Brennan article: (USFSA) Chief says figure skating does not have culture of sexual abuse

gkelly

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See, that's a vicious cycle. Part of the reason it's so expensive is because there is no real support or excitement for recreational skating by the people in the sport who 'matter". Therefore there is then no critical mass of people and families who just love to skate in general. So therefore less demand for coaches and ice rinks and gear, etc.

I think this has been true in the US especially in earlier parts of the 20th century. And recreational skating (as opposed to figure skating) was something that primarily happened in cold-weather parts of the country on frozen ponds, etc.

Over the last 30 years or so US Figure Skating has developed more programs to appeal to wider constituencies of skaters and to expand its membership, in part by retaining skaters who reached a point where it became clear they were not on an elite track.

There are definitely participants and officials within elite figure skating who are only interested in the elites. And anyone who is regularly competing at sectionals and Nationals becomes part of that community. But the sport has gotten much broader based and diverse than it was when I was skating as a kid.

No, figure skating has never had the broad base of participation of something like gymnastics or swimming, let alone field sports/team sports. In part because it's just economically less feasible to maintain rinks than other types of athletic facilities -- and in some places rinks are profitable if they cater primarily to hockey and public skating but would lose money if they offered enough ice time for figure skating to sustain competitive training conditions.

I do think that the "culture of figure skating" varies widely depending on the type of club and often the specific club, including who happens to constitute the leadership of each club (functions within the sport, and individual personalities). It's hard to generalize because skaters at different clubs -- or even who skate on different sessions with the same club -- may have very different experiences.
 

MacMadame

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I believe the dance coaches at Wheaton focus heavily on group lessons. This seems to be one way they attract so many local skaters to ice dancing.
It's also how they do things at the Mitchell Johansson Method. Other skaters have tried to start schools like this too. I haven't heard much about them though.

I think it really needs to become a trend and a viable option all over the country. We know it can work because lots of skating power countries do it this way.
 

Coco

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I think group lessons might make kids better competitors, too. They will naturally develop mini-rivalries with their training group partners as they try to one up each other and fight for the coach's praise.

If it doesn't make them better competitors, it will at least attract kids who enjoy competing.
 

overedge

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I think group lessons might make kids better competitors, too. They will naturally develop mini-rivalries with their training group partners as they try to one up each other and fight for the coach's praise.

If it doesn't make them better competitors, it will at least attract kids who enjoy competing.

Group lessons should support all skaters, no matter what their goal is. Some kids might want to compete, but others might enjoy just learning new things and improving their skills.

IMO fighting for the coach's praise isn't a healthy training environment. Group lessons can work really well if the coach can give positive feedback to all, and at least some individual attention to each of the group members, but it shouldn't be some sort of mini-Hunger Games.
 

gkelly

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Group lessons should support all skaters, no matter what their goal is. Some kids might want to compete, but others might enjoy just learning new things and improving their skills.

IMO fighting for the coach's praise isn't a healthy training environment. Group lessons can work really well if the coach can give positive feedback to all, and at least some individual attention to each of the group members, but it shouldn't be some sort of mini-Hunger Games.

However, at a certain point the kids who want to be competitive and learn advanced skills will need to be in an environment that focuses on the skills they need and want to learn, more than would be possible with less advanced skaters taking the same class.
 

overedge

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However, at a certain point the kids who want to be competitive and learn advanced skills will need to be in an environment that focuses on the skills they need and want to learn, more than would be possible with less advanced skaters taking the same class.

Oh, absolutely. I was just trying to point out that the kids who aren't interested in competing shouldn't be sidelined in the group classes because they're interested in doing other things in skating.
 

MacMadame

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I think the kids who don't want to compete like group lessons a lot. That's been my experience, anyway.
 

