What was the moment you -- or your kid -- knew they wanted to get on the ice?

Viktoria

Active Member
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I know this has probably been discussed before. But I'm thinking of this from a marketing standpoint (for want of a better word): how do people become skaters and how do they stay skaters?

When I read a lot of elite skater biographies, it's usually "I was invited to a skating birthday party" or "My family stopped in at public skate at the rink around the corner."

I suppose especially if you don't come from a "skating family" or a skating culture, like parts of Minnesota where kids learn to skate on backyard ponds before they can walk, I'd like to hear what got you on the ice. What made you say, "I want to learn how to do this"?

And if you don't mind sharing, how old were you at the time?

And I suppose the second part of this is... was there a situation at your rink -- a program or coach or "vibe" or even something like free lessons -- that made your beginner experience super positive, made you feel at home and wanting to come back for more?

Thanks in advance!
 

MacMadame

Staying at home
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Hi @Viktoria, Haven't seen you in a while! :D

For me, there was a lake in my town that froze over every winter but you had to own skates to use it and we were too poor. I was so excited the year we got (incredibly cheap) skates for Christmas!

From that point on, I would occasionally have an opportunity to skate in the winter. We had a pond at my High School for example but no place to skate while in college. Other interests would take over and I'd forget all about skating until 92 and I was so excited that Kristi Yamaguchi won the Gold and so inspired that I ended up signing up for lessons. I was in my mid-30s and had a kid at the time!

I skated regularly and took up ice dancing for the next decade or so even through another pregnancy and a long-distance move. At one point, I was skating 6-8 hours a week. There was a strong adult skating community in my new home and at one point I moved next door to a former elite ice dancer who still skated so that all helped too.

I stopped in 2006 when I didn't have enough money for regular skating and stopped making any progress at all. Before that I had to skate twice as much to make about 1/3 the progress of other people because as much as I loved skating, I really, really, really sucked at it.

I do other things now. I loved the feeling of flying around the rink but I can get that feeling now from cycling. And I'm much better at the endurance sports.
 

Viktoria

Active Member
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54
Are you asking just out of interest, or for a commercial/professional reason?
Well...kind of both. Our club is trying to put together some programs, at least, to bring new skaters onto the ice. My thought is reaching people where they already are -- coming to public ice and having a club presence there (maybe with club skaters in jackets or working with rink to do some demos at public ice), or doing some low-cost outreach to schools (possibly applying for grants). But there's that elusive "What really grabs people about skating and makes them want to continue?" I can answer it for myself and my kids, but I'm not sure that's enough, you know?
 
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overedge

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I first got on the ice during a field trip in my elementary school's phys ed class. The rink was relatively close to our school, and the school paid for our skate rentals. Neither of my parents skated, so I don't think I would have been introduced to skating any other way.

I can't exactly explain why I wanted to do more skating after that, other than it was fun, it felt really neat to glide on the ice, and I didn't fall down or get too cold. My mum signed me up for learn-to-skate classes at the same rink through the city's recreation program - there wasn't a skating club at that rink. So for me it wasn't just wanting to continue, but it was also having the opportunity to continue.
 
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I fell in love with skating watching the 88 Olympics. Neither of my parents skated and they figured I’d move onto something else but I didn’t. They took me to some big winter festival thing that had skating, supervised by a figure skating club and I took to it pretty quickly. The coach watching told my parents that I clearly had a drive to skate, I think my four year old self told her I didn’t need help I was going to be a “finger skater”. That coach also told my parents where to connect with a skating club in my community.
 

Viktoria

Active Member
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54
I fell in love with skating watching the 88 Olympics. Neither of my parents skated and they figured I’d move onto something else but I didn’t. They took me to some big winter festival thing that had skating, supervised by a figure skating club and I took to it pretty quickly. The coach watching told my parents that I clearly had a drive to skate, I think my four year old self told her I didn’t need help I was going to be a “finger skater”. That coach also told my parents where to connect with a skating club in my community.
That's interesting...do you think the coach giving that positive feedback to your parents helped a bit in convincing them to take you to lessons? Not that they expected an Olympic medalist, but hearing that this strange sport was something you could do, achieve skill levels, etc.?

