Friday, May 1, 2009

Work in Progress: 50 Ways to Leave Your Child’s Figure Skating Coach

Lately, I’ve had a lot of conversations with people about how and why to change figure skating coaches. I don’t bring up the topic – I swear!

I’ve learned a lot and I think a lot of parents would benefit from shared collective wisdom. Here’s a bit for you to contemplate, from Melissa in Florida:

I made the decision to talk to her [the coach] about a month or so ago and she just overlooked my concerns and said I was wrong and that was it. So for the next month or so, I watched other coaches at the rink. I watched their students; I watched how they interacted with each other. I watched how they progressed and if they were having fun. I found two that I felt would work well with a 4-year-old, but still be a forward-thinking coach. One that would be fun, too. (That’s what we all want right?) Well I found one in particular…

Do you have a story about switching coaches that others might find useful? If so, please e-mail it to me at icemom.diane at You can include them in the comments here, too.

I’ll be gathering your stories as well as stories from folks at the rinks where Ice Girl skates. When I have a good stack, I’ll compile them into a useful document that we can all share.

Sure, there are good guides out there for changing coaches (PSA has one), but I think wisdom from blanket-wrapped parents in the cold bleachers is the best kind.

P.S.: Ice Coach? If you’re reading, don’t worry: we’re not leaving you.


Anonymous said...

I recently had a coach come up to me at a competition that has been coaching at my daughters rink for about 7 or 8 years. She said to me that she wished that more skaters that she taught were more loyal to there coaches the way my daughter and I have been to our coach. She asked me why skaters feel they have to leave a coach that has put so much time and effort into helping there skaters become good skaters.(My daughter has had the same coach for 10 years).
I told the coach that we have stayed with our coach because we have a good relationship with our coach and we have a good relationship with the families we skate with at our rink. I told her that our coach teaches strong technique and knows were her weaknesses are as a coach. I told her that our coach is willing to work with other coaches that are stronger in the areas that she is weak to help her skaters get the best possible opportunity to succeed. Finally, I told her that many families feel that the grass is greener on the other side. Until they get to the other side and regret the decision they have made but then feel that it's better to find greener grass then to go back were they came or stay loyal.
I think the most important part of a skater/coach relationship is communincation. If you are having a problem communicating your childs goals, financial problems, time mangagment, personal attention or whatever the problem is, then you may need to consider finding another coach. If however, you have good communication with a coach and a coach that knows when they can utilize the expertise of another coach but still help your child in other ways, than stay with your coach and add extra lessons with a supplemental coach.
The best advise I can give about finding the best possible coach for your child is to do your homework before you start taking private lessons. Watch all the high level skaters at your rink as well as how those skaters behave at the rink when they practicing as well as when they are with their coach. See what teaching style you like best and talk to a lot of ice moms. If a coach approaches you and asks to teach your child, thank them but then say that you are not ready to make a decision about private lessons at this time and then watch that coach with there student for a while. Also look at the club newsletter and bulletin board. They usually post competition results and you can see which skaters and coaches are succesful at competition and which ones are not. Talk to your child and see which coach they would pick and find out why. Then find out how much each coach charges for all there expenses (private lessons, competition fees, cutting music, travel fees, choreography, testing fees) and do a budget of what you can afford. Finally pick at least 3 coaches you like the best and have some trial lessons with all of them for at least a week. When you make your final decision then be very clear and honest with the coach of all your expectations and the goals your child has for skating. Start with small goals and build up. Don't go to a coach and say I want you to make my child into the next Olympic Champion. Creating an Olympic Champion costs about $60,000.00-$70,000.00 per year. Unless you have money to burn and your child wants to spend 4-5 hours a day on the ice and 6-7 hours a day at the rink 5-6 days a week and you want to pay for a lesson everday your child is on the ice at the rink, then it is not likely your child will become the next Olympic Champion. Be realistic and make sure your child is having fun.

Anonymous said...

I could write a book about this because we just left our coach of six years for many, many reasons. The most important one being that my daughter was no longer having "fun" and if I'm going to spend all this money she must have fun! There was definitely a deterioration in the relationship over the past two years that I kept trying to ignore. My skater started asking me daily if she could change coaches. Unfortunately she didn't have anyone at our rink that she had a strong desire to work we had to search elsewhere. We were very lucky to be introduced to our new coach and things are working out great. Daughter is happy skating again and that is what is important.

The reason I'm commenting is to advise parents not to ignore that pit in their stomach when it comes to their skater. My skater landed her axel consistently 2.5 years before any of her skating friends the same age. It took me awhile to realize that her coach was holding her back on her doubles so that the peers could catch up (maybe I'm being paranoid...but why no progress for the past two years?). My skater is on the ice 4-5 days a week for at least two hours. She is a very powerful, strong skater who has little trouble with jumps. When I reflect back, I don't recall the coach training these double jumps on a regular basis.

But like I said, this was just one of a few reasons we decided to make a change. Unfortunately the coach is very stubborn, set in her ways, and routinely rotates her favorites. It was obvious to my skater that she was no longer the favored after she got her axel.