Rukia

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I think the kids who don't want to compete like group lessons a lot. That's been my experience, anyway.
Absolutely. My son has 0 interest in competing, but he loves group classes. Luckily they still have them into the lower freestyle levels at our rink. He has privates too, but he really enjoys just hanging out and skating with other kids.
 

kwanfan1818

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However, at a certain point the kids who want to be competitive and learn advanced skills will need to be in an environment that focuses on the skills they need and want to learn, more than would be possible with less advanced skaters taking the same class.
Brian Boitano's coach made it work, and she even created mini-competitions during training where he couldn't and wouldn't win. Even at higher levels, including championships, there are skaters who don't have the hardest elements, but are best-in-class in interpretation, skating skills, spins -- think Neil Wilson and Lucinda Ruh -- even if their scores don't reflect it. This is demonstrable at the local level, too, where kids continue even if they'll never get the jumps or don't have the preferred body type, etc. but like to skate.

Most coaches don't have the option to pick and choose only specific skaters or levels (even if they want to). Having volume not only pays the bills, it also provides examples of specific high-level skills to which the more talented, competitive, driven, and well-(enough) funded can aspire.
 

Erin

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I’ve always found it odd that skating doesn’t do group lessons. Almost every other sport does, even other individual sports like gymnastics.
 

gkelly

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Most coaches don't have the option to pick and choose only specific skaters or levels (even if they want to). Having volume not only pays the bills, it also provides examples of specific high-level skills to which the more talented, competitive, driven, and well-(enough) funded can aspire.

This is true, but keep in mind that the majority of instruction for the majority of US skaters (at least by the time they are working on beginning double jumps and MIF tests beyond the very first one) takes place one-on-one with an instructor.

Individual coaches, or clubs, might offer some group instruction for skaters at a mix of levels Pre-Preliminary and above. If the focus of the classes is on performance qualities, or improving execution quality of basic stroking and basic turns, or integrating one's hardest consistent elements with stroking patterns or music, etc., then there can be benefits from mixed-skill-level classes.

Spins also don't pose traffic problems so can be performed in proximity with different levels of spining skills -- which don't necessarily correlate with skating or jumping skill levels.

acraven and MacMadame were discussing moving more of the technical instruction at all levels from a private lesson to a group format. In that case, at least some of the instruction would need to happen in skill-divided groups. It wouldn't be very productive in teaching a skater the technique of how to do a single axel or double salchow who has never done one before if they're in a group with skaters working on triples, nor would it help teach a skater how to rotate triples or quad if most of the class members are first learning how to rotate doubles.

Similarly, it wouldn't be very helpful to have an edge class where some skaters are trying to learn how to combine multiple difficult turns on one foot (so they can earn the clusters feature for level 4 step sequences) while others are still trying to master backward threes or even double threes and beginning to learn brackets.

The instructors would need to focus on first teaching new skills (which may take months to learn -- or years in the case of harder jumps) to skaters who are working on learning the same new skills. I.e., dividing up the groups by skill level when it comes to specific skill instruction.

If there's only one skater at a more advanced level than everyone else at their rink, either they would still need one-on-one instruction, or they would need to go somewhere else that has more skaters at their level.

There can still be local work in mixed groups about how to do things with the skills one already has even if different skaters in the group already have different skill sets. But learning the skills in the first place needs to be more narrowly focused.
 

MacMadame

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I definitely wasn't thinking of group lessons with skaters of mixed skills or at least not a mix that covered the entire spectrum.

I think the way gymnastics does it works. All the elite kids come to the gym after school during the week and run through skills in small groups of kids at the same (or close) level. Individual kids are pulled out of the group for 1-on-1 time as needed. There may be private lessons scheduled to work on specific issues on top as well.

My understanding is that this is how it is done in skating in Russia. So it's not just that there are group lessons but that practice time is done under the supervision of coaches who will issue corrections, make suggestions, etc.

In the US, skaters practice on their own most of the time and then have individual private lessons a few times a week. It seems very inefficient to me, TBH, even if it wasn't horribly expensive.
 

BittyBug

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I’ve always found it odd that skating doesn’t do group lessons. Almost every other sport does, even other individual sports like gymnastics.
Skating does do group lessons, it's just skating in the U.S. that tends to focus on individual lessons at the higher levels. However, that is starting to change a bit.
 