And no, I don't think coaches or club members should tell parents something they might want to hear just to get kids on the ice in a manipulative way, but maybe for sports that families don't have experience with -- or kids who might not be otherwise athletic as far as mainstream sports -- hearing "Yes, this is possible" and pointing out some little things -- I know some tots parents sometimes see their kids falling down a lot and think it's a failure, but when you explain that getting up from a fall and balancing is part of the skill building, they see it in a different light...just thinking out loud....
 

mjb52

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I was about to say the same thing - I think for many people it's the Olympics. Although from Russian figure skaters, I feel like I've seen a few quotes about how parents thought it would be good for their sickly children (!), I'm not quite sure what the connection is in terms of how figure skating was thought to build better health, but maybe one of the Russian-heritage posters know! I could be remembering this in an exaggerated way too, like I saw it a few times and it stuck out in my memory and so I think it comes up more than it does.
 

Viktoria

Active Member
Messages
54
I first got on the ice during a field trip in my elementary school's phys ed class. The rink was relatively close to our school, and the school paid for our skate rentals. Neither of my parents skated, so I don't think I would have been introduced to skating any other way.

I can't exactly explain why I wanted to do more skating after that, other than it was fun, it felt really neat to glide on the ice, and I didn't fall down or get too cold. My mum signed me up for learn-to-skate classes at the same rink through the city's recreation program - there wasn't a skating club at that rink. So for me it wasn't just wanting to continue, but it was also having the opportunity to continue.
I think that always the trick: getting kids interested in skating, wanting to take lessons, but finding ways to "grease the skids" so it's easy for them to do it -- finding times that fit with parents' schedules or drive times, etc. If there are too many roadblocks to getting to the rink, literally and figuratively, I think it puts some people off, especially when you have beginners and you're not sure this is what you want to spend your time and money on because you don't really know the sport. Some things can't be helped: people are only going to drive X miles for a beginner sport, usually.
 

Viktoria

Active Member
Messages
54
I was about to say the same thing - I think for many people it's the Olympics. Although from Russian figure skaters, I feel like I've seen a few quotes about how parents thought it would be good for their sickly children (!), I'm not quite sure what the connection is in terms of how figure skating was thought to build better health, but maybe one of the Russian-heritage posters know! I could be remembering this in an exaggerated way too, like I saw it a few times and it stuck out in my memory and so I think it comes up more than it does.
There are quite a few stories of kids with foot issues having figure skating suggested as a therapy sport. There was a pairs skater at our rink a long time ago who was a beautiful and super-talented skater; her mother told me she was born with "clubfoot" and her doctor recommended figure skating.

Along that line, figure skating is something people of different athletic and physical abilities can learn to do, and do well.
 
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That's interesting...do you think the coach giving that positive feedback to your parents helped a bit in convincing them to take you to lessons? Not that they expected an Olympic medalist, but hearing that this strange sport was something you could do, achieve skill levels, etc.?
I think it probably did help. I was pretty insistent that I learn to skate regardless (at this point I had already worn out a video tape of every post Olympics skating special my dad could find, and frequently asked my parents to rename me Elizabeth) and they probably would have eventually found me lessons but being pointed in the right direction helped. I don’t think I showed any particular talent that first time skating, I think it was more my excitement to finally be skating and my attitude that piqued the coaches interest. I wasn’t very old but I distinctly remember being on the ice and watching older skaters go fast and do some “tricks” and just being so excited that I’d be able to do that one day.

I also coached for quite awhile too, and one thing I think a lot of clubs overlook is their learn to skate programs. It’s easy to get caught up focusing on competitive skaters, but a lot of effort needs to be put into putting a really good learn to skate program on the ice. Older skaters helping need to be well trained and supervised and supported. Experienced coaches need to be on the ice. Coaches that have some idea how to deal with young kids should be on the ice. Parents looking at the ice should see colour, should see movement, it should look organized to some degree. Communication between club and families is important. Parents talk and if kids have a good experience they will tell their friends it’s a worthwhile activity. As a parent now, any activity we’re considering I’m asking friends their experiences. I’ve been turned off activities because I’ve been told that the registration process is a pain, or it’s hard to find information, or things seem disorganized. I’ve also been made aware of activities I wasn’t considering because people shared their positive experiences.
 

Viktoria

Active Member
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54
I think it probably did help. I was pretty insistent that I learn to skate regardless (at this point I had already worn out a video tape of every post Olympics skating special my dad could find, and frequently asked my parents to rename me Elizabeth) and they probably would have eventually found me lessons but being pointed in the right direction helped. I don’t think I showed any particular talent that first time skating, I think it was more my excitement to finally be skating and my attitude that piqued the coaches interest. I wasn’t very old but I distinctly remember being on the ice and watching older skaters go fast and do some “tricks” and just being so excited that I’d be able to do that one day.

