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Thread: What things would you change/add/remove to make figure skating popular again?

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    Tripping on the Podium
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    What things would you change/add/remove to make figure skating popular again?

    Granted, a lot of folks still follow figure skating, but I know for a fact that the 'numbers' are down. Right off the bat I can think of a few things that have contributed to this decline. Costs of figure skating lessons and blades / boots. Fewer rinks (I think). So many great figure skaters now focusing on doing as many jumps as they can. (though one of my coaches said that competitions are starting to implement more compulsory stuff now).

    Your thoughts?

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    Custom Title skateluvr's Avatar
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    Televised Network contracts or ESPN coverage again. Educational commentaries with real explanations for the rules. replays of top three where in depth info is given on the skater, the strenghts, the rules and why they are on the podium. But FS is dead as a popular sport. It will remain a niche Olympic sport with the world facing poverty. It is an elite sport and only a whack or something similar will bring back mass attention as in Tonya Gate.

    I'd like to see rich skaters who made tons of money in the 90's and are living very well to give back the way Michael Weiss does. A group of ex SOI skaters could start a fund for our top skaters. We cannot expect a poor populace to support this kind of sport but the wealthy 1 percent of skaters could do more -I could suggest names, but hey, the generous are few.

    We have had so many threads and the question has been hashed to death, so...but no one else replied so her is my 1 cent. Smile.

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    How much money am I allowed to spend?

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    Like subtlety in ice dancing Serious Business's Avatar
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    Two suggestions that won't cost the ISU much:

    Allow vocal music with non-Latin lyrics in the non-ice dancing disciplines. As we found out from the recent ISU publications, TV networks are actually begging for this change, as they see, quite rightly, that this would increase ratings and interest. Vocal music captures people's imagination perhaps more than it ever did in human history. It's an inevitable change that will come to figure skating anyway. Speed it up and take advantage of it sooner rather than later instead of holding onto pointless traditions.

    Re-draft PCS guidelines to make crowd connection, enjoyment and the theatricality of a performance more important parts of the scores. This will make the final results more in line with what the audience feels, which they will enjoy more and be more vested in. Having the audience almost mutiny on the results is a bad way to go for a sport that can barely hold an audience any more. While in plenty of cases, including the recent men's competition at Worlds, I don't agree with the crowds and their overheated opinions, figure skating really doesn't have the luxury of holding its nose and haughtily expect the masses to follow. It's got to make an effort to please the crowds. Most of a skater/team's score is still derived from other things. But in a case where two skaters/teams are almost even, the scoring system should tilt the favor towards the skater/team with the more crowd-pleasing performance. Yes, this is naked demagoguery. But beggars, choosers, and all that.

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    I wish there were indeed a face-saving way for skating to do something like that. The judging system can't exactly have a "crowd-pleasing" component, and it certainly can't be left to the judges' discretion. I imagine that an "applause meter" is out of the question....So what can the judging system do to incorporate such a change? I mean, is there a place for artistry in all those marks? There used to be, so I imagine it's possible again.

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    Like subtlety in ice dancing Serious Business's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olympia View Post
    I wish there were indeed a face-saving way for skating to do something like that. The judging system can't exactly have a "crowd-pleasing" component, and it certainly can't be left to the judges' discretion. I imagine that an "applause meter" is out of the question....So what can the judging system do to incorporate such a change? I mean, is there a place for artistry in all those marks? There used to be, so I imagine it's possible again.
    It already is part of the existing PCS guidelines. Under the explanation for Performance/Execution score, under the heading "Projection", "The skater radiates energy resulting in an invisible connection with the audience." It just needs to be emphasized more in a reworded PCS guideline. I don't think we need an applause meter. The judges should be directed to use their subjective judgment to see how effective a skater is in projecting to a crowd. Make it more of a consideration in the PCS, rather than what it is now, where many skaters who do a great job of reaching an audience don't get rewarded for it in their PCS in competition after competition.

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    There are too many slow and boring performances to slow, boring and tuneless music. Adding lyrics won't change that--the ladies will just go from skating to heavy classical music to heavy, big ballads. At least you don't have to hear some artist you can't stand the way it is now! I think there should be a mandatory music style (or a couple to pick from), rotating every year like in ice dance, for the short program. And the majority of the styles should include faster music--jazz, hiphop, swing, something. They can do what they like in the free program. I think if they skated to music that was less highbrow it would be a step in the right direction.

