Dec 13, 2010

Posted in Coaching, Featured Articles | 12 Comments

Is my Figure Skating coach’s behavior normal?

Is my Figure Skating coach’s behavior normal?

Today’s blog is a question from a reader. She wants to know if her figure skating coaches behavior is normal.

A. writes:

“I’m really confused about what all the roles of a coach are. I’ve skated for a few years now and have had three different private coaches because my family moves around a lot.
I keep in touch with my first two coaches, they’re like family. They were always there for my competitions and tests and always encouraging me. But the coach I’ve been working with for the past few months is not.”
 
“I thought this new coach was just much more professional since he was a higher level skater than my other coaches and I was ok with that, I thought it was neat taking lessons from such a successful coach. But then I took my MIF test the other day. (I passed.) My coach couldn’t be there, so another coach put me on the ice. I understood. But when I saw my coach at the rink the next day he didn’t even ask me if I passed my test.”
 
“He’s old, so has he just had so many students test that it’s not a big deal for him or is he just a jerk? I don’t want to be coached by a jerk, even if my skating’s improving.”
Dear A,
A coaches job is to be a good role model, find your strengths as a skater and use those to make you the best possible skater you can be. Their job is to support you in whatever goals you may have as a skater. Some coaches are more professional or business like then others. There is nothing wrong with this, you just have to find a coach that works best with you, your personality and your goals.
I personally have a very good relationship with all my skaters. I am first and foremost their coach, but I genuinely care about them and I would do anything for them.  Not only do I want to help them succeed in skating, but I want them to succeed in life. If they are having a bad day or are sad, I try harder to make them smile.
Congratulations on passing your test. I have never missed a test session for a skater. If one of my skaters is testing I make sure to take the day off of work if its during the week to be there. If I can’t be there I don’t want my skater testing that day. I know them better then anyone, I know how they work under pressure, and I know the little things they should be working on right before they get on the ice. I think many skaters feel more comfortable if I am there. Plus I want to be there and see them succeed.  I understand that not all coaches will opperate the same way I do and I dont’ think there is anything wrong if a coach wants you to test and has someone else fill in for them once. If its a pattern, I would worry about it. As far as him not asking you if you passed, maybe it was an honest mistake. I would not consider myself old, but I have the worst possible memory ever. I don’t think I would forget something that important to me but I think you should give him a break. If you see that this is a pattern of him not being interested in your skating, or his coaching style isn’t working for you then talk to him about it and think about finding someone who is a better fit.
Readers: Have you had another coach fill in for you at a test session? How did it work? What would you do if you were in A’s position?  Please help her with your opinions!
  • Anonymous

    Just a quick thought, possibly the other coach told your coach how you did, so he knew that you passed, that would be SOP (standard operating procedure). Then a faulty memory would be more understandable, he could have filed it in the “done” file and then forgot to say congrats (I’m not that old, but I might do something like that). I agree, give him another chance.

    I as a parent always thank the coach and tell my IceBoy to thank his coach as well. The next time you see him, you might say something like “I passed my MIF test” and thank him. Maybe he will say, yes, I know or Oh, right, I’ve been meaning to congratulate you…”

    I sure hope it works out!!

  • Anonymous

    Just a quick thought, possibly the other coach told your coach how you did, so he knew that you passed, that would be SOP (standard operating procedure). Then a faulty memory would be more understandable, he could have filed it in the “done” file and then forgot to say congrats (I’m not that old, but I might do something like that). I agree, give him another chance.

    I as a parent always thank the coach and tell my IceBoy to thank his coach as well. The next time you see him, you might say something like “I passed my MIF test” and thank him. Maybe he will say, yes, I know or Oh, right, I’ve been meaning to congratulate you…”

    I sure hope it works out!!

  • Jessi

    As an adult skater- I have had coaches miss test sessions, and not send an alternate coach; I just went alone. I was fine with that, and due to fees, actually like the arrangement (I could afford another lesson instead). I’ve seen other adults go to competitions without coaches (usually due to their regular coach being unable to travel), and often another adult skater will stand in and hold their blade guards, offer a tissue, a good luck and a bend your knees. For adults, being coachless is somewhat normal, I think.