I also coached for quite awhile too, and one thing I think a lot of clubs overlook is their learn to skate programs. It’s easy to get caught up focusing on competitive skaters, but a lot of effort needs to be put into putting a really good learn to skate program on the ice. Older skaters helping need to be well trained and supervised and supported. Experienced coaches need to be on the ice. Coaches that have some idea how to deal with young kids should be on the ice. Parents looking at the ice should see colour, should see movement, it should look organized to some degree. Communication between club and families is important. Parents talk and if kids have a good experience they will tell their friends it’s a worthwhile activity. As a parent now, any activity we’re considering I’m asking friends their experiences. I’ve been turned off activities because I’ve been told that the registration process is a pain, or it’s hard to find information, or things seem disorganized. I’ve also been made aware of activities I wasn’t considering because people shared their positive experiences.
Thank you, this is all very helpful!
 

MacMadame

Staying at home
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40,638
Although from Russian figure skaters, I feel like I've seen a few quotes about how parents thought it would be good for their sickly children (!), I'm not quite sure what the connection is in terms of how figure skating was thought to build better health, but maybe one of the Russian-heritage posters know!
I've heard this before from skaters in the US from an earlier era. I think that there is a belief that cold air is bracing and therefore it makes you stronger/healthier. It is supposed to help you sleep better and a host of other things:


The club foot thing mentioned above is also something I've heard. Kristi Yamaguchi also had club feet and that's why she started skating.
 

taz'smum

as @Jesche says - мама knows best
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When I was 29.
I was living with my Aunt in Tennessee at the time and I was finding it a bit too hot.
So she suggested I take a trip to the local ice-rink.
I was amazed, as I was the only one on the rink.
Without the fear of being knocked over I quickly found I really liked it.
So when I eventually returned to London, I headed straight to Queens ice rink and booked myself some lessons.
That is where I met Tiff's dad, he was my coach!
 

Viktoria

Active Member
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54
When I was 29.
I was living with my Aunt in Tennessee at the time and I was finding it a bit too hot.
So she suggested I take a trip to the local ice-rink.
I was amazed, as I was the only one on the rink.
Without the fear of being knocked over I quickly found I really liked it.
So when I eventually returned to London, I headed straight to Queens ice rink and booked myself some lessons.
That is where I met Tiff's dad, he was my coach!
Sorry! Posted the quote separate from my response below.
 
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Viktoria

Active Member
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54
That's something else to consider! I know our tot's classes are smaller and can feel less intimidating to younger kids. Sometimes in the peak of winter, the LTS level 1s are SO filled, and it must be frightening to little kids with all the colors and sounds echoing and big people hovering and other kids falling and crying and bigger people flying around...and then you put blade on your feet. I know it can be cost-effective to pack more people on the ice, but maybe there's a thought to find down times for younger skaters to get started, or even offer some mini-lessons on the more uncrowded public skates.
 

Viktoria

Active Member
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Communication between club and families is important. Parents talk and if kids have a good experience they will tell their friends it’s a worthwhile activity. As a parent now, any activity we’re considering I’m asking friends their experiences. I’ve been turned off activities because I’ve been told that the registration process is a pain, or it’s hard to find information, or things seem disorganized. I’ve also been made aware of activities I wasn’t considering because people shared their positive experiences.
This is something else our club and programs need to focus on. Especially when parents are new to the sport, there's a lot of mystery as to what's going on on the ice. When your only reference for ice skating is Olympics or pro-level skaters, I do think it's important to educate parents on the development progression. I think I've said this before, but when I used to help with LTS, I loved having the job of working with the one kid who was absolutely crying and couldn't stand, and part of the process was working with the parents as well to convince them that while this is a hard sport at times, it's a possible sport. When their little one finally stood up for the first time on their own, they "got it" that this was a big moment and they were on their way.

As a new parent to skating, I had to place a lot of trust along with my money in a process I didn't understand. Luckily, my daughter was very motivated, but if she were less so, I might have pulled her from classes after a few hiccups, you know? Parent education needs to be on the forefront for our club, I think.

