Figure skating host family... Once the decision is made to move to a new training location, the quest begins to find suitable accommodations for your skater. One option usually chosen by families with young skaters moving away from home for the first time, is staying with a skater host family.
If you choose a skating academy that is well established, chances are that you will have no problems finding a skating host family, as many of the current students and their families are willing to open their doors and welcome new-comers into their homes.
Our own, personal experience with figure skating host family was quite positive and educational.
In our case, the skater in his late teens was moving to Europe to train with his new partner, following the decision to represent another country as advised by his Coaches.
His first move away from home and family… to the other side of the Ocean, to a country with different culture and somewhat foreign language.
His parents were born there, so he could speak and understand most of the time, but the barrier was there none-the-less.
Upon arrival in his new country, he was picked up at the airport by his skating host family, and stayed with them in their home the first few weeks, until his furnished short term rental apartment was ready.
They showed him around, introduced him to the owners of the local bakery and the small restaurant just around the corner.
They helped him shop for groceries, and helped him figure out the local ways. This figure skating host family were kind enough to allocate few days to be with him almost at all times.
They drove street cars with him to and from the arena, they took him to their bank and helped him open an account in his name and in the local currency. They showed him where and how to purchase train tickets if he wanted to visit his "local" family 8 hours away...
For a kid who spent his entire life traveling only by car and only saw a street car in Toronto few times, this "living abroad on his own" was exciting, invigorating and overwhelming all at the same time.
There is always an adjustment time following the transition into your new life with a skating host family. It helps tremendously if the skater is mature enough and able to take care of himself, and only needs a little bit of a guidance from the host family.
But sometimes those first few days are extremely difficult for the skater, because expectations on both sides are completely different. Simple misunderstandings can grow into huge issues. Clear communication about what those expectations are on both sides and expressed well before the move, is the key to a successful transition for both the skater and his skating host family.
Few things that each skater and her/his family should consider and accept is that your figure skating host family will most likely have family/house rules that may be a bit different than your own.
We had a foreign skater staying with us from the other side of the globe. He was in his early twenties, quite set in his ways… and not in a good way.
If everyone else at the table takes their plate to the sink or the dishwasher, don't leave yours on the table because "your mom always takes care of that".
If you know that entire house is vacuumed on Tuesday night and the "host mother" is willing to vacuum your room (so you don't have to), be sure to pick that pile of cloths off the floor (there is an empty closet right in your room, you know), so she can get in there and clean without worrying about your undies being sucked into the hose.
Even if things are different at home, even if you had a maid who picked up after you all your life; the home of your skating host family is now your home too. You should catch on fast and adjust accordingly, otherwise you will stand out like a sore thumb; remember the figure skating world is small enough; one day you may find yourself without a place to stay in Canada, because two years ago you refused to pick up your socks off the floor in Moscow.
When staying with a figure skating host family, the key is to leave a lasting, positive impression, so when people think back to the time "when that kid from Spain stayed with us", they have a huge smile on their face and they miss you with all their hearts.
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