Sunday, October 3, 2010

Musing: In The Company of Strangers

I started this blog as a diary (of sorts) and now - thanks to some very generous parents, coaches and other bloggers - I have a modest following. My blog has landed me an advisory position on a wonderful site run by *IceMom; I have fans of our skater who have now become close personal friends; I regularly communicate with people around the world. It is good company and I am so grateful to be a contributor, voice of reason (most of the time), ally of this incredibly difficult sport and cheerleader for its participants.

As I have transitioned into this new role of Elder Spokesperson, I do see a trend emerging. I call it the, "I don't know who to ask, so I'll ask you," communication. Like the old letters that were annonomously written to Dear Abby or Ann Landers, these voices want - no, need - to be heard. Many of them are voices of skaters; some are parents and even coaches. They don't know where to turn; they don't feel they have a support system. They are looking for direction, advice and solace in the company of strangers.

That's what we are, after all. Strangers.

This begs a question: If we are getting queried on topics ranging from equipment to sports psychology - and literally everything in between; if the preferred form of communication for these anonymous voices is the blog, Facebook or Twitter, then where are the committees within our organizations who can really assist? If they're out there, most people's GPS can't even track them down because of all the twists, turns and roadblocks on their websites. Some information is buried so deeply you can't find names, emails and phone numbers. 

This leads me back to a time that we all thought, or at least hoped, was long gone.

Back in the "Dark Ages," if you had issues, you registered your questions and complaints to the people from your club who attended Governing Council and hoped they brought you back some answers. If you had coaching questions, you didn't know if you could go to PSA for answers or not; you probably didn't know what PSA was. Most likely your "twitter" and "chat" happened one-on-one with like-minded parents at the rink. If there were more serious problems, you probably didn't know (or were too intimidated to ask) if you could lodge complaints or ask questions directly to USFS. That's why you had a club president; he or she was the "chosen one." It was the sole responsibility of the president to enter the gates of the Emerald City and seek an appointment with Oz. You were merely a Munchkin. 

But now we are in the Communication Age. So, where are the resources? Many would argue that they are out there, and they are - IF you do a lot of homework. I think the frustration of not having information in one place is partly why there has been a dramatic rise in blogs by parents and coaches.  People can now openly voice their questions, opinions and concerns and there is an audience  eager to listen and engage in conversation. Accessibility has created a new community, one that is taking matters into its own hands. These strangers, literally from around the world, have come together to try and create what has been lacking for so long. 

Of course, with this new creation there is a great responsibility to try and get it right - something that is difficult in a world of communication quicksand. But if we can help make a difference; if we can answer a question, offer opinion and some modicum of expertise, solve a problem or at least give direction, then we are on the right track.This comes with a very big caveat: You must do your own homework. We are all looking for a quick fix, but sometimes it is not "One Size Fits All." Be a smart consumer of information. Look for trusted sources. We hope we can assist, but remember - on the web, in chat rooms, on blogs, Twitter and Facebook, we are all in the company of strangers; some are stranger than others. Be careful out there. 

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