(edit: typos)
 
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Viktoria

Active Member
Messages
54
I've heard this before from skaters in the US from an earlier era. I think that there is a belief that cold air is bracing and therefore it makes you stronger/healthier. It is supposed to help you sleep better and a host of other things:


The club foot thing mentioned above is also something I've heard. Kristi Yamaguchi also had club feet and that's why she started skating.
I'll say this: my son is never so tired from any sport as after skating. Maybe it's the cold air, but honestly, I think it's the entire body and mind workout. I forget how much concentration and awareness skating takes -- you really have to be in the moment the entire time. Although, your body is doing more work to stay warm in the cold, so again, it makes sense that you would feel more totally relaxed when you get off the ice.
 

Yazmeen

Shake it then, shake it now, shake it forever
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My husband gave me "coupons" for skates and skating lessons for Christmas. It took me over a year to start, but he didn't realize he would be creating a skating monster.

Now I'll just be happy if I can get back on the ice before summer...
 

GarrAargHrumph

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Not that it got me on the ice (as I didn't start until I was 30), but one of my local rink does (pre-*********) offer mini lessons, for free, on the Saturday daytime public sessions - yes, the most crowded ones of the week, and also the ones that get the most little ones. The lessons last 10 minutes, and are announced on the PA. After the lesson, the person running it (in this rink, it's the skating school director) tells the parents about the group classes the rink offers, and hands them an info sheet. This does drive business.

The rink walls off (as it were) a bit of the ice - about a quarter of it - using these maybe two foot tall bumper things. So there's separation between the kids on the lesson and the rest of the public skate. The skate guards put up and take down the bumper things.

The person running the session should be one of the more personable/sales oriented coaches; otherwise, this won't work. This is a sales effort more than anything. It's basically a product demo.
 

overedge

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I also coached for quite awhile too, and one thing I think a lot of clubs overlook is their learn to skate programs. It’s easy to get caught up focusing on competitive skaters, but a lot of effort needs to be put into putting a really good learn to skate program on the ice. Older skaters helping need to be well trained and supervised and supported. Experienced coaches need to be on the ice. Coaches that have some idea how to deal with young kids should be on the ice. Parents looking at the ice should see colour, should see movement, it should look organized to some degree. Communication between club and families is important. Parents talk and if kids have a good experience they will tell their friends it’s a worthwhile activity.

This X 1000. Because the learn-to-skate lessons is where the future club members and future elite skaters come from. Every skater is a learn-to-skate student at some point.

Another model you could look at for ideas @Viktoria is programs like Figure Skating in Harlem http://www.figureskatinginharlem.org
These programs are targeted to a specific demographic and include other components such as academic support, but IMO they have done an excellent job of looking at the characteristics of their target demographic and figuring out ways to fit those characteristics. Rather than, say, putting on a program and expecting the skaters to figure out on their own how they can participate.
 

Viktoria

Active Member
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54
Not that it got me on the ice (as I didn't start until I was 30), but one of my local rink does (pre-*********) offer mini lessons, for free, on the Saturday daytime public sessions - yes, the most crowded ones of the week, and also the ones that get the most little ones. The lessons last 10 minutes, and are announced on the PA. After the lesson, the person running it (in this rink, it's the skating school director) tells the parents about the group classes the rink offers, and hands them an info sheet. This does drive business.

The rink walls off (as it were) a bit of the ice - about a quarter of it - using these maybe two foot tall bumper things. So there's separation between the kids on the lesson and the rest of the public skate. The skate guards put up and take down the bumper things.

The person running the session should be one of the more personable/sales oriented coaches; otherwise, this won't work. This is a sales effort more than anything. It's basically a product demo.
This is a FANTASTIC idea! Yes, sometimes my daughter is giving a paid lesson (our rink allows beginner lessons on public ice) and other people will start asking her about lessons. We can funnel that into the Learn To Skate classes, but also make a first contact with people as a club.
 

Viktoria

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This X 1000. Because the learn-to-skate lessons is where the future club members and future elite skaters come from. Every skater is a learn-to-skate student at some point.

Another model you could look at for ideas @Viktoria is programs like Figure Skating in Harlem http://www.figureskatinginharlem.org
These programs are targeted to a specific demographic and include other components such as academic support, but IMO they have done an excellent job of looking at the characteristics of their target demographic and figuring out ways to fit those characteristics. Rather than, say, putting on a program and expecting the skaters to figure out on their own how they can participate.
We are very close to a private residential school for children of low-income families, and the school has a skating rink. I often wondered whether we should be working with them to offer LTS and synchro, possibly using the FSH model. Even if not them, yes, there are definitely other opportunities to create a FSH synchro program, and we have some great synchro coaches.

