“When I grow up, I want to be a doctor.”
“When I grow up, I want to be a teacher.”
“When I grow up, I want to be an ice skater.”
I think the ladder would be the most uncommon. You spend more than 75% of your waking life at the rink. You train until you have nothing left, then you foam roll. Finally you make the decision that you no longer have it in you to compete. Maybe your family ran out of money to cover your training expenses or you’re afraid your body can’t handle another injury. Now what? All of that time and money invested and you just move on to a cubicle job? You and your family invested time and money into the sport of skating just like you would invest your time and money into an education or a house. You wouldn’t burn the house down after you bought it, right?
The thing is, with figure skating, we don’t have many big name sponsorships and only a couple of us actually make it to the Olympics. Even some of the skaters who made it to the Olympics didn’t get the big name sponsorship deals and after winning their medal, you never hear anything about them again. We don’t have season ticket holders to our National Competitions. We don’t even have college scholarships, D1 sports teams (!) or clothing companies interested to sponsor ice skaters the way they do snowboarders and tennis players. Where do we break even here?
All odds seem to be stacked against us. Life after competing likely ends up with filling your days with something else outside of the rink. Sure, you take all of the valuable lessons you learned from being a competitive athlete and apply them to your future life. But, what if your heart still wants to be connected to the sport once your competition days are over?
Well, you will have to get creative if this is something you truly want. If you dig deep and think outside of the box, there actually are some opportunities for skaters beyond competing. Figure skating is more than competitions and a program full of planned elements. Let’s start with any of the ice show productions including: Bietak Productions, Disney on Ice, Holiday On Ice and Cirque du Soleil. Performing as an ice skater will force you to undo almost everything that was engrained into you as a fierce point-counting competitor. You will need to be open and flexible to give up your 3-jump combinations (arm over the head) for a full split on ice into a hydro blade all while flashing a huge smile in hopes of getting a reaction out of the audience. It doesn’t mean one is better or more difficult than the other, they are just different.
Maybe you find out show skating is not for you. Well, what skills do you have? What energizes you the most? Find your niche in the already niche sport of figure skating. These guys are a perfect example: didn’t make the cut to play for Barcelona, but you can see how they were creative enough to find their niche in the soccer community. Are you a creative? Start choreographing programs and routines. Are you a great motivator? Go get your first students. Are you health conscious? Start focusing on strength and conditioning plans to benefit other skaters. Whatever your niche is, you most likely have many years of experience on the ice. Put them together and you will be able to offer some value to the skating community. The internet can connect skaters all over the world. This is something we did not have access to before. Utilize these amazing platforms to add value and positivity to the skating community with your own knowledge and skills whether it be costume design or meal plans.
DISCLAIMER: Did we mention that none of this is easy? It’s just like any other career path. The difference is if pursuing a nonconventional job in the skating world energizes you to get up in the morning, you’ll most likely find success in it. This energy will make you stick with it when the going gets tough… and it’ll probably get pretty tough.
Lastly, what if you just don’t find that connection and decide to exit the skating world all together? That’s ok. But, there are some things you can do on the way out. Figure skating needs YOUR support. Save our sport from losing fans and popularity in mainstream media. Here are a few ways you can do this:
Buy tickets! Go watch Nationals with your best friend or the Grand Prix Final with your Mom. The feeling of watching a skating competition live and not actually having to compete in it is something we can’t put into words.
Like, share or comment on a fellow skater’s creative piece on ice or entry into a choreography competition. They are putting themselves out there and a little encouragement from you could go a really long way.
Dress up as your favorite Disney character and sit in the front row at Disney On Ice! Not only will you relive your favorite movies as a kid, you are supporting the performers and skating as a professional career. This goes for buying tickets to ANY live ice show productions.
According to CNN, in 1994 figure skating was the sixth-highest rated program in TV history with 48.5 million viewers. It was the third-highest rated sporting event behind Super Bowl XVI and Super Bowl XVII! If you can’t make it to the live event, host a TV viewing party for any one of the international skating competitions at your house! Invite both skating and non-skating friends. It’s always fun to act out the difference between a salchow and a flying camel for the right audience.
If a new movie is released and it happens to be about figure skating or has a figure skater in it, GO SEE IT. Anything in mainstream media that has a slight figure skating implication? Point it out, notice it, applaud it, tell your friends about it!
Support alternative creators who are helping us view the sport of figure skating in a different light a.k.a. freestyle and breakdance skaters, theatre on ice teams, synthetic ice skaters, synchronized skaters, circus arts and acrobatics on ice, adagio pairs, inline skaters… the list can go on. Go see their show, buy them a coffee, tell your social media followers about how awesome they are. They are paving the way to new opportunities for the figure skating community.
The more we applaud and support all of the many kinds of figure skaters, the more opportunities we can create for each other and the sport. What can you do today to get figure skating out of the proverbial trash can and increase it’s popularity with mainstream media?