North American competitive system lacking

brakes

On the Ice
Joined
Jan 31, 2020
Why a government would not pump tax money into kids' sport is beyond my comprehension.
It's like 100% safe investment into population health, vitality, mental strength and relief of medical system.
 

ribbit

On the Ice
Joined
Nov 9, 2014
Why a government would not pump tax money into kids' sport is beyond my comprehension.
It's like 100% safe investment into population health, vitality, mental strength and relief of medical system.
I agree with you that investing in certain kids' sports at the grassroots level is a great idea, provided that those sports require little in the way of expensive facilities or equipment, are played on courts/fields/facilities that can be open for very long hours and accommodate many people, and have a low risk of injury when played at a low level: football [=soccer], basketball. But figure skating requires ice rinks (which are expensive to operate and maintain, especially in warmer climates), ice skates (which cost a lot more than balls), and--in some countries--protective equipment such as helmets (which need to be personally owned, not rented, for reasons of hygiene), and carries a relatively high risk of serious injury at any level. It's not just the risk of wearing out your hips from landing loop combinations or your back from quads and Biellmanns; multiple members of my own family have fallen and broken their wrists badly enough to need surgery, just from skating around the rink with their children or grandchildren.

So from a public-health perspective, while investment in kids' sport is absolutely a good thing, ice skating is understandably not at the top of the list of sports to invest heavily in, any more than gymnastics or Alpine skiing. As a figure skating fan who very much enjoyed my adult figure-skating classes back when I had the time, I would love to see it become a more widely accessible sport, and to see that participation translate into both a deeper talent pool at the elite levels and a broader fan base for elite competitions. But I understand why my local government focuses more on providing football and baseball fields, basketball courts, simple exercise equipment, and even tennis courts in our local parks.
 

brakes

On the Ice
Joined
Jan 31, 2020
Agreed on what you wrote, but things is, girls in Russia want to be figure skaters, not footballers, basketballers or tennis players. ;)
Goverment there simply answered popular demand.
 

ribbit

On the Ice
Joined
Nov 9, 2014
Agreed on what you wrote, but things is, girls in Russia want to be figure skaters, not footballers, basketballers or tennis players. ;)
Goverment there simply answered popular demand.
Ah, I didn't realize that you were referring to Russia; I was thinking of the North American (and specifically US) context mentioned in the thread title. I'm not going to say that it's a bad thing that the Russian government is responding to popular demand by supporting figure skating--after all, we fans around the world benefit from it! :) Now how to create the popular demand in the US that would justify substantial public support...
 

el henry

Fangirl of men’s spirals and split jumps
Record Breaker
Joined
Mar 3, 2014
In the American system, the government will not create a demand where none exists. They will generally try to do what the taxpayers want, rather than create a new demand. And as @ribbit so eloquently explained, the costs of figure skating are simply too high for any government to fund. So government does indeed believe in funding athletic endeavors, just not skating.

It would take a dedicated very wealthy private benefactor to fund enough skaters for a groundswell to create the demand. I would love for such a person to exist. Sadly, they do not :(

I think that may also lead to other misunderstandings. In the US of A, no one is impressed by figure skating "dominance" or quaking in their (skating) boots because we just don't have enough fans who care about figure skating. 🤷‍♀️I imagine in other countries, few may be as impressed by the excellence of Pennsylvania and the dominance of the Pittsburgh Steelers as we are here. (hey if the Eagles have to bite so badly, I'll cheer for the other side of the state:biggrin:).

Governmental funding of sports will follow the will of the people. :)
 

ribbit

On the Ice
Joined
Nov 9, 2014
That's what I meant - would it be possible to do it?
Could the US government ever be persuaded to fund figure skating on a level comparable to Russia? We shouldn't get into politics, so I'll just say that Americans care enormously about winning Olympic medals, but this hasn't produced a demand to invest public money in Olympic sport. (The US is one of the very few countries that gives no money to its Olympic committee.) Americans love watching gymnastics, and many little girls here want to be gymnasts, but again, this hasn't produced a demand to invest public money in gymnastics. What those interests do produce (or did, until the terrible Larry Nasser revelations) is a lot of corporate sponsorship. It seems to be a fundamental attitude in much American culture, and not limited to sport: Americans are often happy to choose to buy products from companies that support their favorite sports and athletes (or causes, or charities), but they're not always so happy to have the government make choices--even choices with the same end result--about how their money is spent. (Mods, I hope this isn't too political! Please edit as necessary.)

But maybe we could learn from our northern neighbors. My impression is that Canada has many more publicly funded ice rinks; I visited a mid-sized city there a couple of winters ago and was happily shocked that it had something like eight public indoor rinks and an outdoor rink in a park. I'd be curious to hear from Canadian posters about how that support works and is perceived--is skating just so much a part of Canadian culture that it's taken for granted?
 

