NBC fluff piece, I'm guessing it's something quite lucrative.

    But, we shouldn't lose sight of a couple things. First, some families who are NOT on the higher end of the income scale do somehow manage to keep their kids in skating. Examples include Nancy Kerrigan, Jamie Sale, and Agnes Zawadzki, and I'm sure there are many more I don't know about. Kudos to those parents, who are doing the near-impossible.

    Second, another thing I believe is that all skaters' families are making sacrifices. Yes, some are fortunate to be on the high end of the income scale. But even in those cases, I think skating is probably stretching their resources. For instance, the Gold sisters' dad may be making a lot of money. But he's supporting not one but two daughters in competitive skating, plus 2 family homes (one for him, one in L.A.), plus his wife, whose time is spent helping the girls. On top of that, they are facing college bills (for Carly, anyway; Gracie may be able to pay her own way), plus the need to fund their own retirement. All that has to be a daunting prospect. I don't mean to single out the Golds, but simply to say that I don't think it's easy on any skating parents.
     
  20. misskarne

    misskarne #ForzaJules #KeepFightingMichael

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    Max's father may be a doctor and his mother a nurse, but they had THREE elite skater children, not just one, and I can't imagine that was easy. Not to mention with Max they were double-dipping for many years as a high-level skater AND a high-level hockey player (and I imagine when you start making development teams the cost just piles up).


    I think it's wrong to assume that just because a skater's parents have a traditionally high-paying job, that they had it easy. Sure, someone like Max will never know what Plushenko knew, growing up the way they did. But that doesn't mean the work that the skaters from better-off families have put in is any less.
     
  21. overedge

    overedge Well-Known Member

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    And at one point they had two mortgages on their house to pay for their daughters' skating (Karen Kwan was a national/international level competitor as well). And at another point they actually sold their house and moved to a smaller one so they could generate some $$$ to continue to pay for skating. The Kwans were not an example of "parents who are on the higher end of the socio-economic spectrum" at all.
     
  22. Debbie S

    Debbie S Well-Known Member

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    WISA is an ice dance training/coaching venture started by the 3 coaches. Their group may operate a "scholarship fund" (hope they have a good lawyer or accountant advising them) that distributes assistance to needy skaters who meet a certain income requirement, but their training program is certainly not restricted to skaters below a certain income level. They may have come up with ways to lessen costs for the skaters' families, but their coaching is not for charitable purposes; it's their livelihood and like all coaches, they seek to earn money. The fact that the rink itself is owned by the Park & Rec doesn't mean coaches are giving freebies. Coaches are independent contractors. They get privileges to teach at a particular rink and set their rates/run their program.
     
  23. J-Ro

    J-Ro Active Member

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    The odds favor the affluent. Sure, Nancy Kerrigan's father was a factory worker who worked extra shifts to pay for her skating, but because of the expense involved, generally the more well-heeled will rise to the top.
     
  24. overedge

    overedge Well-Known Member

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    And.....? That has nothing to do with the fact that you identified several skaters as coming from affluent families, when they didn't.
     
  25. aliceanne

    aliceanne Well-Known Member

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    I think if a skater is really talented people will help them. There are coaches who would give someone like Agnes Zawadzki free lessons just to have a student like that. When you talk about non-elite skaters who compete at high levels, yes, they usually come from affluent families. Past the basic freestyle level it is hard to progress without daily practice on freestyle sessions and private coaching.

    As far as group coaching working in the U.S. because it works elsewhere, the big difference is that in Russia or China the coach works for the government not the student. If the student wants to train with a certain coach they have to be accepted into the group and follow the coach's rules.

    In the U.S. the coach is paid by the student. If a coach wants to have students they have to meet the students' standards. I think group training falls apart because you never get a consensus among the students regarding schedule, training methods etc. Coaches in other countries don't have to worry about that.
     
  26. aliceanne

    aliceanne Well-Known Member

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    wriong thread
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2014
  27. HeManSkaterDad

    HeManSkaterDad Member

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    I've been thinking about this for a couple of weeks (since my wife sent me the article link) and I have been playing with how various models and how they might work (I do a lot of business feasibility studies, so it was right up my alley). It is the classic case a consumer with limited choices and limited negotiating power. Think buying insurance, getting a credit card, etc. You are only a small part of their business, there are limited choices, they all know basically what everyone else is charging, so there is very little you can do to change the price or the terms of the working relationship. You can decide not to use it (credit card) or how much to use (insurance deductibles, limits) but you really do not have any say in anything else. So the solution is to either increase choices or increase negotiating power. Increasing choices (more coaches or rinks) isn't really in the skaters/parents' control, so the only option is increasing negotiating power.

