If your child has some talent, say the ability to play the piano or throw a good fastball, you as a parent naturally want to help him or her to develop it to the greatest extent possible. Ice skating is certainly something that can provide hours of enjoyment.
On the high end, a child could develop ice skating into a ticket for winning competitions, even going to the Olympics. But the training regimen that is necessary to develop your child into a competition-level skater could come at a price that needs to be considered.
The physical demands of competition ice skating
The practice regimen for an ice skater is very demanding. Typically, a child who is involved in competition-level ice skating will do a 45-minute freestyle session before and after school. That regimen would be in addition to an off-ice session in ballet or gymnastics as a way to condition his or her body. Private ice skating lessons are also crucial.
The bottom line is that training for competition ice skating is going to take up all of your child’s free time for many years. The training will be both physically and psychologically demanding. You and your child will have to decide whether that discipline is worth whatever rewards may be involved.
The physical effects of ice skating training on a child’s growth – real or bogus?
A 2002 article in Health Daily examined the effects of intense figure skating practice on the growth of young people, especially those who are undergoing puberty. A belief has arisen that suggests that children who train intensely in competition sports such as figure skating and gymnastics inhibit their growth. To be sure, most figure skaters tend to be petite.
A study that was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine refuted the idea that intense physical training inhibits the adult height of girls who engage in competitive sports such as figure skating. The reason that so many figure skaters are petite is that short boys and girls tend to gravitate to the sport.
Shorter children find the physical demands of skating to be easier than their taller peers. Some evidence also suggests that trainers and coaches seek out shorter children to train in sports like figure skating for the very reason that they are better suited for it physically.
Research of the physical effects of intense training on young people is ongoing. But as of right now, the latest science suggests that small stature and even delayed puberty result in a young person going into sports like skating and not the other way around. At most, any delay in growth is made up after your child ends his or her figure skating career and cuts back on training.
Do other factors exist that may cause a competition skater not to grow as fast?
One development that could severely affect your child’s growth, not to mention his or her overall health, is the development of an eating disorder. Young people who engage in competitive figure skating are under enormous pressure to keep in peak physical condition, which includes managing their weight.
Unfortunately, the demands of weight management often run into the development of secondary sex characteristics, especially in young girls. As girls develop breasts and hips, they tend to gain weight. Weight gain anxiety can lead to an eating disorder that could, in turn, affect your child’s growth and overall health.
Recognizing this problem, the US Figure Skating Association has developed some guidelines that will help your child, you, and his or her coach to make sure that the rigors of training do not impact his or her health. You child will need to be educated in healthy weight management techniques. You have to be supportive of your child and make sure that he or she understands that good health is more important than winning a medal or competition. Weight and body image can be serious problems for ordinary teenagers but are doubly so for young athletes.
You and your child have to realize that body weight is just one factor that determines the athletic ability of a competition figure skater. Everyone is different, according to their genetic makeup, and so no ideal weight exists for every figure skater.
You also need to make certain that your coach understands the sensitivity concerning weight and overall body image in your child athlete. At the very least, health problems brought on by an eating disorder will adversely impact your child’s athletic ability in the long run.
You and your figure skating child
To sum up, no medical evidence exists that the physical demands of figure skating training have any impact on a child’s growth. However, the development of an eating disorder can affect a young athlete’s growth and his or her overall health if allowed to go unchecked.
As the parent of a figure skating child in training you should:
- Be supportive at all times and be careful in your language.
- Enlist his or her siblings and friends in that support group.
- If you suspect your athlete child has an eating disorder, take him or her to you primary care physician.
- Make certain your child’s coach understands that his or her health is paramount, superseding the prospect of winning competitions.
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