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Thread: Do most skaters end up in debt after their careers are over?

  1. #16
    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Thank you for that thoughtful post, momof5, and welcome to the forum. Post often, post long!

  2. #17
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    How many skaters' parents are rich? I know that most skaters come from comfortable homes, but I can't think of any who would have a trust fund.

    Sarah and Tara are often given as an example as rich girls growing up, and Tonya, of course was poor. The rest are somewhere in the middle, but probably upper middle class. I think Todd and Nancy came from relatively humble circumstances, too, now that I think of it.

  3. #18
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    Scott Hamilton came from a home with two teachers, then nearly quit skating altogether after his mother's doctor bills mounted on top of his skating bills. They moved from his father's dream home to a smaller house to try and make it easier, but even then it wasn't until a willing benefactor jumped in that Scott was able to continue.

  4. #19
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    Well said, momof5, and welcome to GS!

    I imagine gymnastics is like this as well, except that the pattern of spending varies a bit. Like skating, gymnastics can create stars within the sport with nowhere to go afterward. There's almost no room at the top. Gabby Douglas is literally one of a kind for various reasons, including the fact that no other American has ever won a double gold in Olympic gymnastics (team gold, individual all-around). Likewise, Michelle Kwan is unique in skating. Even potential gold medalists Davis and White don't seem to be growing rich and famous from their stellar skating.

    Another thought: unlike many other sports, skating and gymnastics training begins at such an early age that the result is years of extra expense. Of course kids can start playing baseball and football in elementary school, but a talented player can begin in high school or later, whereas skaters really need to start honing their bodies by the age of about seven or earlier. That's almost another decade of expensive coaching, ice time, travel, and so forth.

    Your point about keeping school a priority is so important. God forbid there's an injury, leaving the athlete with no career at all. (An example is the prodigiously talented Naomi Nari Nam.) Even with a moderately successful competitive career, a skater can end up with no job prospects in the skating world and not enough international success to become a bankable celebrity. That's when the BA degree can serve as a rescue craft for the athlete.

  5. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by jenaj View Post
    I seriously doubt that most skaters have trust funds. I read somewhere that Agnes Zadwadzki's mother had a job cleaning houses. I have no idea if they end up in debt. I'm sure a skater like Ashley Wagner has sponsors and endorsement deals, along with income from shows in the US and in Asia, where skating is still popular.
    I heard that Agnes and her mother share a one-bedroom apartment and one of them sleeps on the couch. This was a couple of years ago now.

  6. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tonichelle View Post
    Scott Hamilton came from a home with two teachers, then nearly quit skating altogether after his mother's doctor bills mounted on top of his skating bills. They moved from his father's dream home to a smaller house to try and make it easier, but even then it wasn't until a willing benefactor jumped in that Scott was able to continue.
    I read a story about Todd Eldredge's community raising the funds for him to continue skating at some point. I think it was around '91.

  7. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poodlepal View Post
    How many skaters' parents are rich? I know that most skaters come from comfortable homes, but I can't think of any who would have a trust fund.

    Sarah and Tara are often given as an example as rich girls growing up, and Tonya, of course was poor. The rest are somewhere in the middle, but probably upper middle class. I think Todd and Nancy came from relatively humble circumstances, too, now that I think of it.
    Rudy Galindo is another skater who was not rich. In a Christine Brennan book (I can't remember which one it is, since I think she has two) that he rode a bike to the rink and was coached by his sister because he sometimes couldn't afford other coaching. Oh, and they lived in a trailer home for awhile.

  8. #23
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    Do most skaters end up in debt after their careers are over?
    Not if they live in a country where most of their expenses are covered by their skating federation and/or olympic comittee and/or local government.

  9. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ziggy View Post
    Not if they live in a country where most of their expenses are covered by their skating federation and/or olympic comittee and/or local government.
    What you are saying is so true. In so many competitive countries if a child exhibits extraordinary talent, or has the right body type, the country steps in and pays for all of the training. At international events you will rarely see the parents of these kids, as they simply cannot fund the trip to watch them compete.

