Ask the Ice Moms: Figure Skater Feels Unsafe at the Rink
This question comes from a concerned friend, M.C.
Im strictly a recreational skater, because I started later in life. Ive never even been to Regionals and Im not looking to make a career out of it or anything like that, so this isnt my dilemma. Im sending in this in behalf of my friend (Ive Bccd her) because, unlike me, shes pretty high level, hoping to possibly skate at Worlds someday and maybe even at the Olympics in 2014, and she wants to stay anonymous (her parents want that, too) but Im okay with both of these things, so I thought Id send you her dilemma.
Shes going through quite a rough time at the rink right now. Basically, she started skating at 3 years old and she started playing hockey later at 6, because she was obviously showing a lot of skating talent and her parents had the idea of putting her in another sport so shed get a different experience and not get bored of skating too quickly. She loved hockey and was good at it, but she quit when she was 10, because she knew that she had to focus 100 percent on her skating if she wanted to skate at a high level internationally.
Because her hockey teammates were all young then, they werent really mean to her about it at the time, but now were all teens (were both 13, my friend is 14 next month) its like theyre paying her back for when she quit. They put notes in her rink locker threatening her, they swear at her when she passes them (often shes on the ice just before the hockey team) and theyve got their parents and coaches spreading rumors about her. One of the hockey girls goes to our school and she asked her older brother to wait at the gates ready to threaten my friend a couple of weeks ago. Its a really scary time for her and she doesnt know what to do.
People know whats going on, though they dont do anything about it, and whenever she asks for advice shes just told to change rinks. But its not that easy she has an elite coach at our rink and works really well with him, and though there are a lot of rinks in the area, none are as good as the one were at. Is there something else she could do, but not change rinks?
Jozet at Halushki, whose skater competed Regionals last fall. (Have you seen Josette’s Awesome Figure Skating Group on Facebook?)
Wow. The level of meanness in this situation is just breathtaking! Who are these people, and how badly do they feel about themselves that they have to pass along those bad feelings to other kids? I feel so sad for your friend, but what a wonderful person you are for sticking up for her and trying to help!
My first suggestion would be to gather as many people as possible who also support your friend and to stay in contact with her daily to keep her spirits up and to help her stay positive. A simple email, text, or phone call can really give her enough strength to fend off the bad feelings. That with continued ignoring of the bullies is often enough. They usually get bored and move on.
That said, everything you described is just horrifying! This has gone way beyond a few old teammates ragging on her for quitting hockey and has become, I think, an unsafe situation emotionally and, potentially, physically. At this point, if your friend really wants to stay at this rink, it sounds like shes going to have to lodge some big complaints with her coach, her parents, and the skating director at her side.
Document *everything*. Any notes need to be copied in triplicate and handed over to the rink, the school (if they are given in school) and and Im quite serious abut this the police. Let the school and the rink know that the threats are not site specific, and this has gone way beyond kids will be kids to the point that outside authorities have been notified. Im a big pain in the butt when it comes to this kind of stuff and find that alerting as many authorities as possible (rink management, school board, professional skating/hockey/rink organizations, even local journalists at times) and letting them all know that there is a bad situation afoot and that Im contacting everyone. As soon as people know that other outside authorities are listening in, I find that their who cares attitudes suddenly begin to we care.
Does this risk more bullying in the short run? Yes. But if ignoring the bullies always my first suggestion hasnt worked and the threats are getting worse, then doing something will be as bad as doing nothing.
Now, if your friend can work out a way to change to another rink and she doesnt want to fight that battle, I can completely sympathize and would support her in just leaving. I still think its important to document whats going on, let the rink know why you are leaving, as well as still contact the school board and police to give them a heads up on the situation. Even if she asks the rink/school/police to do nothing, the information regarding the bullying might go into the data pile of all bullying complaints; if nobody reports these things, the school can potentially say nobody ever told us and never take any threats seriously because they think they dont have a systemic problem.
Again and truly, it is up to each family to decide how much noise they want to make; there is always the risk of more backlash, and again, Id never fault anyone for not wanting to put themselves in that situation, either. Both choices to leave or to stay and fight it out are honorable and equally difficult.
SeasonedSk8rmom, adult skater and mom to a novice-level skater who just passed her junior moves!
I recommend that she keep a diary of the harassment, especially if there is any physical violence involved. I feel she should file a grievance with the rink manager, her figure skating club, the arena hockey club and the American Hockey Association and USFSA.
If there has been any physical harassment, then she can file a police report and also a restraining order against anyone who is harassing her. The restraining order will legally restrict the individuals from coming into contact with your friend. They will not be able to harass her on the internet, by phone or by mail with the restraining order.
If you friend is being harassed at school she can go to the principal and file a complaint and if the principal does not help than she should take her complaint to the school board.
Your friend could try also to schedule her ice time when she will have very little contact with her old hockey teammates. I know that it is difficult to change her ice schedule, because figure skaters already have limited ice time, but the more she stays away from her old hockey team members, the less opportunity they will have to harass her. I hope these suggestions are helpful for her friend. It makes me so sad to hear when children are being bullied by their peers. I hope your friend will channel her fear and frustration into her skating and I hope it will not discourage her from skating and I hope she will continue to be successful.
Sk8rmom p, personal trainer and mom to an intermediate-level male figure skater and a Junior Nationals competitor
This is a tough one. First of all, I am so glad that your friend has someone like you to care about her. If this skater was my child, I would make sure that the communication lines are always open between my child and me so that I could monitor the situation closely.
The safety of this skater is the utmost concern first of all.