    As for why it isn't popular for kids to go into the sport: the economy has been up and down for years. It was horrible in much of the 90's, too (before the tech boom), yet this was the golden age of figure skating in America. Unless the cost of the skates and blades etc. has jumped up exponentially like the price of gas, I don't think that would explain the lack of interest completely (though it would contribute).

    I think it may be harder to find the handful of kids who are willing to sacrifice everything to skate than it was several years ago. With Facebook and texting, socializing seems to have become much more important and time-consuming to teenagers than it was even 10 years ago, when I began my teaching career. While most kids would rather be a "normal teen" than a skating prodigy during any era, I suspect that the few who would do it are becoming even fewer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Poodlepal View Post
    As for why it isn't popular for kids to go into the sport: the economy has been up and down for years. It was horrible in much of the 90's, too (before the tech boom), yet this was the golden age of figure skating in America. Unless the cost of the skates and blades etc. has jumped up exponentially like the price of gas, I don't think that would explain the lack of interest completely (though it would contribute).
    Skating is pretty popular around here. My club just keeps growing. Depends where you are and how the economy is doing there, probably.

    The number of competitors at regionals might be down a bit from an all-time high 10 or 15 years ago (would have to research). Surely participation is higher now than 20+ years ago when figures were required and discouraging to many. Not to mention the other opportunities available for participants who are not on track to become elite competitors.

    I was talking to a judge a couple years ago who speculated that a lot of kids were now focusing on synchronized skating, or showcase and Theatre on Ice instead of freestyle competition.


    The number of rinks probably has more to do with the popularity of recreational skating and hockey in the area than with figure skating, which in most cases can't financially support a rink on its own.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Serious Business View Post
    Re-draft PCS guidelines to make crowd connection, enjoyment and the theatricality of a performance more important parts of the scores. This will make the final results more in line with what the audience feels, which they will enjoy more and be more vested in.
    It's tricky. Audiences come into the arena eager to cheer their favorites before the skating even begins. PLus, we wouldn't want the home-town advantage to become insurmountable.

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    At the rink. Again. mskater93's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thevaliantx View Post
    Granted, a lot of folks still follow figure skating, but I know for a fact that the 'numbers' are down. Right off the bat I can think of a few things that have contributed to this decline. Costs of figure skating lessons and blades / boots. Fewer rinks (I think). So many great figure skaters now focusing on doing as many jumps as they can. (though one of my coaches said that competitions are starting to implement more compulsory stuff now).

    Your thoughts?
    It's not about doing as many jumps as you can. You can't do that with the IJS rules as they are (that was the 90s, especially the men). With IJS you can only do the prescribed # of jumps, spins, and steps.

    The boots and blades I purchased last year were only $15 total more (with a few more features) than they were three years earlier, so the prices haven't escalated out of line. I think the boot companies have done a nice job curbing costs and maintaining their quality.

    The main issues in my mind are:
    1) Championship level (Jr and Sr) programs "look the same" to the unpracticed eye where everyone is backloading their jumps as much as possible (it's worth more!) and using the same spin positions to up their levels (some of which are flat out ugly such as the A-frame spin). Programs under 6.0 seemed to have more variety to the unpracticed eye and some spins are much more eye catching by themselves (classic layback) verus contorting like a pretzel from a layback for two revs then to side-twist for two revs, and then haircutter for 8, and (painful looking for some) slow Bielman position for two more. All the contorting and twisting just to get the levels in the spins (and that includes sit, camel, and upright variations) have taken some of the beauty out of skating. Give all spins a fixed base value that would make three spins of a different nature roughly equivalent to 10-20% of a Junior or Senior long program to encourage more beautiful and longer held spins. That was supposed to happen with GOEs but it hasn't. I'd rather see Angela Nikodinov hold her classic layback than watch Christina Gao twist, grab her foot, and inch by inch it up to her head and then over her head all the while slowing down the speed of rotation just to get a level 4. Note, I am not picking on Gao here, just using her as an example of a spin that she "can" do that maybe

    2) IJS has not been explained well during broadcasting in the US. People see it as some sort of black box math game that engenders the results the "establishment" wants. I've only heard good commentary on IN (I don't need that level of detail as a skater, but others do). Hamilton and his cronies don't do a good job explaining the results and people think someone got robbed. A LOT.

