Figure skating in the United States is on thin ice

Goodgriefgirl

New Member
Messages
1
Here it is in a nutshell:

1. LTS is great and they do a pretty good job at the program as a whole. However, USFSA fails to keep the attention of the kids and more importantly, the parents. Further, they seriously fail in helping to mentor and educate the skaters and parents. I'm a tenured skate mom but felt so lost during those beginning years. USFSA's idea that everything we need to know is on the website or in Skating magazine. The website is terribly difficult to navigate, find pertinent information, and decipher. A chart of the "Competitive Pipeline" is a poor way to instill a drive for more.

2. The expense! The number of families that mortgage their homes is insane. There is a very great divide when it comes to paying for our little Nathan's and Meryls. When you have a skater that has the true passion, talent, and athleticism you are now paying g for top end coaches, more ice time, better equipment and costumes. Sadly, there is little room for mid to lower income families at even the mid level of skating. Although USFSA offers funding, it is so much less than many if not all other sports. If you are a financially well off family, you can get the top coaches, time, costuming and equipment. I've seen many that monopolize the coaching time and ice. It's rather sad. This us the point many leave the sport altogether resulting in a large loss of potential talent.

3. USFSA does an extremely poor job at maintaining male skaters in the sport. Ice Men is a nice program but it is poorly organized and inconsistent. Also, boys and girls have very different physical abilities, especially when they are young. They should not compete against each other. A seven year old girl might not be able to have the same power in a jump that a seven year d boy may have. In the reverse, boys don't have the smoothness in mother skills at that young age and he may overlook the artistry needed.
Girls are sometimes not nice to the other girls. They've made many a movie or show about it. What they don't show is that often, younger girls are just not very nice to younger boys. Even bullying the boys. Boys also find little comeraderie since so few boys join the sport and stay with the sport.

4. USFSA really made a mess when they eliminated the "Little Nationals". Many moved up to junior level too soon and many just simply quit. We had some fantastic experiences at LN and made great memories. It's a shame that the USFSA chose not to nurture skaters at all levels. When you are a 9 year old juvenile competitor it is really difficult to aspire to become an elite junior level skater.

5. As I previously wrote, USFSA funding opportunities are very few in number and amount. To make a better impact in the international competitions, USFSA seems to single out maybe the top 4 or 5 athletes or teams for better funding and competitive opportunities. I understand the financial practicality here but it doesn't make it right to feed a few of your children while letting the rest starve. Again, the old story of have and have not.

6. Finally, many skaters opt to compete for other countries and leave the USFSA. This is mostly seen in team skating. On the opposite end, are many families that chose to overlook the talent available in the US and essentially "Rent a Russian" (or Canadian, German, etc). These families basically pay for everything for the skater even a vehicle!

So, I think that quite a bit needs to be changed overall. I'm not saying USFSA does little good, I'm just pointing out things that many don't see. I truly believe the overhaul needs to start in our own local rinks. The LTS program needs a much more organized and comprehensive support system for the clubs, rinks, coaches, parents and if course the skaters!

We've been lucky, we are a struggling skate family with junior level male skater. Very early in his skating path, his coach opened up the world of skating to him. He grew up skating with National championss and Olympians who provided him with the nurturing and mentoring that was truly like a big sister or brother would be. That needs to happen more often at other rinks too. USFSA needs to get away from the cutesy skate shaped sticky note pads, posters, abd limited publicity. They need a more meaty and nurturing foundation for the LTS kiddos. Create new ideas and opportunities for all levels. You never know, but that 5 year old girl with braids who really likes the princess-like costumes, may become an Olympic gold medalist. With encouragement and support that may happen but it will surely inspire a love if skating that she can one day pass to her own little boy!

(I humbly apologize for the length of my post 😇)
 

clairecloutier

Well-Known Member
Messages
11,169
Here it is in a nutshell:

1. LTS is great and they do a pretty good job at the program as a whole. However, USFSA fails to keep the attention of the kids and more importantly, the parents. Further, they seriously fail in helping to mentor and educate the skaters and parents. I'm a tenured skate mom but felt so lost during those beginning years. USFSA's idea that everything we need to know is on the website or in Skating magazine. The website is terribly difficult to navigate, find pertinent information, and decipher. A chart of the "Competitive Pipeline" is a poor way to instill a drive for more.

