Is 8 yrs too old start competitive figure skating?

I've written a couple of articles on this topic already. The answer is that age is probably not the critical factor in deciding when to start competing. It really depends on the child's skating ability and their emotional preparedness for competition.

SkateCanada has recently been putting greater emphasis on developing stronger skating skills before entering competitions where a skater skates a set program to music. If you're a SkateCanada Member, you should check out the Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) program document that they've published. It's only available to SkateCanada Members, so you'll need your child's SkateCanada number to log in to get access to this document. It's a lengthy read (88 pages) but if you concentrate on the pages that talk about younger skaters, you'll get to the heart of the philosophy without too much excessive reading. I'm still looking for the Coles Notes version of this document myself and haven't made it all the way through, but it contains some good insights into where the Canadian governing body is trying to take the sport.

If you're not sure, if your child is ready, consider these questions.

  1. Does your coach think your skater is ready at a skating skill level?
  2. Does your coach think your skater is mentally/emotionally ready?
  3. Does your skater know what to expect at a competition?
  4. Have you taken your skater to a competition to see what it's all about (including seeing the kids who loose and are upset).
  5. Does your child have experience performing in other areas such as theatre or music?
  6. Is your child confident enough to head out onto the ice alone with potentially 100+ people watching?
  7. Does your skater want to compete? Be honest with yourself. We unconsciously let our opinions known to our kids (it's called parenting), so make sure your child isn't just echoing your wishes.
  8. You know your kid is awesome and I know your kid is awesome but the judges might not be convinced. Is your skater prepared for finishing off the podium? Are they prepared for coming last? I know it sounds impossible but some judging panels conspire against you.
  9. Why is your child competing? It seems like a strange question, but it's worth considering. If you're not sure then maybe it's not time to start competing.
  10. What is the probability of your skater having a negative experience? You don't want a young skater to have a bad experience at their first competition. Failure is character building but it can also be crushing for a child that isn't ready for it. You don't want them to hang up the skates because of a traumatic competition experience at the age of 7.

If answers to these questions lead you to conclude that your child is ready for a competition, then read all the articles here about competing and I wish you and your skater good luck. De-emphasize the competitive aspect. Emphasize how great it is to have the ice all to yourself. Talk about how it's a chance to show everything your skater has learned from their coaches. Winning or placing is just icing on the experience for now.

When my kids head off to the ice whether to train or compete, I always tell them "Have fun. Skate your best.". If they do those two things, what else is there. Of course, sometimes things don't go well and the fun factor isn't there but keep the focus on fun and doing their best. It's not about the other kids or the medals, it's about the skater. It's an idividual sport. It's about individual acheivement. At higher levels of competition, skaters get a score card from their performance so they can see where they got points and where they lost points. This provides the opportunity to compete against themselves. Each competition they can try to acheive new personal best scores.

Have Fun. Skate Your Best.