Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Lions, Tigers, Bears, and Figure Skaters

Maddie Takes the Ice
When I go to places where I exhibit my books, people look a little quizzical for a second when I line up Pillars of the NFL, The 10 Commandments of Baseball, Public Bonehead, Private Hero and then my Maddie Takes the Ice book.  Maddie definitely brings up a few puzzled looks.  But I think people might be surprised to know that although figure skating might look to the outsider like a lot of fun and glitz, it is a very very tough sport. 

You have to be careful of course when you discuss the merits of  one sport because you can get a little carried away in discussing the "demerits" of another to make your point.  A baseball fan for example might criticize football to make a case for why he likes the "National Pastime."  If you've every talked to people from Australia who are Australian Rules Football fans, they might say it's like our football only without all the pads and equipment--in other words, it's a tougher sport.  Basketball fans will often talk about how entertaining the pace of their game, while suggesting that other sports are too slow by comparison.  So I'll try and stay away from such comparisons in this post.  I'll focus on figure skating itself.

Practice and Commitment

If you think in terms of practice and commitment, competitive figure skaters put hours of practice in a day.  And often it is tedious.  There are jumps and spins for example that are very difficult and they need to be incorporated in routines.  A figure skater builds up to more complex maneuvers over time and then really has to focus on perfecting moves.  A skater might work on a jump hundreds or even thousands of times.  And if she or he is moving to a new level of complexity, the day may be filled with failed attempts.


If you think figuring skating has to be easy because it is a non-contact sports, well....one of my friend's sons has suffered a concussion, a broken leg,  and several trips to the hospital for stitches.  These are not be everyday injuries, but they happen often enough when young athletes attempt to do the difficult on a very hard surface.  Spending hours on ice skates on a rock hard surface can also cause a lot of discomfort, stains, and pulls.


Figure skaters often skate before crowds of people by themselves.  It's often just one performer on the ice and every fall, slip, and muff is viewed by the entire audience.  That's pressure.

Beauty is Only Worth so Much

Superb Athlete, Albright Tenley, 1956 Olympics
While someone who skates beautifully will get points for such artistry, the technical elements must be performed.  There is no hiding from such requirements.  


A figure skater's performance depends on diet and nutrition.  The successful skater is a lean mean fighting machine.  A figure skater has to eat with extreme discipline.  An extra pound can mean the difference between hitting or missing a jump.  On the other hand, if the skater has not consumed enough to maintain the right energy level, she or he might run out of gas before completing a routine.

The young figure skater also has to give up socializing before events, must focus on homework and work on it at the exact time when such work can be performed around an aggressive schedule. Often they must get up very early for ice time and sometimes go bed hours before their friends.


Figure skating can be very expensive.  Ice time is never cheap, nor is the equipment, costumes, trips to competitions, and more than anything else--coaching.  In fact, some skaters may need more than one coach.  Expensive requires family sacrifice and often siblings may have to travel to events as well.

Competitive Figure Skating is difficult, but rewarding.

Lion, Tiger, Bear or Figure Skater?

Parents often wonder what they can nudge their kids into that might help them build character, get plenty of exercise, and perhaps improve their habits and judgments.  Figure skating is not for everyone, but if you are one of those "in for a penny, in for a pound" type parents willing to sacrifice much of your time and money for something really outstanding in your child's life, you might want to take a look at the sport.

As the publisher at Sporting Chance Press, I've seen how people can integrate their athletic efforts into their everyday lives in healthy ways--in spiritual ways as well. And for kids who are in figure skating or interested in a good story about the sport, we published Maddie Takes the Ice by figure skater and international ice dancer Nicolette House.  Maddie is a book that not only shows the daily activities and lifestyle of a young competitive figure skater, but through her eyes, we also see how her family and others around her are impacted.  How does competitive figure skating change a child's life?  Maddie is a book that provides both a good fun read for kids and a realistic view of the sport.  It has been a very popular book with middle grade girls, libraries and schools.  It was named an America's Battle of the Books selection for two different scholastic years.  We've had orders from Japan, Sweden,  and Mexico.  This novel is a great read for young girls and it is highly recommended for kids during this Winter Olympic year.

And if kids believe the sport is all about fun and glitz, they will get a much better understanding.  It's a real life-changer for many athletes. 

A write up on Nicolette House and Maddie. 

Buy Maddie Takes the Ice on Amazon.

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press