    So how? Collective Bargaining. I don't necessarily mean a union, but the concept is the same, pooling resources to demand more control based on volume. I am writing from the perspective of a parent who pays the bills, and I am guessing that most skaters have parents paying until the get to the highest levels, when this become less relevant and the big bucks have been spent. I have looked around and have not found any association for the parents. Their is PSA for coaches and USFSA for skaters (but the USFSA does not deal with coaching and/or fees). I know that some clubs and some rinks are more aggressive controlling how coaches work, but I would be willing to bet that most treat coaches as independent contractors and it is up to the individual skater/parent to deal with the coaches for lesson time and the rinks for ice time.

    I think the group concept is a start, but it is still really controlled by the coaches, so they can still determine how often, what price, etc. For ice time, unless you or your club own your own rink, you are fighting the hockey teams and leagues for ice time. I can tell you from experience, hockey is the money maker at rinks and freestyles are loss leader, so when they come in to book dozens of hours of ice time for league and a few skaters are asking for the same time for one more late freestyle, hockey wins.

    Here is the idea I have been kicking around in my head, and it is really just a rough sketch at this point. The game changer would be to form a consortium of skaters (parents), buy your ice time in bulk, hire coaches as employees to do group and dedicated lessons both on the private booked ice and freestyles. The rink benefits from having sold more ice time, the skaters benefit from cost savings and having a more organized semi-private sessions and while the coaches will not get the same rate per hour, they would benefit by having someone else handle all of the administrative issues and getting a steady paycheck (that might average more than they were grossing as independents). I roughed out some numbers and can see how it would work, and I see two crucial factors that will be make or break. First, for the numbers to work, there needs to be a core of 12-16 skaters at a skill level high enough and close enough together to be able to work in group lessons for part of their time and who (or whose parents) will commit to somewhere around $250/week for about 10 hours of group lessons on dedicated ice plus additional private lessons on freestyle ice. There would need to be a commitment (contractual, probably) for some length of time, probably a season, so that the consortium could budget for negotiating for ice and ensure the coaches of the ongoing salary and engagement. Second, and this may be the bigger hurdle, is the control structure of the consortium. I have been around enough skaters (and more likely skater's parents) to know that there will always be a few who think their skater is not getting their fair share of coaching/time/attention/etc. if they are committed for the season, then it is/should be hard for them to just walk away, as it will financially hurt the consortium and perhaps break down the entire model. So however the consortium is operated, it would need to have a leader that could either politically massage skaters/parents and keep them happy or a leader by agreement that had final decision making power and was trusted to do the right thing (a benevolent dictator). The benevolent dictator is the more efficient model, but it also tends to erode over time, as it is hard to find a benevolent dictator (the traits or dictator and benevolent being rarely found together in the same person) and even if you get the right person, my experience is over time it wears on them and they become less benevolent. Thus, it probably needs to be a hybrid of a strong leader, but with some appeal mechanism for disgruntled skaters/parents who truly are unfairly treated.

    If you could put all of that together, I think you could create a cost effective and training effective system for developing young skaters. It is a paradigm change from the current system, and would likely ruffle some feather, of coaches, rinks, clubs and skaters outside of the consortium. If I were doing it, I would try to get buy-in from a core group of skaters that are all at the same club and rink and then from the club. With those, I think the rink would be an easier sell (as rinks are always happy to sell ice) and the final piece would be getting the coach(s), which I envision would be like a talent search for a coach with the right set of skills and an open-mindedness to trying a new system.

    Its just a rough idea and probably a bit out of left field, but if you look at how we currently develop skaters, I do not think anyone could honestly argue our system is the best. So we need to start looking at unusual ideas of how to develop more and better skaters. I wld love to hear some thoughts and ideas. Feel free to pick it apart and point out all of the flaws, that free and unfettered back-and-forth usually leads to the best overall ideas.
     
  28. clairecloutier

    clairecloutier Well-Known Member

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    Interesting proposal. Perhaps you should start a pilot program and become its benevolent dictator! :)

    I am not deep enough into competitive skating to have any worthwhile ideas. However, just generally speaking, I'd really like to see changes in how the sport is paid for/financed/run in the U.S. As things stand now, it just seems so tough on families, it actually amazes me that we have as many great American skaters as we do.
     
  29. overedge

    overedge Well-Known Member

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    And in other countries as well. The state-supported model of training has its own set of problems, but the alternative of families basically supporting the skater until, or if, s/he qualifies for some financial assistance - which may never happen - is pretty challenging too.
     
  30. carriecmu0503

    carriecmu0503 Member

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    And if you read her bio, you will know she was coachless for 9 months before going to Frank, because the family could no longer afford it, and had already sold their double mortgaged home. The could only afford Frank because they were given a scholarship for free ice time and free room/board at Ice Castle.