Panic! At the Figure Skating Competition

December 27, 2012 § 2 Comments

There’s a decorum that comes with watching an ice skating competition in person for the first time that is completely different from how you would act at a baseball game. Page Dr. Loggins because you’re about to enter the… wait.


Duh and/or hello... but then again, it's not that obvious.

Duh and/or hello… but then again, it’s not that obvious.

No one is born with an innate understanding of how to behave at an ice skating competition, not even Michelle Kwan. Competition decorum is not obvious if you’ve never been to a figure skating competition before, let alone recognize a triple axel you’ve always been asking about.

At a baseball game in AT&T Park, you can yell as loud as you can about how mean Justin Verlander is, how Barry surprisingly good Zito can be, how the Gordon Biersch garlic fries are damn good, how the damn good garlic fries make the $9.50 cup of Bud Light taste so much better, etc. But that is not the case when you’re at your first figure skating competition in Oakland Ice operated by Sharks Ice, (EPIC) Edora Pool and Ice Center, Joy Burns Arena, Honnen Ice Arena or any ice rink in general.


What Could Possibly Be Different From A Public?

Public session skating and competitive skating are a wee bit different. In public sessions, you get a family environment, public displays of affection and axels, hockey skate races and an overall vibe of fun as the speakers blast the top 40 of yesteryear (more Katy Perry, more Jay Sean, less E40 telling you when to go). You can do (almost) anything you want.

Don’t be embarrassed if you have to hold the wall to assist your skating since everyone starts somewhere. Follow your dreams and attempt that triple axel you’ve been waiting to try. Don’t stick your hand under any blades though. *shudders*

In Competitions Though…

With competitive skating, you get skaters pacing back and forth off the ice in glitter and rhinestone, hair worn in buns and/or drowned in hair product, skaters warming up, getting into their zones and taking the occasional photograph that will be Instagram’d later. It’s a high-stress, all-day affair.

Look for earphones/Beats, a coach nearby or lots of off-ice running/stretching to spot a skater canceling out the noise and trying to get ready for their event. The skaters have prepared for the entire season/year/lives to be freaking out over a nerve-wracking two to four minutes of their lives, with only one chance to execute every required element and plead their case for first place.

Avoid telling skaters to “have fun out there” because being on the ice trying to land everything and fighting for first place is not fun; it’s very scary. Really, don’t say, “Good luck landing this [jump].” Skaters just interpret it as “Gosh, I hope you fall on that [jump]” and shoot lasers out of their eyes.

Full Pence

Just like that.

Speaking from firsthand experience, be out of the way when the skaters are being put on the ice and just wish them luck before the competition warm-ups (you’ll know when the announcer calls out the names of people appearing in the warm-up, the one-minute warning and end of warm-ups). That is the safest way to go about.

Your Job From the Stands

Bring a jacket, a blanket and maybe a pair of gloves because you’ll be sitting in the stands all day or all of thirty minutes and it gets cold. Is that the Clair de Lune you’ve heard for the fifth time during competition weekend? That is the Clair de Lune you’ve heard for the fifth time during competition weekend; it happens due to the rules on music.


Cheer for your team, the people who land those triple axels, and/or your favorite(s) but pick the spots to do so. They landed a jump? Awesome, golf clap it up on the successful landing, not during the takeoff. Didn’t land the jump? Golf clap it up anyway and cheer the skaters on to keep going and not leaving the ice while the music is still playing (wouldn’t wish that on the worst of my enemies). If they’re spinning, even if they’re traveling and not keeping the spin in one spot a few revolutions in, golf clap it up. If they aren’t jumping or spinning, golf clap it up during the footwork sequences (they’re not jumping or spinning).

When the skaters finish and the music fades, clap wildly and go nuts at that point. Let the skaters catch their breath and a drink of water, a small conversation with their coach or teammate to lament what could’ve been better, all before you swarm them with congratulations, stick around for a little longer and bounce for the day.


Does all this work mean you should surrender and stop being fan of figure skating? Not really. Just gotta know what to say and when to clap with grace, just in case you want to look a little less out of place at a figure skating competition. Yeah, buddy.


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§ 2 Responses to Panic! At the Figure Skating Competition

  • Jack Curtis says:

    Yeah, figure skaters live and perform in their own little world, don’t they? And the big competition TV commentators only provide some of it. Naturally, there’s history to explain things for the curious; one piece being the upper-class origins of the sport, imposing (now outdated) upper class notions of appropriate behavior. Another was the prominence of school figures in competition for so long; the decorum for those being more like a golf match during putting… and it’s all still in place, even though the figures and the upper classes aren’t…
    Go figure!

    • Jack, where can I read up on this history on competition behavior? I think it’d be awesome to read up on and get some insight on why the hell it was so strict at a competition in the first place. I’d ask other skaters or coaches there but I have a feeling I wouldn’t get any response besides, “That’s how we’ve always done it” or “Why are you talking to me?”

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