Now here's a topic it's impossible to leave out. Every rink and region has it's share of truly distinctive and dedicated parents. Within this group a variety of personalities dwell. Skating parents come with radically different interest levels and motivations. Some simply want to get their kid out of the house and moving. If skating on a gigantic block of ice is what does it for the kid, then great, but the parent doesn't have to freeze too. Other parents come equipped with the Olympic agenda. Practice schedules are planned for the next ten years to produce maximum greatness and chances of Olympic glory. The Olympics happen every four years and only one skater stands on the top of the singles podium. Needless to say, the thousands of parents with Olympic ambitions are on the wrong side of the odds. Not that this fact stops their pursuit of perfection for their child. Clearly, there are a number of parental approaches and some work a little better than others. What follows is my guide to skating parents (for both skaters, coaches and parents).
First, I'm going to delve into all the wonderful positive traits I've discovered over the years. Indeed, skating moms are not soccer moms and skating dads are not football dads. We have a unique sport and parents react to the demands in their own ways.
1. Be at the rink sometimes, but not all the time. Especially with young skaters, it's important for them to know they're supported. Coming in and watching the last five to ten minutes is a great way to give the child something to look forward to at the end. If a parent is there all the time, the child is unduly pressured and often distracted by parental reactions to their skating.
2. Help, but don't coach. Often the urge to offer suggestions is overwhelming as a parent, but the ice needs to be a place where official coaches set the rules and are not undermined by overly enthusiastic parents. If a parent has a small suggestion, he or she should tell the child off the ice. If a major issue occurs, confront the coach directly without the child present. A parent and coach should work together, not over and against each other.
3. No pressure to compete. Lots of parents love to see their child shining in a competition. Unfortunately competing in skating is a brutal and often seemingly unfair endeavor. If a skater wants to compete, give them full support, but do not force an unwilling child into the competition scene. This is not to say that goals should not be firmly established, but skating has plenty of non-competition achievement markers.
4. Recognize the importance of learning correct technique and that sometimes this may take longer than you hoped. Without correct technique a skater can get most doubles if they are a good natural jumper, but the road to double axel, triples and even the new moves in the field will be extremely rough. Spending time in the beginning on slow exercises like edges pays off and will produce beautiful jumps in the future. In addition, parents need to recognize that skaters learn at very different paces. Improvement is marked by a skater's individual progress over time, not by comparisons with other skaters.
5. Freedom to choose skating. This may seem obvious, but not every young skater actually wants to be on the ice. Some love skating recreationally, but hate a competitive environment. A good skating parent tries to understand how serious their child would like to be and pushes them appropriately. When a child is forced to skate the the situation gets unpleasant for skater, parent, coach and fellow rink members. Joy is an important part of skating and can not be coerced into existence.
While these are only a few of the things good skating parents bring to the rink, they are a good foundation for creating a healthy rink environment for skaters and parents alike.