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This Is the Insane Amount of Money It Takes to Become an Olympic Figure Skater

Discussion in 'Great Skate Debate' started by peibeck, Feb 11, 2018.

  1. MacMadame

    MacMadame Cat Lady-in-Training

    I just think you are projecting and assuming a lot based on one small piece of one skater's life. Also, saying that her having this job is an example of lack of imagination makes it seem like all the female figure skaters get jobs as ice girls (while the boys drive zambonis?) because no one thinks "girl" figure skaters can do anything else. However, Mirai is the only elite skater I know of who has had this job. It's much more normal for elite skaters to do a little coaching, work the snack bar at the rink, sew costumes for other skaters on the side, etc. So being an ice girl is actually thinking outside the box.
    avivadawn likes this.
  2. Cant Skate

    Cant Skate Active Member

    At one point I was paying $30,000 CAN per year when my daughter skated two diciplines. I was paying 4 different coaches, 4 costumes, about 15 hours of singles ice and 8 hours of pairs ice, personal training twice per week and travel to competitions across this vast country at least 4 times per year. (and air travel in Canada is pricey $$$$$) This was at the NOVICE level. My husband and I are by no means wealthy, my house fell into disrepair and our credit cards were racked to the point we are still trying to dig our way out. When she decided to retire after high school and go to university, I was like "Thank God because its so much cheaper!" How whacked is that? But I dont regret a single penny spent because the life lessons she learned and the experiences she gained from skating have been worth it. We've raised a kind, well rounded, responsible young lady who is grateful for the blessings afforded to her and I believe this has set her up well for success later in life. Can this be accomplished with a less expensive sport? Absolutely. But figure skating was the sport she fell in love with and we supported it the best we could with what we had. I would change nothing. I am grateful that we were able to give her those opportunities but I am glad its over :D Had I known then when she first started to show some talent, what I know now, I may have encouraged her to play community soccer, lol...
  3. WildRose

    WildRose Well-Known Member

    At our Club at least 2/3 of the PreSchool and Can Skaters are in hockey skates. We also get hockey players who come for power skating classes. When they teach power skating, the coaches change into hockey skates.
  4. millyskate

    millyskate Well-Known Member

    British skater Philip Harris gives an overview of his training day in this interview. It sounds like 3 hours of ice a day + 2 hours off ice.

    In the interview above, Phil Harris mentions his coach doing the choreography. Others do their own. There isn't an actual need to spend anything on choreography, unless one is doing ice dance, where it's probably harder to get by without.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018
  5. Jozet

    Jozet Well-Known Member

    No one lets the girls drive the Zambonis at our rink. I'm perpetually offended by this.
  6. flyingsit

    flyingsit Well-Known Member

    In some places there is a lot of spending money because you CAN. When I was skating, there were prelim and pre-juv skaters with lessons every day, sometimes more than one each day. And some of those kids were in lessons most of the time they were on the ice (maybe one session a day practicing on their own).
  7. mag

    mag Well-Known Member

    I want to drive the zamboni!
    nyrak, sk8girl and Jozet like this.
  8. mag

    mag Well-Known Member

    I think there are some coaches who might be able to do choreography, but it is really a skill unto itself. Well constructed programs are difficult to do. I look at Karen Chen’s original short for this year. It was, IMHO, brilliant. Did it need work and polish and maybe a bit of tweaking? Yes, but it was 100 x’s the program she choreographed for herself.

    We can, of course, all find examples to support our views, but I would argue that for many Skaters professional choreography is well worth the investment.
    overedge and Tavi like this.
  9. Willin

    Willin Well-Known Member

    I mean, I don't like the bikini calendars, creepy male fans, overly sexy outfits, or the fact that some teams (NFL in particular) have their cheerleaders go to private parties with rich old men stockholders to butter them up into investing more, but I'm not wholly against the idea.
    TBH if I was in skating shape I'd totally want to be an ice girl. It would motivate me to stay in shape (you often get free gym memberships), I might get to travel a few places if my team made the playoffs, I'd get free skates, free NHL games, free hairstyling/make-up, free entry to cool events at fancy places I could never afford to go, I'd get to help with charities, and I'd get some $$$ outside of the day job. I actually know a lot of girls who wanted to try out. Unfortunately my local NHL team does not have a team and recently they've moved from hiring skaters and dancers to primarily hiring dancers. I know some hockey schools have ice cheerleaders, but it's incredibly competitive to get on the team.