Your first point made me remember an interview I did with Mark Mitchell/Peter Johansson a few years ago; they talked about the challenges of moving from LTS to real competition. What they said jibes with your experience (and mine, on a very minor level).

Johansson: I think in America, in general, there’s a lot of people coming out of Learn to Skate, and even into bridge programs. But we lose a lot of people from that level into the competitive track. Because I think you just get lost somewhere, or you’re not really educated [that] one of the options [is] to be competitive. I think our hope was to try to get as many of these little ones to be educated and to realize, this is one track that you could follow, into the competitive program.

It gets very expensive, very quickly. It takes a lot of time, very quickly. And if you haven’t prepared the family–the whole family, because it involves the whole family …. You need to really explain early on that this is the progression, if you want to go this track, this is what’s going to happen. You need to take time, over and over again, to really explain how it’s going to be. I think then you have a better chance of them seeing the benefits, or wanting to do it. But financially, or timewise–getting the kid to the rink–there could be so many obstacles to making it happen. So you have to start really early to explain to the parents.



2. The expense! The number of families that mortgage their homes is insane. There is a very great divide when it comes to paying for our little Nathan's and Meryls. When you have a skater that has the true passion, talent, and athleticism you are now paying g for top end coaches, more ice time, better equipment and costumes. Sadly, there is little room for mid to lower income families at even the mid level of skating. Although USFSA offers funding, it is so much less than many if not all other sports. If you are a financially well off family, you can get the top coaches, time, costuming and equipment. I've seen many that monopolize the coaching time and ice. It's rather sad. This us the point many leave the sport altogether resulting in a large loss of potential talent.

I feel like a lot of people are somewhat dismissive of the expense of skating. There's the attitude, "Well, it's always been like that." But, my God. It's just such a huge issue for U.S. skating. It's exactly like you said. For an average family, figure skating is often a bit of a financial stretch even on the lowest levels--basically, as soon as you move from LTS into private coaching/freestyle ice. And to do it even at a mid level (like Juveniles, maybe?) is just prohibitive for many in terms of cost. It's always been expensive, but it just seems more so these days. And we're losing people. Like I know one mom whose son got into figure skating at a lower level, and coaches wanted to work with him, and the mom was a former skater and was into it as well, but eventually they quit because they just couldn't afford it. Now he's playing baseball. So that's another kid lost (and a boy and POC at that). I know it's always been an expensive sport, but it just makes me sad that it's becoming so exclusive that truly only the wealthy need apply.
 

overedge

G.O.A.T.
Messages
29,456
I think the lack of information on transition from LTS to skating at a club is a big problem everywhere, not just in the US. At the clubs I've belonged to, every year there are parents whose kids finished LTS and who signed them up for club sessions, and they don't know that skaters have private lessons on those sessions. The parents and the kids show up expecting group lessons like LTS, and they're astounded to find out it doesn't work like that at the next level. And then they don't know how to pick a coach, and by that time most of the coaches' time on those sessions is almost full. So basically the kids end up with whichever coach is available, and sometimes that doesn't work out.

These parents aren't ignoring information that's been given to them already, and they're not entitled, as in showing up and expecting someone to give their kid a lesson. They just don't know. And a lot of times the ones who do know, only know because another parent told them.
 

MacMadame

Staying at home
Messages
39,310
And to do it even at a mid level (like Juveniles, maybe?) is just prohibitive for many in terms of cost.
When I was recreational skating, parents with kids at that level were spending as much as $45,000 a year on their kids' skating. Now you could do it for cheaper: only have 1 coach, not enter every competition you could drive to, only have 1 or 2 programs a year and have your coach choreograph it and cut the music, make your own costumes, etc. But I don't think you could get it down to $4,500 a year. Not if you were serious about trying to get to Regionals and someday Nationals.

