by Kim Hansen
Perhaps you have a child who begged you to go ice skating. Or maybe a friend had a birthday party at the rink and invited you, or your whole family decided to just get some exercise. Regardless of how or why you ended up in the rink, the reality is the same: you are in a new world and sport, and you’re probably not sure how to navigate that just yet.
If you are a parent, you have likely signed your child up for group lessons. She is excited and cheerfully shows up for the weekly instruction. You can clearly see her progress and her willingness to attend and practice, but now you’re wondering just how far she will go in this sport? Should she stay in group lessons, or should she switch to private instruction? Should you buy her skates or keep her in rentals? How often should she skate? How much will this all cost? You have so many questions.
Our best advice is to start slow. Take the lead from your skater in terms of her enthusiasm. If you sense it’s an immediate love, then, great, definitely support her. Many parents want to switch their skaters into private lessons as soon as they see that they have a knack. But consider this: In group classes, your child will be learning alongside others of a similar ability and age. In that environment, they can measure their progress reasonably. It’s easier to work on a new, difficult skill when they can see others also struggling. When they are one-on-one with a coach, they will be watching a highly skilled instructor all the time. For some new skaters, that may create the impression that they can’t or won’t ever measure up. Of course the one-on-one is great for immediate and specific correction, and for that reason it’s an important part of their training. What, then, should you do?
Consider hiring a coach as a supplement to your child’s class. It could be the class coach, if they offer private lessons, or it could be an entirely different professional at the rink. The time they spend with your skater will be invaluable for your skater’s specific needs and challenges. Don’t immediately remove them from classes though. The group class structure serves to help them socialize and build relationships at the rink that will be of great significance in the future. This two-tier instruction is a fantastic approach for anyone wanting to excel and thrive in the sport.
Skates = Important Investment
When deciding whether or not to buy skates for your skater, here is a great analogy to consider: Think about when you rent a car. You know how to drive and you have driven for years, but this is not your car, and it will inevitably take you some time to get used to the feel of that vehicle. This is what it is like for a skater every time they have to put on a different pair of skates. The skates may have less support, more support, sharper edges or cumbersome laces. This means that some portion of every practice session is spent getting used to the equipment. It would be far more efficient to learn with the same equipment every day. Purchasing a pair of skates will be an important investment.
When you have your skater in lessons, both group and private, you will need to remember another basic rule: If they are not practicing on their own, you are essentially paying a coach to watch them practice. Skill building takes time and repetition and that translates into money when you are not only paying for their practice session but also for a coach’s time. There is no absolute rule on how much to practice as it depends on the age of the skater, family schedules, ability to get to the rink and so much more. The important thing, however, is that they have time to work on the skills that they have been taught before returning to a new lesson.
As you and your skater settle into this new sport, consider thinking of it as a journey rather than a destination. There will be many new adventures along the way, and those will result in more questions and discoveries. The ISI will always be here for you and your skater, and we will continue to offer fun, challenging and healthy opportunities to them as they progress in this wonderful sport.
Kim Hansen is ISI’s director of skating programs & national events. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Established in 1959, the Ice Sports Industry (ISI) — creator of America’s first learn-to-skate curriculum — is an international trade association encompassing all aspects of the ice sports industry. Our goal is to promote ice skating as a participant sport and recreational activity for everyone — all ages and abilities. Learn more about the ISI Ice Skating Program.