    In the United States, however, You do not receive funding until you can be put into a team envelope, which, even making Team A only provides a very small amount of funding, comparative to the extraordinary expense. Skaters generally start off in a lesser envelope, and work themselves up. I am not sure exactly what the tiers amount to this year, but despite I am sure gratefulness for any dollars coming their way, no way, shape, or form can it offset the enormous expenses. Oftentimes kids move (with a non-working parent) or move alone to train with the best coaches in their discipline. And, as was stated before, you must be seriously training by the time you are 8 or so, or forget it. The expenses keep coming for years.

    I do believe the Memorial fund steps in, however, to assure an extraordinary talent will not sacrifice training due to their economic circumstance. But this is where it gets super tricky. Very few families can absorb the type of expenses incurred pursuing this sport with ease. That is why many skaters have to choose between college and skating, or go to a lesser, cheaper school. Who can afford both? I have heard about families forgoing home ownership, savings, necessary expenses, to pay the huge bills the sport requires, all in the hopes of their kid "making it." The trouble is "making it" no longer produces any kind of payoff, unless you are an Asian skater, as their countries have a very strong fan base, and people willing to even travel to events to watch their favorites.

    In any event, to reply to the original title of this thread, the skaters do not end up in debt, as a 13 yr old cannot get a bank loan to finance their career, it is the parents who end up in debt, or at the very least depleting their assets in so many ways and levels. I almost wish we had a system more like some other countries, where only the most talented are fully funded, though even that is different now too (like in Russia). It is exclusive, but then parents are not led down a primrose path of believing their child is so talented that it is okay to risk their education, or their families finances to achieve success, only to find out there is no pot of gold at the end. I think the last skater in the US to achieve that was Michelle Kwan, and even she then went on to a very rigorous education, and her current accomplishments are as impressive as her impressive skating career.

  10. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by momof5 View Post
    What you are saying is so true. In so many competitive countries if a child exhibits extraordinary talent, or has the right body type, the country steps in and pays for all of the training. At international events you will rarely see the parents of these kids, as they simply cannot fund the trip to watch them compete.

    In the United States, however, You do not receive funding until you can be put into a team envelope, which, even making Team A only provides a very small amount of funding, comparative to the extraordinary expense. Skaters generally start off in a lesser envelope, and work themselves up. I am not sure exactly what the tiers amount to this year, but despite I am sure gratefulness for any dollars coming their way, no way, shape, or form can it offset the enormous expenses. Oftentimes kids move (with a non-working parent) or move alone to train with the best coaches in their discipline. And, as was stated before, you must be seriously training by the time you are 8 or so, or forget it. The expenses keep coming for years.

    I do believe the Memorial fund steps in, however, to assure an extraordinary talent will not sacrifice training due to their economic circumstance. But this is where it gets super tricky. Very few families can absorb the type of expenses incurred pursuing this sport with ease. That is why many skaters have to choose between college and skating, or go to a lesser, cheaper school. Who can afford both? I have heard about families forgoing home ownership, savings, necessary expenses, to pay the huge bills the sport requires, all in the hopes of their kid "making it." The trouble is "making it" no longer produces any kind of payoff, unless you are an Asian skater, as their countries have a very strong fan base, and people willing to even travel to events to watch their favorites.

    In any event, to reply to the original title of this thread, the skaters do not end up in debt, as a 13 yr old cannot get a bank loan to finance their career, it is the parents who end up in debt, or at the very least depleting their assets in so many ways and levels. I almost wish we had a system more like some other countries, where only the most talented are fully funded, though even that is different now too (like in Russia). It is exclusive, but then parents are not led down a primrose path of believing their child is so talented that it is okay to risk their education, or their families finances to achieve success, only to find out there is no pot of gold at the end. I think the last skater in the US to achieve that was Michelle Kwan, and even she then went on to a very rigorous education, and her current accomplishments are as impressive as her impressive skating career.

