Monday, November 30, 2009

Gifts for Figure Skating Coaches

Reader Tricia sent me this question:

My daughter's coach is wonderful! She is great with all kids, especially young ones and is always doing things for them, little gifts, free dresses she sews, does their hair at competitions, etc. Is there any protocol for thanking coach for all they put into the competition? I know we pay for her services, gas, etc., but typically do skaters give their coach anything after a competition? Any suggestions for Christmas? Just want her to know how much we appreciate her and how enjoyable she is making this experience for me and my daughter without going overboard.

I asked my Advisory Board to weigh in on the gifts question. I'm sure that traditions vary from region to region, so here's a sampling of what figure skating parents are giving coaches this holiday season.

Utility, not price.

Ice Coach: I have received lotions, gift cards to Starbucks, or to eat at different places, and candy. They’re typically nice things, but not too high dollar. They are very much appreciated.

Sk8nMom: Our Ice Coach always wears mittens and scarves and often a hat at the rink, so we have expanded her collection of those items. I also know that our Ice Coach was uncomfortable receiving expensive gifts, so I always tried to keep things in the “small but thoughtful” category.

Kel: I try to do something not too expensive ($20-25, max.) I’ve tried to make it something the coach would for sure use (i.e. a gift certificate to a coffee shop, a box of chocolates, homemade cookies, bread, or something) or something that could potentially be re-gifted if she hated it (scented candles, a jazz CD).

Jill: I had one student who gave me my favorite chocolate-covered nuts every year for Christmas. Another student, after hearing me complain about my cold, achy feet, gave me a foot care and pedicure kit. (That was so cute; she same up with the idea on her own.) For the coach who does the skater’s hair, maybe a supply of ponytail holders, bobby pins, hairspray, etc. If the coach cuts the skater’s music, a supply of blank CDs (with cases) would be a suggestion.

Ice Mom: We’ve given Ice Coach a shrug that Ice Girl has made out of Polartec fleece from Jalie pattern #2558. It’s a pretty easy pattern, especially for novice sewers, and it’s warm, too. Of course, Ice Coach knew something was up when I brought out my measuring tape and took her measurements.

Skate-related items.

Kel: I have tried to stay away from “skating” related things because I figure [the coach] has enough of that.

Mommia: I am sure [coaches] already have every skate-related item out there (and probably duplicates).


Sk8nMom: We really appreciated all the time and patience [the] coach had put into getting [our daughter] to [this level], and we were so disappointed that Ice Coach couldn’t make the trip to [the competition] with us. We bought a fashionable fleece vest to show her we were thinking of her. We gave it to her when we returned from the competition.

Jill: At one competition, the mother of one of my students purchased a sweatshirt for me from the vendors. It had the competition logo on the front and the list of all the competitors on the back. She paid extra to have a rhinestone put next to the names of all of my students at the competition. I though it was a very thoughtful gift (and useful, as it was REALLY cold at the rink.)

Take up a collection.

PairsMom: For Christmas and Birthdays we (the parents) usually take up small donations (maybe $10 per skater) and give [the coach] a gift card to her favorite spa for a manicure, pedicure, facial, massage, etc. We give her husband, who coaches with her, a car wash gift card, restaurant gift card (must serve steak! Ha ha). [It] can be tricky to get e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers of parents, but most are willing and happy to participate because they have no idea what to do on their own.

By the way, congratulations to PairsMom's son and his partner. They qualifed for nationals a couple of weeks ago!


Ice Mom: When I buy the photo CD from an event, I make sure that I create five piles of photos: three for the grandmas, one for the photo album, and one for Ice Coach.

Sherry: My daughter’s skating coach also mentioned she enjoyed getting […] pictures of her students. She is the skating director at our rink and puts the pictures on her desk.

Special occasion gifts?

Kel: I occasionally also give [the coach] unanticipated “gifts” (f you want to call them that) of things that I’m sure she buys and uses with my daughter during her lessons: a big pack of tissue packs, hand warmers, etc. These are more one-offs, kind of fun little things not for anything specific.

PairsMom: When my son was younger (age 10 – 14) he always wanted to give his coach a “thank you” gift at teach competition, much like a student would give a favorite teacher from school a gift for birthday, Valentine’s Day, Teacher Appreciation Day, etc. He would choose a variety of small items and each one he picked out himself: Bath and Body Works stuff, potpourri, scented candles with some kind of seasonal theme, a coffee mug, etc.

Jill: Sometimes at a competition, if the coach has a multiple skaters competing, they might not get a chance to leave the rink from early in the morning until late in the evening. Bringing them lunch or some sort of snack is greatly appreciated. Even though many competitions provide hospitality for the coaches, it’s nice to have something different.

Thank you.