MacMadame

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IME, as soon as kids start jumping, they get funneled into private lessons. Many rinks technically offer group lessons through the levels that teach single jumps but most of the kids doing singles have private coaching so the classes rarely fill up and are often not offered/offered by canceled. I have never seen a rink that offered group lessons to kids doing double jumps.

So basically they skate for about 6 months to a year before they get funneled into private lessons and are in private lessons for years. To me, this means saying skating doesn't do group lessons is essentially true even if technically there are kids in group lessons learning how to do backward swizzles and two-footed spins.

Group lessons are for things like stroking/power class, 1-off clinics, and off-ice classes like strength, ballet, pilates, etc.
 

Artistic Skaters

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A recent article about abuse in the UK also mentions Ashley Wagner, Morgan Cipres and others.
Spours’s own childhood coach, Andrew Fyles, was convicted of six counts of making indecent images of a child and given a sexual offences prevention order at South West Surrey Magistrates Court in July 2013. He had previously worked as a coach on Dancing on Ice, but has had no association with the series since 2008. Prior to Fyles’s conviction, complaints had been made by a parent about his actions towards some of the children he was training.

While Freedom Leisure, which runs the rink Fyles coached at, admits that complaints were made and says they were “taken seriously”, no disciplinary action was taken against the coach until the original complainants got in touch with the police months later.

Spours has not spoken about Fyles since, even with her parents, who made the decision at the time to switch to another coach. But she believes there is a link between the culture of skating – to appear beautiful and composed – and the complicit silence on abuse.

“There’s definitely a pressure that is created on the skaters to appear perfect,” she said. “We get on the ice in these beautiful dresses and people don’t see what happens behind closed doors, but we’re almost told that they’re not meant to. So we don’t think to talk about issues in the sport. You don’t want to be remembered as someone who went against what everyone else did.”
 

Aussie Willy

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See, that's a vicious cycle. Part of the reason it's so expensive is because there is no real support or excitement for recreational skating by the people in the sport who 'matter". Therefore there is then no critical mass of people and families who just love to skate in general. So therefore less demand for coaches and ice rinks and gear, etc.

Because lower level, less talented, less monied skaters are not genuinely cherished by coaches and USFS there are fewer families who are into the sport. Who take their kids to the rink, watch big competitions on NBC network tv and become fans of the big skaters. Which then makes the sport more expensive for everyone. Which THEN results in limited resources and limited income sources which THEN incentivizes coaches to resource guard and fight for students, ice time and power. And to look the other way on lots of issues.
This for me falls into the "life choice" category. Being able to skate is a choice and a luxury. But I am not sure that there is any social obligation to provide opportunities for anyone to become elite in any sport where there are more pressing social issues that need to be dealt with eg disabilities, health, education, housing.
 

MacMadame

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This for me falls into the "life choice" category. Being able to skate is a choice and a luxury. But I am not sure that there is any social obligation to provide opportunities for anyone to become elite in any sport where there are more pressing social issues that need to be dealt with eg disabilities, health, education, housing.
But USFS (and the other big NGBs), you would think would see it differently. It's completely to their advantage to have a ton of skaters at the recreational level because the more rec skaters there are, the more people there are to funnel into the elite track. It's a pyramid with rec skaters at the bottom and World & Olympic medalists at the top. The broader the base, the bigger and higher quality the tip at the top is.
 

Aussie Willy

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But USFS (and the other big NGBs), you would think would see it differently. It's completely to their advantage to have a ton of skaters at the recreational level because the more rec skaters there are, the more people there are to funnel into the elite track. It's a pyramid with rec skaters at the bottom and World & Olympic medalists at the top. The broader the base, the bigger and higher quality the tip at the top is.
Totally understand that. You have a bigger pool to move into the higher levels. However it still is a luxury compared to the necessities of life.

It is also weighing up the risk of spending lots of money on skaters who may or may not stay in the sport. That is the biggest unknown factor.
 