    I had this problem a lot. Parents only wanted their kids to skate when they had a lesson, and they either wouldn't practice on non-lesson sessions or wouldn't do anything constructive. It's like they had no practice routine. I tried to put this into place, but a lot of the skaters only did it while I was watching. I believe some of the other coaches make skaters take logs and compare notes with other coaches as to whether or not they saw a skater come in on a day that the main coach was out.

    Hahaha We had some girls force the hockey guys to teach them how to drive it because they wanted to try. I know a couple girls who did drive the zambonis at their rink, but they didn't particularly like it. I've noticed at most rinks this is less of a gender thing and more of who does what. Most female employees are coaches/teachers, in the proshop, or are otherwise in positions where they speak to people; the men do the gruntwork and the zamboni (and skate monitoring so they can do nothing during their shift).
  10. MacMadame

    MacMadame Cat Lady-in-Training

    One of the reasons I didn't make a big effort to get my kid to skate or do gymnastics when she showed a little interest is because I knew when she went through puberty, she would not have the right body type for either sport. And that she'd probably start this process at age 11 or 12. Even if she had totally fallen in love with these sports, I think I would have been subtly discouraging. Unlike when she turned out to be good at t-ball and I was very encouraging because going to college on a Softball scholarship would have been a nice outcome and, even if that didn't happen, she'd at least have a good time without me spending $10-20,000 on a sport for an 8-year-old.

    There are so many other sports out there. People have said that they don't like these articles because they discourage people from entering the sport. I say: Good! Parents should know what they are getting into so they can make the best decisions they can for their families.

    As for costs, around here (high COL area), people typically spend about $10-20k when their kids make the jump from recreational skater to serious skater (skating 4-6 times a week with private lessons) and then at some point those expenses climb and an elite skater who makes it to Sectionals most years and sometimes even Nationals is paying more like $45-75k. Of course, there are people who pay more because they can and they want to. But you don't have to. The people doing it for $45k are making some sacrifices but they are still paying for choreography, getting decent costumes, and traveling to competitions as necessary. Maybe they only go with their coach and not their family or maybe they even use a local coach who is already going to the comp instead of their coach sometimes and maybe only get 2 new costumes a year and reuse costumes for their exhibitions and practice ice at comps. But they are still getting the lessons they need, the ice time they need, and the off-ice training they need, which is the important thing.

    If your coach does your choreography, you are still paying for it. But usually you pay his standard lesson time rate and do it as part of your lessons. Still costs money though.

    Now that is a good example of what you were talking about earlier. (Staff at the rinks I went to are the ones who run the Zambonis and that includes the women.)
    GreatLakesGal, Tesla and Jozet like this.
  11. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

    Yes. But I think it's best to be clear that the very high expenses are for what it takes to be a successful competitive skater.

    It would also be helpful if there were also acknowledgment that recreational figure skating (low levels and test track, low to mid-level synchro, etc.) is more comparable to what many middle-class families spend on other sports/activities.

    And that competitive skating below elite levels is too expensive for most families so if they get started in the sport they should know they may not be able to afford the competitive track, but that it is possible to compete at middle levels with modest expectations and a moderate amount of commitment -- more than soccer or ballet would cost them, but not as much as it takes to get to Nationals and beyond.
    overedge, WildRose, Debbie S and 2 others like this.
  12. Jozet

    Jozet Well-Known Member

    Well, you know, I'm not going to go full-on social justice warrior-uber feminist - hashtagmee too over this. :) If I knew then what I knew now about how my body would change in the past 30 years, back in my 20s, I would have walked around in a bikini all day long.

    Still...it's hard not to see both sides of the coin on this, you know? It's ironical in more than one way.

    Amen on the skate monitoring. I'm always the mean mom out there telling the kids to stop throwing snow balls or kicking around the cones. I wish they'd just give me a damn jacket to wear. :)
  13. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I <3 Kozuka

    You can almost hear the thought bubbles when a former champion in her 50's or 60's or 70's presents flowers to the teenagers and young women in their early 20's on the podiums: "That will *never* happen to me!" :)

    I'm very grateful to the wealthy and/or crazy parents who fund their children in this sport, and to the skaters who scrimp and save once they're on their own, because I get to watch it. I do feel bad for the siblings in skating and any elite activity where the families are separated and/or family life revolves, attention-wise and financially, around the one pursuing elite sports, music, acting, dancing, etc., because the parents are adults who are making choices to live the way they have to.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018
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  14. Willin