    3) Transitions for the sake of transitions. Some skaters (you know who they are) seem to be very busy with their feet and upper bodies at every point of their program but it has no connection to the music and doesn't "touch" the casual fan. Part of the appeal of FS is the art/sport debate and by taking the "art" out of the sport, it turns people off.

    4) Anonymous judging sucks and the random picking of scores to be included is ridiculous. People think you are hiding something!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by mskater93 View Post
    4) Anonymous judging sucks and the random picking of scores to be included is ridiculous. People think you are hiding something!!
    This is true, but the random picking of scores to be included was done away with several years ago so it's no longer a relevant.

    The judges are still anonymous internationally, and there it does look like covering up.

    If we're talking about in the US, then the columns of numbers on the protocols do line up with the judges numbered as #1, #2, etc., on the list of officials. It's very easy to find out who gave what score after the fact. BUT there are now so many numbers that it's impossible to show them all, let alone show which numbers came from which judge,

    So there are two different issues.

    One is the perception of hiding dishonesty in those events where there is anonymity.

    The other is that there are too many numbers to show in real time, so at most we only see TES and PCS and TSS. (For free programs they often don't even show the TSS for that program, but only the final combined score for both programs.)

    I'm not sure what the solution is. But one small help would be for broadcasts to show a URL for the protocols that viewers can check out afterward. In this Internet age, maybe the networks should have a webpage for each event that they broadcast with links to the protocols, and general overviews of the scoring process, so they could help educate interested viewers who want to know more than there's time to show on TV.

    NBC did for the Olympics, and Universal Sports has a website with a section for Figure Skating.


    As for what the ISU should do, my suggestions would be

    1) Start a new discipline, outside the Olympic format but perhaps with its own world championships, for artistic/entertainment-oriented skating at the elite level. I'm sure they would want former Olympic-track medalists and other stars who already have recognizable names fan bases. Maybe also provide a way for entertaining skaters who never to earn their way in by excelling in feeder competitions in the artistic track. Figure out what audiences want to see and design the rules to encourage those qualities.

    2) For the sport-oriented Olympic-track disciplines, figure out ways to encourage originality and variety and to reward aesthetic performance qualities in free programs while still keeping the emphasis on technique and on as-objective-as-possible ways to compare skills
    (Short programs might need to get more technically specific to compensate for more leeway in free programs)

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    I think a big problem is that we don't really get to know the athletes. I used to be annoyed by fluff pieces but actually I think it helps to know more about the sacrifices these athletes make to compete at a championship level. I know very little personally about this year's women's medalists, which is in stark contrast to, say, the 1993 women's podium. If you are measuring popularity by TV viewership, then the ISU needs to do more to create personalities that people care to tune in for.

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    The ISU can't create personalities.
    It could change the rules so that displaying charisma on the ice is worth more than good technique, but that would be anti-sport.

    A solo, highly technical sport tends to self-select for people who work hard on their own to develop the skills needed to reach the top. Then if they also demonstrate some personality while performing those skills, they get rewarded for it, but the type of personality that is social and outgoing and charismatic tends not to be the type of person who puts in the practice to develop the skills -- unless they also have such natural athletic talent that they can learn the skills more easily than most. And then they tend to have inconsistent technique. There's probably a much higher proportion of natural introverts among skaters than among performing artists. (Even more true back when school figures won medals)

    The ISU also can't produce fluff pieces of appropriate lengths to fit every country's TV broadcasts in every language.
    Fluff pieces to make the athletes familiar to the viewers are the networks' job.

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gkelly
    1) Start a new discipline, outside the Olympic format but perhaps with its own world championships, for artistic/entertainment-oriented skating at the elite level. I'm sure they would want former Olympic-track medalists and other stars who already have recognizable names fan bases. Maybe also provide a way for entertaining skaters who never to earn their way in by excelling in feeder competitions in the artistic track. Figure out what audiences want to see and design the rules to encourage those qualities.
    Wonderful idea, but... This is basically what shows like the World pro used to do. They were popular for a time but as the public's taste in entertainment changed, they died out for lack of interest.