NanaPat

Record Breaker
Joined
Oct 25, 2014
Country
Canada
But maybe we could learn from our northern neighbors. My impression is that Canada has many more publicly funded ice rinks; I visited a mid-sized city there a couple of winters ago and was happily shocked that it had something like eight public indoor rinks and an outdoor rink in a park. I'd be curious to hear from Canadian posters about how that support works and is perceived--is skating just so much a part of Canadian culture that it's taken for granted?
There's one word for it: hockey. Those rinks are full of little boys (and, these days, little girls) playing hockey or learning to skate so they can play hockey. For the most part, figure skating gets a very small portion of the available ice-time in all those rinks.
 

lappo

Final Flight
Joined
Feb 12, 2016
Could the US government ever be persuaded to fund figure skating on a level comparable to Russia? We shouldn't get into politics, so I'll just say that Americans care enormously about winning Olympic medals, but this hasn't produced a demand to invest public money in Olympic sport. (The US is one of the very few countries that gives no money to its Olympic committee.) Americans love watching gymnastics, and many little girls here want to be gymnasts, but again, this hasn't produced a demand to invest public money in gymnastics. What those interests do produce (or did, until the terrible Larry Nasser revelations) is a lot of corporate sponsorship. It seems to be a fundamental attitude in much American culture, and not limited to sport: Americans are often happy to choose to buy products from companies that support their favorite sports and athletes (or causes, or charities), but they're not always so happy to have the government make choices--even choices with the same end result--about how their money is spent. (Mods, I hope this isn't too political! Please edit as necessary.)

But maybe we could learn from our northern neighbors. My impression is that Canada has many more publicly funded ice rinks; I visited a mid-sized city there a couple of winters ago and was happily shocked that it had something like eight public indoor rinks and an outdoor rink in a park. I'd be curious to hear from Canadian posters about how that support works and is perceived--is skating just so much a part of Canadian culture that it's taken for granted?
I think that the sports that have more investments, public and especially corporate private investments, are those that can be collegiate sports. In the USA there are lots of money involved in those and if a children is chosen into these school and for whatever reason does not succeed he or she will at least be able to get a good degree at a fair price. Unfortunately, this does not apply to ice skating, hence the lower population that decide that it is worth the time, the money and the sacrifice to have their children invested in FS. If the school could offer a program for figure skater, with them representing their schools instead that their clubs at nationals for example, then some money would probably be poured in the sport. Someone who actually live in the USA and has a better knowledge of this topic can correct or add to my impressions.
 

ribbit

On the Ice
Joined
Nov 9, 2014
I think that the sports that have more investments, public and especially corporate private investments, are those that can be collegiate sports. In the USA there are lots of money involved in those and if a children is chosen into these school and for whatever reason does not succeed he or she will at least be able to get a good degree at a fair price. Unfortunately, this does not apply to ice skating, hence the lower population that decide that it is worth the time, the money and the sacrifice to have their children invested in FS. If the school could offer a program for figure skater, with them representing their schools instead that their clubs at nationals for example, then some money would probably be poured in the sport. Someone who actually live in the USA and has a better knowledge of this topic can correct or add to my impressions.
There was a long discussion of the many reasons that colleges and universities don't offer figure skating scholarships a while back. Let me try to recap quickly:
  • Huge expense for the benefit of a very few students: the cost of elite training for one figure skater for one year is (for example) about five times that of a gymnast, while the cost of maintaining most other facilities pales in comparison to the cost of maintaining an ice rink
  • Lack of rinks: consequently, relatively few universities have rinks, and many universities are in cities or rural areas that don't have rinks
  • Disparity between the cost of supporting figure skating and the value of most sport scholarships--most people don't realize that most athletic scholarships are only partial scholarships, worth less than the cost of attendance even while requiring continued participation in the sport, so a figure skater would still have to find money for school expenses while training to a competitive level
  • Eligibility: most intercollegiate competition is organized by the NCAA, whose extremely strict "amateurism" policies restricting skaters' receipt of outside sponsorships and prize money appear to conflict with the way that figure skating is supported here and elsewhere, disqualifying elite skaters from being considered to represent their universities and forcing young skaters to choose between advancing in the sport and maintaining their college eligibility
And that was before the pandemic tore a giant hole in university budgets. Universities (including my own, which is in relatively good shape comparatively) are cutting everything they possibly can and having to work harder than ever to justify the money spent on anything that doesn't contribute to their core missions of research and teaching. Even wealthy universities like Stanford are cutting non-revenue-producing sports. Funding one figure skater's training, when you could use that money to fund four or five full rides (tuition, room, and board) for high-achieving students, would be a hard sell in any climate; right now I'd say it would be politically impossible to make that case. I love figure skating, but as a faculty member, if I were asked to make a case for my university to join a hypothetical consortium of colleges organizing a non-NCAA figure skating circuit that would involve funding training and athletic scholarships for students, and to explain why this was an optimal use of university funds, I would really struggle to come up with a rationale for doing so.
 