The kids skated 6 days a week. Some skated in the morning before school and in the afternoon after school. Then an AM session on Saturday. They entered at least 2-3 non-qual comps a year plus Regionals. And Regionals most years required travel. If they were lucky they moved on to the next level (not sure how this works now as there aren't Junior Nationals anymore). They all had a least one coach but maybe they also had specialist coaches off and on, say a Jumps coach if they were having trouble with a particular jump). So when you add in ice time, coaching, comp fees, travel, costumes, choreography, music editing, club membership, and whatever else I am forgetting... it adds up.
 

ross_hy

Well-Known Member
Messages
739
This is going to be such a weird Olympic cycle to promote the Games, skaters, and the sport in general. It seems like the one year to go mark for Beijing was largely minimized because any bandwidth available for Olympic promotion is still going to Tokyo. If you ever watch the Today show, Aly Raisman and Simone Biles are on there quite often. Given the similarities between gymnastics and skating, I'm surprised they don't put skaters on there more often.

Should Worlds happen, and if Nathan or any other American skater medals, USFS should book as many media appearances as the skater(s) are willing to take. Nathan, in particular, can and should be one of the most-promoted athletes going in. He's already a proven winner, young, attractive, has that California cool vibe, and is a measured and thoughtful interview. I'm glad he and Alysa already have the Toyota gig, I think Coke will sponsor some skaters as well.
 

glorybox64

Active Member
Messages
53
I don’t have good insight into what can be done specifically for participation, but one thing I’ve been frustrated by is how the USFS/the powers that be have seemingly paid little attention to nor meaningfully tapped into the many moments of recent pop culture relevance the sport has had.

A few examples: 1) a current competitor on RuPaul’s Drag Race (Denali) is also a figure skater with a huge social media audience. 2) at the height of Queer Eye popularity, Jonathan Van Ness revealed he was a huge skating fan and started taking lessons himself. 3) Adam Rippon is now a recognized and popular pop culture commentator outside of the sport. 4) Leslie Jones’ Twitter commentary in skating went viral. 5) Surya Bonaly is frequently trending on Black Twitter and was featured in a Netflix miniseries.

There is clearly interest and curiosity in the sport, and there is the potential to nurture a niche audience that is younger, gayer and more diverse than what the sport has typically gotten outside of the Olympics. What’s needed is a social media push that is tapped into the current zeitgeist and someone to throw some investment and energy into a new non-Olympic showcase for the sport that isn’t the typical nationals-worlds-grand Prix.

Not saying this is the answer but it is wild to me that a figure skating reality competition show couldn’t work, especially with the growing number of streaming services needing fresh content to bring people back. People watch competitions featuring flower arranging, glass blowing, cupcake baking, fashion designing, dog grooming and pottery building in droves, usually with casts of no-names. Why not skating? America’s next top figure skating star? How about it?
 

Yehudi

I speak the bull****
Messages
4,525
One thing this author hasn’t pointed out is that there are just a lot more sports options for someone, especially girls, then there were even in the 1990s. It’s no longer unladylike to play hockey.

Old WSJ article about it. it’s behind a paywall but the summary is visible.

 

overedge

G.O.A.T.
Messages
29,456
From what I understand, even though women's hockey is way more popular than it was, ringette (which girls used to play when they weren't allowed to play hockey) hasn't seen its registrations drop significantly now that it's "okay" for girls to be hockey players. Which makes you wonder why figure skating might be experiencing the opposite.
 

ErikWilliam

Well-Known Member
Messages
398
I've watched a lot of crappy skating over the years, but even I drew the line at the Skating with the Stars type shows. The skating wasn't good and the drama was :rolleyes:.
Does anyone remember some skating show where Rudy Galindo was a judge and I suppose he was trying to play the Simon part and was absolutely AWFUL to the struggling skaters? The whole judging panel would laugh at the poor skater before telling him to maybe consider going into swimming since the only water he'd be successful in is when it's melted? Does that ring any bells? It might have been on E! channel. It was even too critical for me and I felt sorry for the poor skaters. It might have been a competition to maybe get a gig on Champions on Ice? These weren't untalented dopes that go on American Idol just to make fools of themselves and be told they are talentless, they were obvious skaters who put tons of hours in to their training for most of their lives, and then Rudy and Co are laughing at them and making them feel worthless. I was done.
 

