Four Things They Don’t Tell You as a First-Time Figure Skater Parent

by StevenHelmer

Four things every parent should know before they let their child start figure skating.

Roughly four years ago, my oldest daughter won a free skating lesson at our local ice rink. At the time, she was interested in taking dance lessons but, after getting on the ice for the first time, she fell in love with it, has stuck with it and is competing on a regular basis now. In addition, her younger sister, wanting to follow in her footsteps, has been skating for almost two years (though, at this point, she mostly just focuses on her lessons and the annual ice show).
As a result of this, my wife and I have become full-time figure skating parents and spend almost as many evenings at the ice rink as we do at home. With this experience, however, I am starting to realize there were a lot of things that would have been nice to know when we first started out.

Be Sure to Get Out Your Check Book

Photo courtesy of PixabayOne of the main reasons my wife and I were so supportive of our daughter when she started skating was, at the time, we thought it was going to be considerably cheaper than the ballet classes she had been taking (and wasn’t really in love with). And, to be honest, that is still somewhat up for debate because those lessons weren’t cheap.

Figure skating, however, has proven to be a major item on our monthly budget, especially since we have two girls in it. Last month, for example, we spent close to $400 on competition registrations and registering them for the annual ice show.

The lessons themselves run about $125 (for both) every couple of months and the skates we purchased for our oldest daughter (which were customized to fit both her feet and the moves she’s expected to do at her current level) were around $170. Then, of course, you have the costumes (which my wife actually saves money on by making them herself) and the cost of gas/hotel rooms for away competitions. My wife is currently not working but will likely have to find a part-time job just to help out with some of this.

One thing I do recommend to first-timers is to make friends with the other parents. A lot of times they can help you reduce some of this cost by selling you used outfits and bags or maybe referring you to a private coach (oops, another expense I forgot to mention), if you need one, that won't charge you an obscene amount of money.

Prepare to Volunteer

Chances are, if your kids decide to take up figure skating, it’ll be with a parent-run club like ours is. That means everything from the concession stand to the zamboni is run by a volunteer in an effort to keep the costs down.

My wife and I, for example, spent close to 12 hours of our Valentine’s Day weekend at the rink doing everything from selling t-shirts to checking wristbands for our annual synchronized skating competition. We spent 4 hours of our New Years Eve helping out at the open skate.

Of course, volunteering isn’t required. We could decide to opt out and just pay a buyout fee. But, as I mentioned before, skating is already pretty expensive as it is. And, since we haven’t won the lottery yet, that isn’t really an option for us or most other parents.

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Figure Skating is a Year-Round Sport

Photo courtesy of PixabayMostly because it occurs on ice, it's easy to assume Figure Skating is a winter sport. However, it's actually a sport that goes all year long with little or no off season.

In the past, my wife and I have made our daughters take the summer off from skating, mostly because it is much easier to plan family vacations when we don't have to worry about working around lessons. This year, with our daughter now competing (and at least one of the competitions being over the summer months, that probably won't happen. 

On a positive note, the ice rinks feel really nice when it's 90 degrees outside.

It's Worth It

Yes, most of the things I’m referring to in this article are negative. However, one other thing that they forgot to tell us when we started (which is a little ironic when you think about it) is it is well worth it.

My daughters are both very shy, much like I was when I was their age. Yet, when they are on the ice, they are little divas that love to play to the crowd (especially my oldest daughter). They have also made quite a few friends they probably wouldn’t have even met if they weren’t skating (our club gets skaters from several school districts and private schools).

One of the things I personally love is the fact they are exposed to quite a few positive role models. The older skaters are often asked to coach the younger skaters and, because they went through the same challenges when they were younger, are very supportive and treat our daughters like they were their own sisters. There just aren’t that many sports you can say that about.

Updated: 11/03/2015, StevenHelmer
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StevenHelmer on 04/27/2015

It's a lot of prep work for them but the girls love it. They had a competition this past Saturday and my youngest got a silver medal in her level while her older sister took two platinum (4th place) medals in her contests.

Mira on 04/27/2015

Interesting that you have that. I'm curious what the situation is here in Romania. I'll ask around. Thank you for your response.

StevenHelmer on 04/27/2015

They are amateur competitions sponsored by non-profit clubs. The girls compete for medals and trophies only, much like any other sport. Though, they do also usually receive some sort of gift bag with things like water bottles, makeup, etc.

Mira on 04/27/2015

Skating is fun. I did a bit of skating too when I was young, took lessons and all. I think I would have liked to compete but we were all amateurs where I was skating. What kind of prizes are there in skating competitions? Money, sponsored products, skates . . .?

AlexandriaIngham on 02/21/2015

I think it depends on the dance school. I would do dance shows and recitals on a regular basis, and I took exams to further my level. That's great to hear about some of the girls earning scholarships from their skating. We don't really have anything like that over here that I know of, anyway.

StevenHelmer on 02/20/2015

My biggest problem with the dance classes, at least around here, is they never really did anything other than take lessons. There weren't any recitals and it just seemed to be repetitive to the point my daughter was getting bored.
Figure skating, in comparison, has the ice shows and competitions (both girls have medals hanging up) and there is always a new challenge for them.
We've also had a number of girls in our club earn college scholarships from skating, something that is definitely an incentive for them to stick with it.

AlexandriaIngham on 02/20/2015

Thanks for sharing this. It does seem a lot more expensive than dancing. I danced until I was 16, and loved every minute of it, but I know it was expensive for my parents. It's something we're keeping in mind for our daughter once she is old enough to tell us what she would like to do.

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