    In Japan, Korea and China, skaters have decent sponsorship, their Federation are always doing promotions to find corporate sponsors for young and elite skaters. the Figure Skating have good image in front of general public. Unfortunately it is not happening in US....

  11. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by momof5 View Post
    In so many competitive countries if a child exhibits extraordinary talent, or has the right body type, the country steps in and pays for all of the training.
    It's not even that. In many countries skating clubs are subsidised either through the Ministry of Sport/related bodies or by the local government. So for example in Poland, a skater will end up paying a very small monthly fee for daily group classes. So you don't have to exhibit special talent and the sport is accessible to most people.

    In Russia, pretty much all of the expenses are covered. If you're a skater who's ranked nationally, you even get a free free lunch.

  12. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ziggy View Post
    It's not even that. In many countries skating clubs are subsidised either through the Ministry of Sport/related bodies or by the local government. So for example in Poland, a skater will end up paying a very small monthly fee for daily group classes. So you don't have to exhibit special talent and the sport is accessible to most people.

    In Russia, pretty much all of the expenses are covered. If you're a skater who's ranked nationally, you even get a free free lunch.
    I think that in many countries, the theory is that the skater competes for the glory of the country, so it makes sense to subsidize him or her. In the U.S., that idea isn't so prevalent. We also don't have a tradition of subsidizing things like the arts or other pursuits for the common good. Rugged individualism or corporate sponsorship is more our style. So we have the hugely profitable behemoth sports machines of football, baseball, basketball, ice hockey, and auto racing (and wrestling!), and then the struggling sports such as cross-country skiing, archery, and figure skating, where participants have to be for the most part either wealthy or befriended by sponsors. It's not ideal, if you ask me, but I doubt it will change soon.

    Even in the heyday of American skating, many aspiring competitors mortgaged the house and so forth and still didn't hit the jackpot once their careers were over. Someone who got maybe a fourth-place finish at Nationals wasn't likely to be invited to the pro competitions or Stars on Ice. So it's always been a tough go for American skaters, except for a privileged few with extraordinary talent.

  13. #28
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    There is no simple answer for this.

    It depends on the country you live in.
    It depends where in the country you live in, in the big city or further away.
    It depends how well known your coach(es) is/are and who is your choreographer.
    It depends on your goals, is skating a fun hobby or a serious work?
    It depends on the level you are skating at.
    It depends on whether you make it big or not.
    etc.
    etc.
    etc.

    I would guess it is harder for those who are close the elite level but never really make it there. They have the expenses but not necessarily the sponsors or public financing.

  14. #29
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    It will be interesting to see how and at what level funding is maintained for the skaters from Russia. For the past several years at least, the Russian National team members have been enjoying tremendous support. More than just full funding (coaching, equipment, choreography, off-ice) but living stipends as well (as I understand it).

    A wonderful and very supportive environment, but not sure how sustainable once the Sochi Games have come and gone.

  15. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by lcd View Post
    It will be interesting to see how and at what level funding is maintained for the skaters from Russia. For the past several years at least, the Russian National team members have been enjoying tremendous support. More than just full funding (coaching, equipment, choreography, off-ice) but living stipends as well (as I understand it).

    A wonderful and very supportive environment, but not sure how sustainable once the Sochi Games have come and gone.
    That is true in Russia but only of the very very top skaters, and the stipend also depends on the parents (when the skater is a 'minor') and what the parents do or don't do for a living. Sometimes too the skater isn't given a stipend but is, for example, provided with an apartment (Alena Leonova had one provided by the federation at one time, and B/L do now if I remember correctly).

    In any case, the vast majority of training expenses have always been covered for the 'best' skaters in Russia. It is why their pool of 'training' skaters thins significantly each year as the kids get older- it is a very harsh system there where if you no longer show promise, you essentially can no longer train, not only because you aren't funded but because coaches are not permitted to take you. There are of course major pros and cons to how it is done places like Russia an China versus how it is done in the USA or Canada.

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