Coco

Rotating while Russian!
Messages
15,778
I also think that one factor in the decline of people signing their daughters up for skating that girls have so many more choices about sports than they used to have. So, there is really no reason why a parent should allow their child to go in for skating. It is not significantly safer (from injury or abuse) than other sports; but it is significantly more expensive.
This is a factor. Also, why spend all that money on an obscenely political sport that you can't even drag grandparents or friends to as easily as you can as soccer game or lacrosse game.

It sounds like group lessons beyond LTS would be good for so many reasons. They could be cheaper, it could be more fun for the kids, less pressure for the parents, and would help skaters develop their competitive abilities.

I've always thought the sport is missing an opportunity by not broadcasting practices at major championships. Watching skaters practice and have human reactions while wearing workout gear is a lot more relatable to the casual fan. With the right commentators, it could be a lot more compelling than even the actual competition.
 

meggonzo

Well-Known Member
Messages
8,250
Does anyone remember some skating show where Rudy Galindo was a judge and I suppose he was trying to play the Simon part and was absolutely AWFUL to the struggling skaters? The whole judging panel would laugh at the poor skater before telling him to maybe consider going into swimming since the only water he'd be successful in is when it's melted? Does that ring any bells? It might have been on E! channel. It was even too critical for me and I felt sorry for the poor skaters. It might have been a competition to maybe get a gig on Champions on Ice? These weren't untalented dopes that go on American Idol just to make fools of themselves and be told they are talentless, they were obvious skaters who put tons of hours in to their training for most of their lives, and then Rudy and Co are laughing at them and making them feel worthless. I was done.
I think it must be this show - Skating's Next Star

I never saw it or even recall it, but that's unfortunate that the judges were awful to them. I know some of the skaters were national level competitors!
 

Lemonade20

Former Kurtholic
Messages
1,083
Reality skating shows rarely do well. Battle of the Blades is the only exception, and that's because they have skilled skaters (a hockey player paired up with a pairs skater). It made for great TV.

Figure skating has always been one of the most exciting events to watch in an Olympic year. But it's not easy or cheap to get there. I really don't agree with the statement that only wealthy families can pull this off. It's about commitment and making sacrifices far beyond financially. The right combination (coach, skating skills, costume, dedication) can lead to a better chance of success.
 

Japanfan

Well-Known Member
Messages
24,156
I really don't agree with the statement that only wealthy families can pull this off. It's about commitment and making sacrifices far beyond financially. The right combination (coach, skating skills, costume, dedication) can lead to a better chance of success.
But parents need to be in a position to sacrifice money, time, and other things. Not all parents are.

If parents are struggling to pay rent and put food on the table, they could have nothing to sacrifice. And if they don't have a car, it would probably limit their capacity to have a child in skating.

A family may not need to be wealthy to support a skater up through the ranks in the US or Canada, but they were certainly need to be upper middle class. Yes, there have been stories about a few skaters who come from poor families making their way with community support, but those are exceptions to the norm.
 

Frau Muller

Proud Puerto Rican-Russkaya!
Messages
12,719
USFS (and all of us) need to dial down expectations. Figure skating is a niche sport that happens to relate to performing arts. Performing arts (dance, ballet) are elegant niche enterprises. Stop trying to dumb it down and make it more “relatable” to folks who would never consider going to a ballet other than Nutcracker in which his/her kid is performing.

By dumbing down skating, you risk losing those who love its niche elegant qualities.

This is not a mass “y’all come” sport (the 4 traditional disciplines)...but nobody with genuine talent who wishes to enter its hallowed halls should be denied...hence, a Memorial Fund for the very best.
 
Last edited:

AxelAnnie

Like a small boat on the ocean...
Messages
12,724
But parents need to be in a position to sacrifice money, time, and other things. Not all parents are.

If parents are struggling to pay rent and put food on the table, they could have nothing to sacrifice. And if they don't have a car, it would probably limit their capacity to have a child in skating.

A family may not need to be wealthy to support a skater up through the ranks in the US or Canada, but they were certainly need to be upper middle class. Yes, there have been stories about a few skaters who come from poor families making their way with community support, but those are exceptions to the norm.
What you say is all true. I am not sure what point you are making. Not everyone can do everything.
Skating is expensive. It takes commitment and sacrifice always. Bradie is a good example. Her single mother, two brothers and she lived in a one bedroom one bath apartment. Even for wealthy families there are still sacrifices financial, regular school, regular hanging at the mall.

