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The Growth Mindset

The one thing we can always count on when it comes to children is that they grow.  As parents, that fact is constantly on our mind when it comes to buying our children shoes and clothing.  We know they’re going to outgrow them in a relatively short period of time and so we don’t want to spend a whole lot of money buying them.  Growth is a big concern when buying ice skates for children as well.

At Houston Skate and Sports Orthotics Center, when fitting a skate, we take growth into consideration and allow extra room in the skate for that event.  On average, a properly fitting skate will last 9-12 months before the child outgrows it.  (I say ‘on average’ because it depends on a couple of factors:  (1) the timing between getting fit for the skates and the occurrence of next growth spurt; and (2) the age of the skater – feet tend to grow faster at some ages more than they do at others.)  However, as we’ve mentioned before, skates are designed to aid the skater’s performance at specific levels of ability.  As a result, it is often the case that over the next 12 months, not only will the skater outgrow the skates, but they will also outperform them and require better equipment anyhow, ultimately making the fact they outgrew them irrelevant.  

Let’s be honest, skates aren’t cheap and children are going to outgrow them.  However, although a factor in deciding whether to buy skates or which skates to buy, the fact a child is going to outgrow them shouldn’t be the primary consideration.  Let me illustrate with an example:

A customer came into the store with his 8 year old daughter who is taking group lessons and starting Basic 4.  They were looking to buy her first pair of skates.  Right away, at Basic level 4, you know you have a committed skater.  In order to reach that level, she’s been skating for an extended period of time, has overcome the “difficulties” that can take the initial fun and excitement out of skating and has reached the point that she has the ability and desire to continue the sport but is simply no longer going to be able to progress in her lessons using rental skates.  In other words, this is not a case of where she’s “just trying it out” to see if she likes skating.  She’s a committed skater who would benefit from having her own pair of skates.

Now, depending on size, fit, brand, and a couple of other factors, skates adequate to provide her with the tools she needs at Basic 4 and through the next year (support, blade quality, etc.) run from $160 - $205.  However, despite having just signed her up for another two months of group lessons at $190, Dad was reluctant to pay that much for a pair of skates because she “was going to outgrow them.”  He wanted skates that would last at least two years.

Time Out! – How many of you have kids whose shoes and/or clothes last two years before they outgrow them?  Without getting into all the problems a skate that is too big can cause, how realistic is it that a regular shoe will last two years, much less a skate?

What happened here is that Dad let “The Growth Mindset” take over.  So concerned that his daughter would outgrow the skates, he failed to see that he just spent $190 on two months (eight sessions) of lessons while a properly fit skate with room to grow would last 9-12 months, perhaps longer.  On a purely economic basis, the skates were a much better deal.  She’s a committed skater – it’s highly likely she will continue skating through Basic 5, 6, 7….and on.  Assuming she reaches a new level every two months in her group lessons and prices remain steady, Dad’s going to spend another $760 (in addition to the $190 he already spent) on group lessons over the next 10 months.  But in his mind, $160 - $205 skates that would last that same amount of time or longer simply cost too much because she would outgrow them in less than two years….

Let’s be conservative:  if his daughter skates only one hour per week for the next 52 weeks (no solo practice, no Christmas shows, no competitions, no private lessons, no skating parties, etc.) and he purchased the more expensive $205 skates, the average cost of the skates would be $3.94 per hour of skating.  One could argue that during the time they owned and used the skates, he’d spend more money on gasoline taking her to and from the rink than he spent on figure skates.

Take a step back and take a look at the even bigger picture: without buying her the equipment she needs, he’s saving money on skates, but he’s wasting a larger portion of his money paying for skating lessons.  Without the proper equipment, his daughter is not benefiting from the lessons as much as she otherwise could.  Skates that aren’t designed for her level (rentals or others) prevent her from maximizing her skills; delay her improvement; and detract from her being able to enjoy the experience because wearing rentals or skates that are inappropriate for her level hinder her from being able to do what she needs to do to succeed.  In other words, she’s going to get frustrated and end up leaving the sport – there’s a reason skating coaches tell their students they need their own skates once they reach a certain level of ability.

Of course, neither the Dad nor daughter realized these things at the time they came to see us because rental skates is all they knew.  But, ask any skater out there who owns their own skates – would they ever consider going back to rentals?  The answer is a flat out “No!”  In the end, Dad ended up buying his daughter the skates she needed – and she didn't even need the $205 pair!  Now, he’s going to get the most for his money out of the group lessons he’s paying for - he’s going to have a happy skater, who will continue her skating, get the most out of her lessons, and drastically improve her skills and confidence as a result. 

My main point here is this – if you child is taking lessons and is a committed skater, don’t let “The Growth Mindset” stop you from buying them an appropriate pair of skates.  Yes, they will outgrow them, but if your child continues to skate, you will improve their skills, maximize their enjoyment, grow their confidence, and get the most for your money out of the skating lessons.  And, when you consider the number of hours your child will spend skating over the next year, ice skates are the least expensive part of the skating experience.

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