If changing rinks is not an option, then the skater will have to endure some level of discomfort even after this is resolved. I really think she should talk to her coach and let him/her know what is happening. See if practices can be scheduled to avoid the hockey change over period. Someone has to step in and help this skater.
This is called bullying and is not tolerated in schools. I know that teens want to handle situations themselves as much as they can, but I feel that if my child is afraid of physical harm and is showing mental distress, it is time for authorities to step in.
1) Have the girl and her parents start to document all altercations between the hockey girls, parents and relatives. List dates, times, participants, what they said or did. At school and at home. Witnesses to the situations. Document all the steps taken to defuse the situation and their outcomes.
2) The immediate situation to take care of is the brother of the hockey girl. I (parent) would speak to the hockey girl and her brother. If this doesnt work, then I would go to the parents (with documentation in hand). In a lot of cases, believe it or not, this helps. I was bullied as a child and my mother spoke to the bully and she stopped. I was amazed.
3) Next step if this doesnt work. Documentation in hand, I would as a parent go to the school and report what is happening (about the older brother). If they dont respond, then I would go to the police and make a report. If needed, get a restraining order.
4) With documentation in hand (you can reconstruct in as much detail the events leading up to this). Speak to the Rink management about the situation, give them concrete examples of things said and events.
5) Go to the hockey association or club and report the incidents. This has got to be against their code of conduct. Ask for help. Disciplinary action, whatever they deem appropriate.
I would say dont be afraid to involve adults on your side. Maybe there is a relative that is a lawyer or clergy or judge or someone who can advocate and be an additional authoritative presence.
Speak with respect and give the benefit of the doubt. Mediation rather than confrontation.
Sometimes teens will get themselves into a situation that they just dont know how to get out of w/o losing face. I dont agree that teens can solve everything themselves, sometimes adults have to step in and its okay. Thats why we are here. To guide and protect our children.
Good luck! Please let us know how things are going. I hope they get better quickly.
Allison Scott, mom to an Olympic figure skater and two-time National champion (sr.), survivor of many rinks, professional communicator, new grandmother, and blogger at Life on the Edge.
I really hate to sound like a broken record, but has this young woman talked to her parents or the coach? “People know what’s going on” is not enough. Do the RIGHT people know what’s going on? Bullying – of girls or boys – cannot be tolerated. If there is this serious of a problem, why aren’t the parents and the coach involved? This is a serious problem. I have to wonder if anyone, outside of a group of close teen friends, is really aware.
I appreciate the concern and certainly understand it, but an about-to-be 14 year old is not an adult. This is an adult problem and one that most male figure skaters face every day they take the ice in any rink across the country (unfortunately). If this skater really wants to make the World Team and make it to 2014 in Sochi, she has to trust the adults closest to her to take a stand against bullying. I applaud that this person’s friend is taking a stand and reaching out to us for advice, but it is up to the skater to take a stand, talk to responsible adults and take control of her destiny. If there is fear, there is no success. Standing up to this behavior, overcoming it and growing from it is what will get her to her dream. Allowing others to control her will only lead to another possibly great talent leaving the sport.
The ball is in her court and that is a HUGE responsibility. However, how she plays it will help shape the true grit the competitor she wants to become.
Ice Mom, mom to a 15-year-old preliminary figure skater who faced down a pack of bullies in synchro last year.
Bullying situations have three main players: the bully, the target, and the bystanders. The hardest thing for kids to do in a bullying situation is to stand up for the target. M.C., you are in a good position to support your friend. Make sure she is never alone. Plan her time at the rink and surround her with bystanders she can count on. Your posse needs to be vocal. If someone starts to say something to her, they need to say, Stop swearing at her, or Stop spreading rumors. Be specific in your words and make sure that the bully can hear you. Bullies arent used to people defending targets, so theyll either stop orit will go underground. Thats why you need to surround her at all times. Make sure that covert bullying doesnt happen.
Tell rink management, tell the figure skating club, and tell the hockey association. Your figure skating club spends a lot of money at that rink. Ask the club to go to bat for your friend or shell have to leave the club. The club has pull. They can make things happen. Make sure that your friends parents tell school officials about how the bullying incidents are spilling over into the school. That makes it a school issue and now theyre responsible for handling it, too. Everyone has the right to a harassment-free school or work place and your friend is no exception.
Document every problem that she encounters with the date, time, and people involved. Identify the bully, the target, and the bystanders. E-mail this documentation to the rink management, the club, the hockey association, and the school every week. The more people in charge who know about it, the more people are responsible for making sure that this isnt occurring.
Counter the negativity. Bolster your friend and tell her how amazing she is. Targets often internalize the bullying message and their self-esteem takes a hit. Be relentlessly positive. If she does something amazing, alert the media. Im serious. E-mail your television stations and your newspapers sports staff. Let them know that shes competing somewhere and invite them to film her closed practice. Invite them to your clubs exhibitions and ask them to film her and what she does on ice. Let her school newspaper know what she does and tell them that they should run a story on her. Build up support for her beyond your circle of friends.
M.C., I wish you and your friend the best. I have real hope for this situation because she has you for an ally. A few good friends and caring adults can make all the difference in the world. Keep us posted, O.K.?
What advice would you offer M.C. and her friend? Have you ever stood up to bullies or encouraged your own child to stand up for herself? Please share your experiences and ideas in the comments.
Thank you, M.C., for your question, and thanks to the Advisory Board for the responses. If you have a question for Ice Mom or a stumper for the Advisory Board, please let me know! If you have an idea for a blog post youd like to read, Id be happy to get your e-mail, too. Contact me at IceMom.Diane@gmail.com