I’m sure every rink has one of these figure skating moms: she’s in the stands, behind the hockey glass, shouting instructions to her figure skater like: “Hold your landings,” or “You’re wide stepping.” You might even have seen this mom pull her figure skater off the ice to lecture the skater about edges.
Mom thinks she’s helping. I know she does. The truth is: she’s not.
Look, Mom. You’re not a coach. And if you are, you know better.
Your role: be your skater’s number-one fan. That’s it. You’re in charge of encouragement and making sure that your skater turns out to be a normal human being.
You are not to shout instructions to your skater from the stands, the hockey box, or the mini van. Mom, you pay good money to qualified coaches for that instruction. Do not interfere. You are in charge of mental health and a normal life. And driving. And paying the bills. But not coaching. Coaching is for coaches. Skating is for skaters. Parenting is for parents.
Mom, your amateur coaching is harmful. You know that money you pay coaches? Well, if you’re coaching on the stands, add a lesson or two for the coach to undo your damage. Include some self-doubt in your extra lesson calculations for the complex you’re giving your skater. Your skater wants to please you, Mom, but also wants to please her coach. Whom should she follow?
You’re also pressuring the poor kid. Kids are not widgets that perform the same as other kids, learn the same way as other kids, or progress as fast as other kids. They are people, not gears or cogs. People are different from one another, so you can’t expect your kid to learn a jump at the same rate as some other kid. You can’t stress out because another skater has passed a moves test and your skater hasn’t. Your sidelines coaching puts pressure on your skater and will delay her progress instead of furthering it. Plus, she’ll never feel free to make mistakes and learn from them. Add some extra professional coaching lessons to compensate for that, too.
Your in-the-stands coaching is also pretty awkward. Shouting from the stands distracts other skaters. They worry about the pressure you’re putting on their friend, but they also worry that maybe their moms will think that amateur coaching is a good idea, too. Moms who recognize that in-the-stands coaching is a no-no look away from you when you shout and move their blankets to another part of the bleachers.
Some of you might feel your skater traps you into the amateur coaching role. I’ve seen skaters ask Mom how a spin or jump looked. Mom struggles to say something intelligent, but that’s where it all goes wrong.
Here’s what you say, Mom, when your skater asks you for feedback, “It looked great, honey. You’ll have to show your coach.”
Stick to the script, Mom. Deviating from the script leads to long-term trouble with amateur coaching. Resist. Be strong. Smile, nod, and wave the kid back out on the ice.
That’s not to say that parenting from the stands isn’t a good thing. It’s a fabulous thing. Want to parent from the stands? Here’s how:
- Watch your skater and give her a periodic thumbs-up.
- Sit with other moms and clap for every skater when each one finishes a program.
- Smile and nod whenever your skater asks for feedback or approaches the hockey glass for a conversation. Do not say anything; just keep smiling and nodding.
- When your skater stands around at the boards and chats with friends, wave her over, give her a stern look, and make a skating motion. It’s perfectly fine for Mom to tell skaters to use their ice time well.
- You can do anything the coach authorizes you to do. I’m authorized to do a ride ’em cowboy motion whenever Ice Girl does a rodeo arm movement with her lutz. That’s great fun, I tell you.
- Be your skater’s biggest fan. Watch her and let her know that what she’s doing is important and interesting.
- Hugs and love. When skater comes off the ice in tears, offer the hug. When skater comes off the ice with a smile, offer the hug.
I agree with you coaching from stand with so many people around will probably do more harm than good. but I think you go too far by saying parents shouldn't make any technical comments on any or most circumstances.
I am sure there are parents out there who played gymnastics, ballet or even ice skate etc... who have some valuable experiences who can share with their kids ... like how to rotate the body efficiently, how to transfer weight properly etc... I believe they are qualify to comment on the skaters. Of course it doesn't mean they becomes an authority higher than than the coach.
What I am trying to say is, no one should feel guilty by DEEPLY participating in your child's sports. If you have previous experiences in related sports, feel free to do it. It is a blessing that you can discuss with your child at that level. if you do it properly and respectfully, you can have a more intimate relationship with your child. I would love to see my daughter come to talk/share with me about the technical details of the jump that she knows I may not 100% understand but knows enough to chat or help her to spot the problem. Rather than having her thinking - "mom won't understand the frustration of my axel problem, I would rather talk to my friends."
There is nothing wrong with trying to understand and/or comment things like ... why your right leg is not straight while you are rotating or why your head you not moving to the left when you are in the air.
The only thing that you should feel guilty is...to undermine the authority of your coach or criticize/embarrass your kid in public.
Update: From the Professional Skater's Association's Ten Commandments for Figure Skating Parents: III Thou shalt not coach your child. You have taken your child to a professional coach - do not undermine that performance by trying to coach your child on the side. Your job is to support and love your child no matter what, and the coach is responsible for the technical part of the job.
Update: From USFSA's Parent Information: 10. Turn your child over to the coach at practices and competitions – don't meddle or coach from the sidelines.
Update: From reader Season: We also do not want to live our lives through our children. We as parents if we want to be skaters then we need to get out our skates take some lessons and get on the ice with our children. You can be more supportive on the ice sharing in what they are learning than you can ever be coaching from the sidelines.
Update: From reader Helicopter Mom: I AM trying to pay closer attention during her lessons (I used to sit in the warm room and read a book!) so that on sessions when she has no lesson (and I can pry her away from her chatty friends), she can't hit me with "I don't know what to practice!" So I try to see what the coach is working on with her so I can remind her that she might want to try working on that.
Update: Ateam on the Edge posted the profile of the skating parents we all try to avoid at the rink. Read about Dragon Lady and Darth Vader.
So, parents, what do you think? Got a cure for the amateur coaching mom? Do you have a suggestion for sideline parenting? Leave your suggestions in the comments!