Jill: Say “Thank you.” That might sound kind of obvious, but it is sometimes overlooked. I once knew of a coach who didn’t charge any fees for test sessions until the one time when nobody thanked him.

Sherry: My daughter’s coach also mentioned she enjoyed getting thank you notes.

Ice Coach: I really love Ice Girl’s notes or thank you cards from the kids. I keep them all, and best of all they are free.

Update: From reader Skate Mom: Large dollar gifts call ethics into question. Respectable coaches bar these entirely. It's to their advantage not to allow their ethics to be called into question. [...] Basically keep any gift giving below fifty dollars and you're safe - that's the ceiling. Most gifts are around the $15-$20 mark. 

Do you give your figure skater’s coach a gift for the holidays? If so, what do you give? Let’s make a list in the comments!

If you have a question or an idea for a post, send it to me at


MER11 said...

How timely! I was just putting together my list of people to buy for (kid's teacher, hair stylist, etc.) and was wondering if I should include my skating instructor on that list. He likes wine, might get him a bottle. He's earned it working with me! :-)

Diane Mars said...

For my part, as a "young" 40 years old adult skater (~bronze MITF, started to skate last winter !)I offer her a mix of the fine goods manufactured by my hubby (marmalade and/or pâté and/or foie gras) and I always ask her if she needs a sharpening, a pair of gloves, socks or laces when I've to go to the skate shop !
Of course, I always thank her for the good time we spend together on the ice !

Xan said...

As a coach, my favorite gifts from skaters younger than about 9 are drawings of me with the skater. This will steal my heart forever.

Once our daughter was into the high levels, starting at Novice/PreGold, we got our coach a bottle of wine for every test she passed. For her final Gold Dance we got him 4 bottles, one for each gold dance, with each wine appropriate to a given dance. (This would probably not be appropriate for a younger skater, but ours was in high school by that time. Plus, by the time he got her through all those tests, he really needed it:P)

PrettyBowTie said...

I have skaters, coaches and judges in my boyfriend's family who help me endlessly, as I'm still starting out. Thankfully, they all collect figure skating items, so shopping was easy :) however I'm getting a new coach next year and so I'll keep this list in mind.

Elisabeth said...

When I skated, my favorite coach and the one I was with for 4 1/2 years or so (out of my 6 years competing) was part of a 'team'. He and this other coach were not only buddies but often did each other's private test sessions (since in ISI, coaches couldn't test their own students). The other one also did a lot of choreography for me, stepped in at competitions when mine couldn't make it, etc. I'd get them both something for the holidays.

I think, mostly, my mom picked it all out and I can't think of anything off the top of my head but we did always get each of them something. Especially Jim, he was so sweet.

Side note, I so wish I could reconnect with him- he was an awesome coach!

Anonymous said...

Great topic. This is what our family usually do. We give gift cards to each teacher/coach for the holidays. This will be our first year for the skating coach and I plan to give her itune and coffee shop gift cards. She has an ipod and gets the music for the skaters from the itune. She is up at 3:30 and always has a cup of coffee with her.
My husband is a school teacher and kids ( middle school) give him cookies, candies, craft items, or gift cards. All of them are greatly appreciated. Our kids specially love the cookies and candies.

RedShamrock said...

As a child of teachers, I must agree personal notes, sweets and gift cards (pretty much in that order) were most appreciated.

This is our first full year w/our coach. I've been noting she is not particularily computer literate, so I am thinking to add to a gift card some computer lessons :-)

Skate Mom said...

Large dollar gifts call ethics into question. Respectable coaches bar these entirely. It's to there advantage not to allow their ethics to be called into question.
That said small gifts to and from your coach is part of the joy of the relationship between skaters and coaches. My daughter is making a pair of soakers for her coach with fleece featuring his favorite football team's logos. Its personal small and she is proud that she's making the gift. Basically keep any gift giving Below fifty dollars and your safe and that's the ceiling. Most gifts are around the $15-$20 mark.

Renee said...

Wow! These are great ideas - but I must apologize to all my former coaches. I don't think my parents ever even thought to do holiday presents for my coaches - they were too busy writing checks for ice time, coaching, competition fees, etc. I do agree with "Skate Mom" about keeping it at an acceptable $ amount - unless the coach is considered a close personal friend $20 or less is more than adequate. If you want to go in with a few other parents and get him/her something they really want or need then go for it!

Lindsay said...

Well I've been hovering for quite sometime, and slowly reading backwards through all of your posts. I am a little bit older than ice girl and just since JUne have become dedicated with my skating. Since June I have landed my axle and my doubles through lutz (and can tack double toes on the end to make combinations)I have never competed though. I was wondering if I could have some information on the skating camp that Ice Girl went to last summer. Thanks,

Mark @ uk lottery said...

This is a great topic. Usually, in our circle, we offer holiday gift cards to our trainers.