Thursday, September 23, 2010

Expense VS. Cost - What Every Parent Should Know (Or At Least Understand)

This is the first year we have not applied for support from US Figure Skating's Memorial Fund. It is another rite of passage, I suppose. Frankly, I don't know what we would have done without it. We also relied on some other sources of funding that now may be going "the way of the Dodo" with the new tax laws. However, this is not a political statement; I don't discuss politics - except as it pertains to skating. This is about the realities of the expense in this sport, and the cost that comes along with it.

If you are not a skating parent but a casual spectator, or a "True Fan," you may not realize what a skater's expenses are as they attempt to attain their dreams. Let's put this into an annual perspective*:
  • Basic Skills:  210 cups of Starbucks -  grande
  • Pre: 632 cups of Starbucks - grande
  • Juv and Intermediate (at the JNs level) - 2,520 cups of Starbucks - grande
  • Novice (at the Nationals level) - 4,211 cups of Starbucks - grande
  • Junior (at the Nationals and JGP levels) - 8,421 cups of Starbucks - grande
  • Elite (at the Nationals, GP, Worlds levels) - 16,632 cups of Starbucks - vente
* Prices may vary by location; subject to availability but very close accurate.

Yes, this is an unreasonably expensive( and highly caffeinated) sport. Financially, it is second only to equestrian, but then I can't imagine putting something with four legs into costumes and skates, housing, feeding, and flying from one place to another. Actually, on second thought, I can: It's called pairs and dance.

I am making light of a very serious subject. The expense of skating at the higher levels sometimes isn't worth the cost. Like so many other sports - skating being just one - these can be numerous:
  • Family arguments about scheduling
  • Family arguments about finances
  • Loss of personal time
  • Loss of perspective about what is really important in life
  • Loss of communication
  • Loss of marriages
  • Moving
  • Remortgaging
  • Refinancing
  • Reality
* Costs may vary by family; subject to dynamics and income, but very close accurate.

Over the years, I have seen both sides - the expense and the cost. I only ask, as you move through your years and tears in skating, that you try to keep things in perspective. It is difficult to be realistic when your Basic Skills skater wins his or her first ribbon or medal. It is even more difficult to not keep count of the subsequent medals and awards as they move up through the non-qualifying ranks. It is difficult not to buy a practice dress that costs a month's mortgage; to purchase a competition costume that doesn't have more stones than one sees on the crown jewels. It is even more difficult to look at the reality and ask yourself, "Can I afford it?"

I have to tell you, most of the time the answer is yes.  If your skater loves the sport, you find a way. Sometimes the payoff is like grasping the brass ring; sometimes the payoff is a child that has grown to understand what discipline and hard work means. Sometimes, the payoff isn't worth the effort you've put into wanting your skater to succeed.

The difference is in answering one simple question:"Who's dream is this?"

The news reported today that the cost of coffee is going up. Like everything else, that's no surprise. The next question has to be, do you continue to buy grande, switch to regular or give it up all together? It's the price you have to pay.


  1. Two thumbs up! Great entry. What you said reminds me of a slike show I once saw. It was for dancing, but you could easily substitute skating instead.

    Slide show that gives you the itemized price for each item...
    skates: $1200
    Ice time $300/month
    Coaching $600/month
    Corn pads $300 (ala IceMom)

    Then cue the picture of the smiling adorable munchkin with the medal around their neck and superimpose in bold letters...


  2. Sk8rmomp - That's true, but it is also a, "Yes, but.." If that smiling little munchkin is only skating because the parent wants to see a medal around his or her neck, then there is an expense/price/cost ratio at work that can lead one onto a surface far more slippery than the ice. Even at this point of our sojourn, "priceless" comes steep. Food for thought.