    Another question is this. Why should it be the ISU that undertakes such a venture? If there were money to be made, couldn't a private entrepreneur, or a bunch or skaters, just do it on their own? And if they couldn't break even, then the ISU couldn't afford it either.

    Quote Originally Posted by Serius Business
    Allow vocal music with non-Latin lyrics in the non-ice dancing disciplines. As we found out from the recent ISU publications, TV networks are actually begging for this change, as they see, quite rightly, that this would increase ratings and interest. Vocal music captures people's imagination perhaps more than it ever did in human history. It's an inevitable change that will come to figure skating anyway. Speed it up and take advantage of it sooner rather than later instead of holding onto pointless traditions.
    I am not rushing in here. If the attraction is, oh boy, they're playing my favorite popular song, then you don't want or need skaters flitting about confusing the issue and distracting your attention.

    This is the reason that ballet music is better for skating than is opera music or a symphony or concerto. Ballet music is composed as a background accompaniment to dancing. A symphony demands center stage for itself.

    Movie soundtracks are good for skating for the same reason. The music was composed specifically to support the action on the screen.
    Last edited by Mathman; 05-25-2012 at 02:01 PM.

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    Edited to summarize:
    If the question is what can the ISU do to increase audience interest in figure skating, then the answer has to be the ISU doing something active, not just standing by while someone else does something.

    If the question is what can be done by anyone anywhere to increase interest in figure skating, I don't think the answer is that someone not connected to the ISU could start producing professional competitions, using retired skaters if the ISU won't let them use eligible ones. That producer's goal would be to earn a profit for him- or herself, maybe to help out some friends who are professional skaters. The goal wouldn't be to increase interest in ISU-style skating and would probably be marketed by trying to decrease interest in competitive skating to draw viewers to its own product instead.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    Wonderful idea, but... This is basically what shows like the World pro used to do. They were popular for a time but as the public's taste in entertainment changed, they died out for lack of interest.

    Another question is this. Why should it be the ISU that undertakes such a venture? If there wewre money to be made, couldn't a private entrepreneur, or a bunch or skaters, just do it on their own? And if they couldn't break even, then the ISU couldn't afford it either.
    Yes, someone else could.

    But since the ISU controls eligibility for its own championships and for the Olympics, if such a venture is to include skaters who still want to compete in standard events as well, then the ISU has to be on board with allowing them to enter a competition run by outside entities without compromising eligibility. And that has been the one holdout that they have not agreed to do.

    Partly to protect their control of figure skating as a sport, as required by the IOC and laws or principles about protecting their rights. And partly to have access to any income generated by "their" (eligible) skaters.

    I think it's a lot more likely that they would at least have some kind of profit-sharing partnership with whoever starts such a venture than that they would just

    Otherwise the outside entrepreneur would only be able to use skaters who have decided to turn their back permanently on Olympic-style competition. And given the fact that it is possible for eligible skaters to earn money as a skater (from shows, endorsements, or coaching as well as money that comes directly from the ISU as prize money or from federation support), there's less incentive to close the door to eligible competition than there was in the days of strict amateurism.

    From the ISU's point of view, there's no upside to letting star competitors spend most of their time skating in someone else's events without them getting a cut for themselves. It wouldn't necessarily increase interest in ISU events (the sport of figure skating) and it would take skaters, audiences, and TV dollars away from ISU events.

    So if the question is what can the ISU do to appeal to audiences in a way that increases the viewership for ISU events, my answers is that they could themselves create events designed to appeal to audiences who are not interested in the technical details of the sport.

    Or they can do nothing and let outsiders create fan-friendly events in competition format if they want. Or not. In the past 10 years, more or less, the answer has been not. And 20+ years ago, there were only 2 or 3 such events worldwide. It was only for a few years from the mid-90s to early 2000s that there was enough public interest to sustain an active professional circuit in addition to ISU-style competition.
    Last edited by gkelly; 05-25-2012 at 02:27 PM.

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