VGThuy

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Imagine if other big monied sports thought like that though. The reason sports get big with more fans and audiences is by having a lot of accessibility and participation recreationally. Plus, more participation would equal more resources. Unfortunately, skating has a lot of built-in things that make it expensive and inaccessible and it seems the culture wants to keep it that way. I mean regarding “social obligation”, it’s the skating federations jobs to run skating events and to promote the sport. It’s not like USFS is in charge of Corona Virus response, so incentivizing and increasing access to skating is their job, or at least it should be if they want the sport to survive and grow.
 
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kwanfan1818

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I follow Lindsay Gibbs and other women sportswriters, who write constantly about the amount of money that is spent on men's sports that lose millions and millions of dollars, some of which is never recovered, but they talk about how they can't afford to cover women's sport or invest in women's sports leagues.

If they want to get something out of it, they have to invest in it, and, no, not every investment will bear fruit.
 

Aussie Willy

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Imagine if other big monied sports thought like that though. The reason sports get big with more fans and audiences is by having a lot of accessibility and participation recreationally. Plus, more participation would equal more resources. Unfortunately, skating has a lot of built-in things that make it expensive and inaccessible and it seems the culture wants to keep it that way. I mean regarding “social obligation”, it’s the skating federations jobs to run skating events and to promote the sport. It’s not like USFS is in charge of Corona Virus response, so incentivizing and increasing access to skating is their job, or at least it should be if they want the sport to survive and grow.
How do you make it more accessible (financially)? Coaches have to make a living (they are going to take a hit with this virus). The rinks have to make money to stay open and pay staff. How much does anyone realistically expect a national association to spend to build a base?

I am involved with my national association in sport development (covers learn to skate, adult and TOI). It is a volunteer role and I can only do so much because I have a full time job as well. Not sure how USFSA operates but those would be the questions I would ask before assuming they have a responsibility to do it.
 

VGThuy

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How do you make it more accessible (financially)? Coaches have to make a living (they are going to take a hit with this virus). The rinks have to make money to stay open and pay staff. How much does anyone realistically expect a national association to spend to build a base?

I am involved with my national association in sport development (covers learn to skate, adult and TOI). It is a volunteer role and I can only do so much because I have a full time job as well. Not sure how USFSA operates but those would be the questions I would ask before assuming they have a responsibility to do it.

Nobody is denying the difficulty, but a skating federation’s job really should be to ensure the sport survives and expands. I think an attitude that it’s just a “life choice” and comparing it to pressing social issues seems like an excuse and a poor one at that but it all kinda reveals why skating is struggling in many areas and why it’ll remains more-or-less a niche sport.

Imagine if the NBA or other sports that enjoy high recreational participation had that attitude. It’s like saying those in charge of figure skating shouldn’t promote their sport or take care of their skaters because there are people who are in the middle of war zones. That’s like saying a particular brand/company shouldn’t invest and market its products to increase loyal consumers because we still haven’t solved increased housing issues that have made properties unaffordable in many booming urban centers:
 

gkelly

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My experience over decades of involvement in skating at the local level in the US is that the organization has added many many ways to involve skaters at lower levels/with lower levels of commitment and in additional disciplines in order to keep skaters in the sport past learn-to-skate levels, through senior test levels if possible.

Most of these skaters are not and never would be elite competitors.

Different local clubs will have a different mix of elite-track athletes in singles, pairs, and dance, and skaters in other disciplines and more recreational approaches. A lot depends on the number of rinks and amount of ice time available in the area, the coaches available, and the demographics. Some locations can support an elite training environment (and those participants may look down on and exclude more recreational skaters); others may only have enough ice time and financial means in the surrounding area to offer recreational approaches to the sport. In that case any would-be elite athlete would have to relocate or commute long distances to a different environment.

There are efforts to introduce figure skating to new populations, e.g., through "National Skating Month" activities in January, but getting people in the door once or twice for free isn't going to keep them there if they can't afford lessons and practice on their own. There are some efforts to support inner city skating programs for populations that might not be able to afford even recreational training on their own, but those rely on largely on private fundraising for donations to keep the programs alive.