    But it is appalling to think that a coach wouldn’t ask about the results of a test, and offer a hearty congratulations. I was sent off to my test session with a “call me as soon as you finish!” My coach actually called before my bronze moves test, and offered me a pep talk and key reminders (while she was at a football game).

    I personally don’t think I could stay with a coach who wasn’t supportive and encouraging. To me a coach needs to be more than just someone to teach me the elements.

  • Anonymous

    “To me a coach needs to be more than just someone to teach me the elements.”

    I agree Jessi!

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think this is necessarily cause to consider the coach a “jerk.” He does seem more formal than your previous coaches, and if you have only been with him for a few months it may take time to really warm up to him. When I started I took lessons from a lady who was more of the nurturing/caring type. She moved me to her husband (who is more technical) but he seemed very formal and stiff at first, just by contrast. I liked him still, and I liked the more technical teaching, but as I was/am a rather shy person (and at awkward teenager stage of life) and he is sort of formal it took a while for the coach-skater relationship to develop. And while he was happy when I did well (passed tests, placed at competitions) when I started, I think he feels a lot more excited by my accomplishments now, not only because they are higher level, but because he has spent the years working on my skating. Of course, if you are often moving and switching coaches, it may be difficult to develop a strong relationship with a more formal coach because you won’t have the years to build up. You may need a less formal coach so you can have that strong relationship right away.

    Of course, it would have been nice if the coach had been able to be at the test center. And he probably should have mentioned something about it after, but sometimes people forget to say things and then it is sort of awkward to bring it up later, so they just let it go. I would advise to stay with the coach a bit longer and see how things go before making a decision to totally switch things up.

  • Anonymous

    Good advice I didn’t think of that!

  • Anonymous

    All very good points invisiblesk8r!!!

  • Sk8r :)

    that’s kinda insincere(i can’t spell haha!) of him, my coach is pretty busy & has alot of skaters, but he still ask every single one of them how they do on their test, even if he couldn’t be there, he treats each of his students as if they where his own kids

    i agree with invisiblesk8r129A, some times it just takes a while to warm up to a coach

  • Maria

    I am not a skater (my daughter is), but I want to share with you my story from a somewhat similar situation. It was my first year at a graduate school, and my advisor (who was to me kind of as a coach is to a skater) was out of town when I took an important so-called qualifying exam at the grad school. It was a big deal for me. I passed. I knew he should know the results, but he didn’t say anything to me when he returned from his trip. I was disappointed and sad, and thought “what kind of adviser would not say anyting about the qualifying exam?” I finally told him myself: “I passed my qualifying exam last week”. He said: “Oh, yes, I know… I had no doubt you would! I guess I should congratulate you. I was just so sure that you would pass and I thought you were sure too that I didn’t think about it. So, let’s talk about your research project now…”
    He turned out to be the best adviser ever. I mean it. The best. Ever.

  • icedancer

    This is pretty typical for a coach who works with a lot of skaters at the national and international level. They have a lot more on their minds than tests. As much as this can be difficult for a test stream skater just trying to improve, it doesn’t mean you need to ditch your coach but you might think about having a second coach on board. Someone who can be more on top of your own personal goals so your high level coach can just come in and fine tune technique when they have time. 

  • guest

    As a coach with over 25 years of experience, I feel that coaches need to be involved in the athlete development with every client they teach. Its important that they are engaged in their lessons because these skaters pay top dollar for their expertise.  Its sad to hear these stories of coaches who aren’t on top of things with their skaters.  There’s so much involved that the coach needs to be in with their skater and if they don’t show any interest, then you’re wasting your time and money. Good luck to you.

  • Taft

    I agree with guest.  We had a very similar coach once and my kids got fed up with zero encouragement from this coach.  I would suggest if you feel ignored or that your coach doesn’t listen to your concerns, then you need to change coaches.

    Figure skating is an expensive, time consuming specialty sport.  Don’t settle for a coach who is not encouraging you to be the best you can be and supporting your efforts.