    Willin Well-Known Member

    @Jozet To be fair, I will go full social justice about how awful the pay is for NFL/NBA cheerleaders and how they're pimped out for money via swimsuit calendars and corporate event appearances. Not to mention their pay gap (ie. a mascot for a team will make $50k+ a year, they make below minimum wage as they aren't paid for practices).
    It doesn't seem like Mirai's costumes were overly sexy over what girls wear these days anyways. I don't even know how sexy they can be considering the temperature of ice rinks!
  15. Tavi

    Tavi Well-Known Member

    The Avalanche ice girls costumes look relatively conservative compared to those worn by, say, the Blackhawks ice crew (very low cut, bare midriffs, very short skirts), and it’s nice that they post bios of the women, some of whom have some pretty impressive bios (Yale grad? Premed? And I recognize one woman who currently competes as an adult figure skater). Unfortunately, though, I think many of the NHL teams don’t treat their ice girls much differently than NBA/NFL cheerleaders. See this 2014 article:

  16. MacMadame

    MacMadame Cat Lady-in-Training

    Even at the recreational level, figure skating is the most expensive sport my kids did. The equipment was about the same as soccer, but soccer is a team sport so other fixed costs were spread among the team and also all the coaches were volunteers. I agree with those who think having more semi-private and small group lessons available instead of having to pick between big group lessons or private would go a long way to cutting down the costs.
    GreatLakesGal and clairecloutier like this.
  17. Skittl1321

    Skittl1321 Well-Known Member

    I wish our rink had monitors. It's a damn free for all. But girls can drive the zamboni.

    Just looked up the photo of my niece with our local UHL hockey team's ice girls. Happy to see they were wearing jackets! I don't think they get paid at all though.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018
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  18. B.Cooper

    B.Cooper Well-Known Member

    2018 Article in "The Atlantic" by Linda Flanagan, who writes quite a bit about teens and sports, has a new article out that mentions at the elite level, skaters' families can spend up to $100K a year.

    and to put the most recent cost estimates for elite skaters into perspective, an article from the New York Times, 1995, on what the Kwans were spending (Michelle was 14 at the time) ....


    "Training and travel costs run well over $50,000 a year, and the Kwans have not one daughter competing at the senior level but two. In 1993, Danny Kwan said, he sold the family's $355,000 house to pay off skating debts. He now lives in a home owned by his parents."

    Considering the Kwans had two children skating, it is safe to assume that they were spending well in excess of $50K/yr as the article references above that they were spending $50K/yr for one skater... and that was 25 years ago. Based on simple adjusted cost of living index, a 1993 $1.00 is now relative to $1.70 spent. So 1993 $50K would translate to about $85K in 2018. Elite skaters gravitate to the better choreographers, the better coaches, possibly relocating from their families....it all adds up.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018
  19. masik

    masik Member

    You do not know what you are talking about.
  20. Flora

    Flora Active Member

    Aren't Rachel Flatt's parents both professionals? I got the feeling her family could afford spending up to 100K a year.
  21. millyskate

    millyskate Well-Known Member

    I'm not suggesting there is no value to professional choreography - far from it. I'm saying there are plenty of coach/athlete combinations without resources who muddle through without. Paying for a professional choreographer isn't a pre-requisite to being competitive in the sport, if you compete as an individual. Not being able to afford one may be limiting, but it's not insurmountable.
    skatemomaz and overedge like this.
  22. antmanb

    antmanb Well-Known Member

    In the article it says that Philip recently became the first Brit to land a quad in competition - do you remember which competition?
  23. millyskate

    millyskate Well-Known Member

    Was it coupe de nice? I’m not sure.
  24. antmanb

    antmanb Well-Known Member

    I had a look at coupe de nice - but he did a popped 2T to open in the LP so it looks like he was trying. I'll keep looking :)
  25. morqet

    morqet rising like a phoenix

    Unless it was at a NISA IJS event, I'm not sure that he's actually landed one cleanly - in 2016 in the Warsaw CS event he fell on an under rotated attempt, but I can't see anything else either from Nationals or his other CS events.
    antmanb likes this.
  26. Rafter

    Rafter Well-Known Member

    Last edited: Feb 17, 2018 at 4:22 PM
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  27. DFO

    DFO Active Member

    Still, if I remember well, 1 or 2 years ago there was also an article stating that they still had to invesst 100 000$ a year to cover their costs.