So if you feel in your gut that something isn't right...when it comes to your child you should not ignore that feeling like I did for two years!

katiedear said...

Make sure you know where you are going if you leave your coach. Figure this out first. Leaving, returning, and leaving again is not good and the first coach will always know that you may be in mid-flight. It is very hard to switch coaches after you have been with one for years. Every coach teaches different. And if the new coach has students same level, same age as your child that might put a strain on the atmosphere and on the coach's income. They could take on a new student and lose all the other ones. Also know that you might not be the focus of the new coach; you may have to wait in line.

falen said...

on my. Does this etiquette count for group lessons? Our group lessons coach is training at another rink in the summer (a neighborhood that is not very good), but will be back in the fall at the old rink. I registered DD at another rink just for the summer. Is this like taboo!?!

Ice Mom said...

I'm not sure how coaches look at group lessons. I'll find out, falen, and get back to you.

However, in the meantime, let your daughter's group coach know that you're changing rinks for the summer. It doesn't hurt to have the conversation and it might prevent bad feelings.

Best wishes!

Ice Mom

Anonymous said...

We recently parted ways with my daughters coach of 4 years. I had a young girl coach her early on, learn to skate and some privates, but this coach was the first serious coach. Coach knew skater had out grown her and it was time to move on. I think a good coach knows their limits. New coach and daughter having a lot of fun.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ice Mom, greetings from the other side of the globe. I am a skater's mom living in Northern Europe. I find your blog very entertaining. It has proved to be an excellent window to learn about figure skating culture in the USA, and to compare it with the local one up here. There are many differences but also similarities. For example your recent article of sportmanship does not recognise borders!

One of the major differencies is that we do not select a coach for the skater - the leading coach (employed by the figure skating club) selects the skaters. Normally it goes like this: a child participates in a figure skating school organised byt the local club (group class once a week) at the age of 3-6 (preferably at the age of 4-5 years). After one fall and one spring semester, some of the kids are offered a place in a development group with an aim to become a competitive single skater, some are offered a place in a group preparing for synchronized skating, and some are kindly asked to train one more year in the figure skating school. A child in the single track trains in a development group for 1-3 years (on-ice 2-3 times a week, off-ice 1-2 times a week), and moves then forwards to a competitive group, normally at the age of seven. In our club there are 5 competitive groups for single skaters, two for those at the regional level (ages 7-11) and three for those in the national / international level (ages 10 -> ). The younger skaters train in a group of 10-15 skaters, and the older ones train in packs of 5-7 skaters. So it is always group classes. If the group is large, there are often two club coaches on the ice. If you are not pleased with the coach who is responsible of your child's training there is not much else to do than change the club. In our city there is only one club, and the next one is more than 2 hours away so you bet were are satisfied :) If a skater in the competitive track does not proceed according to the expectations, a place in a hobby group or in a synchonized skating team is offered.

Our skater turned eleven this year, and she and seven other girls from our club at the ages of 10-12 are heading towards their first season at the national level with a free programme of 3:00 mins and at least four different double jumps (+ all that other stuff with various spins, steps and spirals). Two of their last season training mates changed to synchroteam and one to hobby group since they were no longer offered a place in the competition group. This did not happen without tears, and was a tough experience for all of us the skating community.

Last season our skater trained 6 times a week on-ice, and 2-3 times a week off-ice + own passes (like stretching every day, jogging, roller-skating, warm-up sessions before & after the ice). The costs were appr. 140 euros / month including both ice time and normal group coaching expensenses. We are happy to live in a town with free ice for young figure skaters and hockey players in the city owned ice rinks (maybe half of the ice the club manages to get is in the city rinks). Yes - we pay lot of taxes here, and do also frequently participate fund rising campaigns for the club, like help in organising ice shows or sell sausages in the local ice-hockey games.

Our skater has just returned from a 2-week long figure skating summer camp 500 km:s from the place we live (1020 euros, full board, top-coaches, 2-3 ice passes + 1 off-ice per day). And what did she do after returning home? Started almost immediately to watch a DVD of the local figure skating club's spring show...

Good luck for the I.G. & your blog, best wishes from

Arctic Ice Mom

Anonymous said...

What should I do:
I truly love figure skating, i am super-dedicated and would do anything for the sport. I am intermediate level. What should i do if sometimes my coach does not devote all of her attention to me? Or if she is also chatting with someone beside her or looking at other skaters skate?, should i switch coaches, what should i do.


Ice Mom said...

Hi, figureskatinglove.

Why don't you e-mail me?

Anonymous said...

I started taking private lessons. Only 3 lessons. I did group before. When school started she has no times that sync up with my school. I'd like to try to have another coach that has time available. Would I be offending anyone by doing that? I did not realize learning to skate was so touchy. It makes me just want to give it up :(

Anonymous said...

the best way to leave a coach is to be polite about it. most of the time you will still have to see this choach at the rink so dont make a sence. call or email the choach that she has been great but in order to reach full potential you need to move on.

Athena said...

Being polite about it really works.