Mathman

Record Breaker
Joined
Jun 21, 2003
That's what I meant - would it be possible to do it?
I don't think so. You can't force people to want what they don't want* (although advertisers spend billions of dollars trying to do just that ;) ).

As for tax money, the problem is that there is never enough of it. However rich a country might be, there is only a finite amount of money and an endless chain of worthy projects that deserve support. If you spend money on building ice skating rinks and developong skating programs, then you have less to spend on building bridges, sponsoring medical research, maintaining the local police force, sending rockets to Mars, etc. -- and for that matter, less money to spend on children's programs in other ( and more popular :( ) sports.

*That's why "supply-side economics" is wrong-headed. A nation's economic engine is driven by demand, not supply.
 

lappo

Final Flight
Joined
Feb 12, 2016
There was a long discussion of the many reasons that colleges and universities don't offer figure skating scholarships a while back. Let me try to recap quickly:
  • Huge expense for the benefit of a very few students: the cost of elite training for one figure skater for one year is (for example) about five times that of a gymnast, while the cost of maintaining most other facilities pales in comparison to the cost of maintaining an ice rink
  • Lack of rinks: consequently, relatively few universities have rinks, and many universities are in cities or rural areas that don't have rinks
  • Disparity between the cost of supporting figure skating and the value of most sport scholarships--most people don't realize that most athletic scholarships are only partial scholarships, worth less than the cost of attendance even while requiring continued participation in the sport, so a figure skater would still have to find money for school expenses while training to a competitive level
  • Eligibility: most intercollegiate competition is organized by the NCAA, whose extremely strict "amateurism" policies restricting skaters' receipt of outside sponsorships and prize money appear to conflict with the way that figure skating is supported here and elsewhere, disqualifying elite skaters from being considered to represent their universities and forcing young skaters to choose between advancing in the sport and maintaining their college eligibility
And that was before the pandemic tore a giant hole in university budgets. Universities (including my own, which is in relatively good shape comparatively) are cutting everything they possibly can and having to work harder than ever to justify the money spent on anything that doesn't contribute to their core missions of research and teaching. Even wealthy universities like Stanford are cutting non-revenue-producing sports. Funding one figure skater's training, when you could use that money to fund four or five full rides (tuition, room, and board) for high-achieving students, would be a hard sell in any climate; right now I'd say it would be politically impossible to make that case. I love figure skating, but as a faculty member, if I were asked to make a case for my university to join a hypothetical consortium of colleges organizing a non-NCAA figure skating circuit that would involve funding training and athletic scholarships for students, and to explain why this was an optimal use of university funds, I would really struggle to come up with a rationale for doing so.
Thank you so much for the very comprehensive answer!
 

Koatterce

On the Ice
Joined
Feb 20, 2018
Country
Canada
There's one word for it: hockey. Those rinks are full of little boys (and, these days, little girls) playing hockey or learning to skate so they can play hockey. For the most part, figure skating gets a very small portion of the available ice-time in all those rinks.
Yeah and for those that don't play hockey, the majority (myself included) only learn skating to a level where they can have some fun occasionally skating with friends in the winter. And even for those that go further towards learning to figure skate, very few do it at a level more than just an extracurricular on the side and maybe the club shows/small competitions that come with it. And it's an expensive hobby too so it can quickly become not worth the money or unaffordable, and even for those families with some more money, it's not usually a priority. That's also why you often see skaters retiring earlier to go to school.
 

CanadianSkaterGuy

Record Breaker
Joined
Jan 25, 2013
There's one word for it: hockey. Those rinks are full of little boys (and, these days, little girls) playing hockey or learning to skate so they can play hockey. For the most part, figure skating gets a very small portion of the available ice-time in all those rinks.
I can’t believe this hasn’t been mentioned but 10000% this.

The prospect of your kid playing in the NHL or winning a gold with Team Canada is far more appealing than going into/excelling in figure skating. And frankly, much likelier in hockey.
 

skatesofgold

On the Ice
Joined
Jan 14, 2014
I've come to learn that most Americans haaaaate paying for recreation through taxes. My parents' community just rejected referendum for a indoor rec center this past spring. I guess, with the pandemic, it was probably a smart decision, but I still don't think it would have passed even under normalcy.
 
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