Elite training will be expensive by nature. Even one group lesson and one or two hours practice a week for a low-level recreational program costs money for ice time. It's not like skaters can just go to their local public field or court to practice for free -- or their local frozen pond.

So the best USFS can do is offer programs for and be welcoming to skaters from a wider range of backgrounds with a wider range of goals, and support local clubs in doing the same. They can't build rinks and subsidize ice time and instruction for anyone who wants to train in the sport.

And they can publicize the sport. Letting the general public know about all the opportunities that are already available between casual skating around on ponds or public sessions and elite competition could do more to attract participants at lower levels and keep some of them involved for years.

At the local level, the cultures of specific clubs or subgroups within clubs will vary depending on local conditions and the personalities of the individuals involved.
 
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MacMadame

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Different local clubs will have a different mix of elite-track athletes in singles, pairs, and dance, and skaters in other disciplines and more recreational approaches. A lot depends on the number of rinks and amount of ice time available in the area, the coaches available, and the demographics. Some locations can support an elite training environment (and those participants may look down on and exclude more recreational skaters); others may only have enough ice time and financial means in the surrounding area to offer recreational approaches to the sport. In that case any would-be elite athlete would have to relocate or commute long distances to a different environment.
I think that's the rub. If you have talent at baseball, you don't have to move away from home at age 13 in order to pursue it. Sure, you might move a few towns over to go to a different school to be on a better team in High School but there is baseball happening everywhere all over the country. There aren't rinks everywhere and not every rink has elite skaters.

They can't build rinks and subsidize ice time and instruction for anyone who wants to train in the sport.
Hmm. 🤔 Maybe they should? At least if not build rinks, subsidize ice time. It would really pay off in the long run.
 

gkelly

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Hmm. 🤔 Maybe they should? At least if not build rinks, subsidize ice time. It would really pay off in the long run.

Where would they get the money?

I think there are currently roughly 200,000 members of US Figure Skating. Of those maybe 10% could be considered elite competitors or elite hopefuls in singles, pairs, and partnered ice dance disciplines, plus others who compete on the standard track at regionals and nonqualifying competitions but know they aren't going any farther.

The largest group is learn-to-skate members, and then there are also many synchro skaters at all levels, low-level singles skaters some of whom hope to achieve competitive levels, adult skaters, longer-term skaters who find focusing on Excel freestyle levels or solo dance or showcase or theatre on ice more appealing or more practicable for their situation than competitive track, etc.

What kind of subsidizing would be financially feasible and also likely to pay off in some way?

Pay rinks/clubs to offer group lessons for free up to a certain level to get more beginners into the sport and hope more of them will sign on to pay for more advanced lessons once they get hooked? At thousands of rinks across the country?

Or find ways to make elite training more affordable at selected training centers for those who have already entered the qualifying system, or offer support directly to juveniles and intermediates who have already shown promise regardless of where they skate?

Or focus on some level in between?

Is the goal to broaden the base of membership and participation in skating as a whole, or to make it easier for elite hopefuls to get what they need to develop elite skills?

Should fees for low-level skating help to subsidize elite skaters? Should costs for competitive skaters be raised even higher to allow subsidizing entry-level beginners?
 
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Tinami Amori

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Should fees for low-level skating help to subsidize elite skaters? Should costs for competitive skaters be raised even higher to allow subsidizing entry-level beginners?
nobody should subsidize anyone (unless one elects to). figure skating is an elective hobby, a luxury activity. not a life necessity. each pays for himself. and if one can't afford it, find a sponsor, or live without skating. go do something you or your family can afford. i bet if a kid said he wants to ride horses or race Formula 1 and wants others to pay for it many would find him arrogant.
 
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Aussie Willy

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Hmm. 🤔 Maybe they should? At least if not build rinks, subsidize ice time. It would really pay off in the long run.
Sorry correct me if I am wrong but are you suggesting USFSA should be building rinks and subsidize ice time?
 

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