Another thing I really think we should be "selling" is the testing, on its own, not necessarily as a means to an end for competition. Whenever I tell parents, "Moves in the Field tests are like gaining martial arts belts, and demand the same kind of focus and discipline" I see "Ah-HA" moments...like, there's more to this than glitter and triple-jumpy-spins.
 
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concorde

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Daughter was 3 when she announced she wanted to learn how to skate. My guess she heard about it a ballet lessons since several of the other kid's her age had older siblings that were taking LTS classes. I then called around to find a rink that would take her in group classes.
She is now 15 (almost 16) and continues to skate. Skating still puts a smile on her face.
I think she will need a college with a close by ice rink.
 

overedge

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Another thing I really think we should be "selling" is the testing, on it's own, not necessarily as a mean to an end for competition. Whenever I tell parents, "Moves in the Field tests are like gaining martial arts belts, and demand the same kind of focus and discipline" I see "Ah-HA" moments...like, there's more to this than glitter and triple-jumpy-spins.

A lot of parents and new skaters don't even know there is such a thing as testing. It's an excellent way to keep skaters involved and motivated, especially skaters that don't like competing or that don't feel they can do what their competitive peers are doing. And all of my coaches have told me that when young adults can put something on a resume like "passed junior dance test, 7th of 8 test levels in US Figure Skating", it really impresses employers and post-secondary institutions, because it shows dedication and persistence.
 

myhoneyhoney

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I watched Gordeeva and Grinkov skate in the1988 Olympics. I was hooked, I wanted to be her!

Fast forward to mid 2000's. Married with young kids and decided to try skating lessons as a "mommy getaway break". It hurt my feet so much, I had bloody blisters on both ankles, OUCH! I bought my own skates and started practicing, each time thinking how hard it was, I should quit. Then I finally got the hang of doing backwards crossovers and fell in love all over again, it's FLYING!!! I've had to take long breaks, returned, then another long break. I started again this summer, more determined to improve. I got as far as working on ISI Freestyle 1 and 2 moves. Then the rinks got shut down because of *********. So now I'm here, waiting for the rinks to open again. In the meantime I got some inline skates to keep me busy.
 

Viktoria

Active Member
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54
I watched Gordeeva and Grinkov skate in the1988 Olympics. I was hooked, I wanted to be her!

Fast forward to mid 2000's. Married with young kids and decided to try skating lessons as a "mommy getaway break". It hurt my feet so much, I had bloody blisters on both ankles, OUCH! I bought my own skates and started practicing, each time thinking how hard it was, I should quit. Then I finally got the hang of doing backwards crossovers and fell in love all over again, it's FLYING!!! I've had to take long breaks, returned, then another long break. I started again this summer, more determined to improve. I got as far as working on ISI Freestyle 1 and 2 moves. Then the rinks got shut down because of *********. So now I'm here, waiting for the rinks to open again. In the meantime I got some inline skates to keep me busy.
Love this! Yes, this is another group we'd like to bring onto the ice -- adults. We have a community of similar "used to skate" adults that would be easy to bring together with possibly group lessons/social hour. :) Bringing adults completely new to skating to the rink takes a bit more consideration -- I get a lot of questions about how to skate safely as a beginner adult.
 

kwanfan1818

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And all of my coaches have told me that when young adults can put something on a resume like "passed junior dance test, 7th of 8 test levels in US Figure Skating", it really impresses employers and post-secondary institutions, because it shows dedication and persistence.
This is such a great point, especially in Canada where the music equivalent, the Royal Conservatory of Music's grade system results are often put on resumes and applications. The bulk of most of my private music teacher friends' practices is working with kids and teenagers towards the next grade in a system that is widely recognized.
 

GarrAargHrumph

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We are very close to a private residential school for children of low-income families, and the school has a skating rink. I often wondered whether we should be working with them to offer LTS and synchro, possibly using the FSH model. Even if not them, yes, there are definitely other opportunities to create a FSH synchro program, and we have some great synchro coaches.
USFS offers grants to skating clubs who want to start such programs. If you go in this direction, look up their grant programs and apply, see if they'll help you.
 

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