If your family can't afford it (either time money, other commitments) well that is just the way it is. One would hope that a talented would catch the eye of someone who could help. Ask Caroll Burnett,

Ask C
 
Last edited:

AxelAnnie

Like a small boat on the ocean...
Messages
12,724
What you say is all true. I am not sure what point you are making. Not everyone can do everything.
Skating is expensive. It takes commitment and sacrifice always. Bradie is a good example. Her single mother, two brothers and she lived in a one bedroom one bath apartment. Even for wealthy families there are still sacrifices financial, regular school, regular hanging at the mall.

If your family can't afford it (either time money, other commitments) well that is just the way it is. One would hope that a talented would catch the eye of someone who could help. Ask Carole Burnett.
 

thvudragon

Usova's Apprentice
Messages
5,030
It's utterly laughable that people in the US are still counting on cable TV to provide interest to a spectator sport.
Most of my students don't even watch traditional television. If you can't stream it, it doesn't exist to them.

There's no way a bunch of 50+ year olds are going to find ways to get younger generations interested in skating. USFS can't even capture the trends happening today, let alone foresee them, or create them.
 

Aussie Willy

Hates both vegemite and peanut butter
Messages
24,356
The article was very interesting. Thanks for posting.

Maybe it has had it's heyday. Trends come and go. And it is expensive. It has to compete against a number of sports which are part of the same market who are targeting the same demographic.

If there is one group that has been the growth in the sport over the years it is adult skating. These are people who have disposable income and can choose what they want to spend their money on. Plus they enjoy the challenge and social aspect of it.
 

overedge

G.O.A.T.
Messages
29,456
I really don't agree with the statement that only wealthy families can pull this off. It's about commitment and making sacrifices far beyond financially. The right combination (coach, skating skills, costume, dedication) can lead to a better chance of success.

Skaters and their families can be more committed and dedicated than anyone else at their club, and still not have enough personal resources to continue in the sport. It's not just about working hard and really wanting something. There are financial realities.
 

mjb52

Well-Known Member
Messages
4,282
I really like the idea someone mentioned on one of these threads of encouraging figure skating as a scholarship-level college sport. More opportunities for skaters who love and excel at the sport to keep competing, a good way to build an audience (we see a lot of cool things happening with college gymnastics routines going viral), a way to expand the range of programs because I think in U.S. college competition there would be more openness to styles that don't always succeed internationally, opportunities for international athletes as well, and a potential pay-off for parents for their investment in the sport, as the high cost of college makes a college scholarship really valuable. At a practical level, given the typical gender break-down in skating, it's also good for Title IX I think?

It's been quite awhile since my college years... what is the presence of skating at the college level right now? Is it mostly an intramural sport?
 

mjb52

Well-Known Member
Messages
4,282
So can students already get scholarships, as they would in gymnastics? I was under the impression they couldn't but maybe that was incorrect.
 

MacMadame

Staying at home
Messages
39,310
So can students already get scholarships, as they would in gymnastics? I was under the impression they couldn't but maybe that was incorrect.
Most schools provide things like free ice time. And if you are on the synchro team, you get free coaching. But I don't know of any school that provides its collegiate skaters with significant scholarships that pay for tuition.

A lot of sports that are collegiate sports do give kids who pursue them an advantage. But it's an admission advantage usually. Remember in the Varsity Blues scandal, parents pretended their kids were on the rowing team to get them in. But it didn't give them a scholarship. It just got them in.
 

overedge

G.O.A.T.
Messages
29,456
So can students already get scholarships, as they would in gymnastics? I was under the impression they couldn't but maybe that was incorrect.

I believe that Miami University in Ohio pays some of the expenses for its synchro team, and classifies synchro as a varsity sport, but I don't think the skaters get scholarships. Adrian College has a varsity synchro team and also has figure skating as a varsity sport, but I don't think they offer scholarships either.
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top
Do Not Sell My Personal Information