My daughter isn’t only in ice skating (Basic Skills 7) - she is in a few other things like piano and school. What I find interesting is that her other teachers give the parents assistance in helping their child learn new skills, whether that be a checklist of what music exercises she should practice at home during the week or for that matter, homework.
I took piano for 12 years. I would never have shown up to a lesson without taking the time to practice during the week. I took that practice mentality to figure skating only to find that something else seems to be going on. I don’t know what exactly but here it is.
The ice skating coach has mentioned NOTHING for her to do between lessons. It is rare if one of them deigns to speak to the parent. The child is supposed to come out on the ice and wait until the coach finishes with the child before her and when that lesson ends there is another child waiting in the wings.
This doesn't make sense to me. I'm paying for her to be learning - not just for the joy of writing checks.
Ouch. Sounds like E.L.W. is pretty upset.
Here’s what the ice moms on the board have to say:
From Xan, who is a coach, a figure skating parent of a Jr. Nationals competitior, an adult skater, and the blogger at Xanboni!:
Perhaps they could ask the coach to choreograph a short number incorporating all the skills she's working on. Then she could practice that. This makes the practice seem more fun and she doesn't have to remember skill to skill, if she just skates the program she'll be using her skills. The mom should also sit down with the coach every 4-6 weeks and ask for a progress report and a practice guide. There is often no time during lessons to do this, and no time between lessons for the conversation, which is a drag, but also a reality. Coach is probably more uncommunicative than is strictly diplomatic, but as you say this may be the culture at the rink, and the exigencies of the schedule.
From PairsMom, whose son and his partner won Jr. Nationals in Intermediate pairs December 2009:
Parents, Coaches, and skater must all be part of the same team. If you do not feel that this is happening, try to communicate with the parents/skater, and if after time nothing has changed, then it is time to move on. There are plenty of coaches and hopefully there is one available at your rink that will guide your child towards success and enjoyment of the sport.
Talk to the skating director at your rink to see what the expectations are for that particular program. Ask her for suggestions on how to get the most out of it to benefit your child; it is YOUR money and YOU are your child's ADVOCATE in this situation.
From Ateam on the Edge, the parent of a skater son, mom of a skater Olympian, and blogger at Life on the Edge:
This is a classic struggle for control and it seems to be prevalent throughout skating. We saw it at the Basic Skills level and we saw it up until about a year ago.From C.L., a parent of a 9-year-old figure skater:
Without going into detail, the one thing a parent has to remember is that the coach is an employee, not an employer. You pay the bills, and as it is in any workplace, there is a little matter of accountability. I think the biggest issue is that parents don’t set the ground rules early on. My suggestion: Have a serious conversation before a single blade hits the ice in a lesson. Outline a cooperative plan for communication (a “business plan,” if you will); do a “90 day review;” expect a year-end meeting and evaluation, goals setting for the coming year and a regular schedule of meetings. That doesn’t mean that a parent can intrude on a coach’s private time, make a ton of late-night phone calls or spam the coach with emails. A smart coach will value his or her time and charge an overbearing parent for that time at the same rate as he or she charges for lesson time. That’s just good business. A great plan, set and agreed to in advance, can avoid all that anyway.
I am not suggesting that this has to be adversarial at all. View it like any other vendor you employ and put in charge of something you value – in this case, your child. You wouldn’t turn your car over to a mechanic without knowing what to expect. You wouldn’t turn your business over to a manager without accountability and a plan in place. Why, then, would you turn your child over to a coach, who will be a huge influence on them both on and off the ice, without a business agreement and a plan of action? Proper planning produces preferred results with a minimum of misunderstanding and missed communication.
Switch coaches and rinks :) or she could ask her coach to put together a non-lesson practice sheet for her daughter. For example, type of skill and number of times she should practice it, for each non-lesson time. Also, an off ice pilates/yoga/stretching checklist would be helpful too.
Does the skater have a notebook/spiral notebook for the coach to make a few notes on during the lesson? Then the skater would know what to practice before her next lesson and mom would have some info about what happened during the lesson. One tactic I have used until I get to know the coach is not hand the check to Amy. This forces the coach to come off the ice to get their check. The parent then has an brief opportunity to speak with the coach.
From Kel, a parent of a 9-year-old figure skater:
When we started with my daughter's coach, she actually gave her a binder which included her on- and off-ice practice lists, a tab for competitions, a tab for ice contracts. I wonder if the parent has directly asked the coach what the student should be doing between lessons. Perhaps, this coach does not frequently deal with newer skaters that would need this kind of guidance? I can imagine that someone that more regularly deals with higher level skaters would not have provided my skater the same attention. I'd just talk with the coach and tell her what you think your skater needs -- give her notice that you want a few minutes so she has time to talk. Nothing worse than a parent that demands a bunch of attention when the coach has ten other things she needs to be tending to...
From S.G., whose daughter switched coaches last year. It was awkward.
I have learned from experience that when hiring a coach for your child you need to interview them first. And, yes, you are hiring them. How do they teach? Is there teaching style compatible with your child's? What do they expect from you as a parent and what do you expect from them as coaches? If they are not meeting your expectations, then you need to communicate with them. A majority of the time it will not be right after or before a lesson. You may have to call or E mail them. If you do this and things still do not get better, then you may need to find another coach for your child. With each experience you learn quickly what is important to you and your child. It is easier to be proactive rather then reactive. Good Luck!
From Ice Mom:
I know of a coach who makes a list of skills for the skater to work on. If the skater is a pre-reader, she includes photos. She takes the photos from competitions, prints them out, and shows the skater visually what to do.
As far at the communication problem, I have no idea why the coaches at your rink won't talk to parents. I know of a few coaches like that, but for the most part, coaches in the clubs Ice Girl skates in communicate with parents. It sounds like a rink culture thing, which is too bad. I would suggest breaking that unspoken rule and pretending you don't know it exists. After all, you're paying for this.Update: From Sk8rmom, who is a genius. Want to switch coaches in a classy way? Scroll down the comments, find hers, and read the whole thing. It's terrific.
Update: Great advice from reader jumpingbeanmom: Go ahead and ask! I do know that some coaches like to talk via phone etc. if they have back to back students. If you don't get the attention you think you and your skater should get, look for another coach. My girls have notebooks as well as a whole book of stuff from their coach with practice expectations and the like.
Update: From reader Idratherbeontheice who had a difficult coach. Or two: I don't want to sound too harsh, but I had a two coaches like that once, and me and my mom have both found that just getting a new coach is the best solution. My mom tried talking to them, talking to the head coach at my rink, and all other sorts of things, but it didn't help very much. We finally changed coaches twice, and lucked out with my current coach. Altogether, we've found that with some coaches, talking doesn't make a big difference.
Update: From reader Anonymous who thinks many coaches are divas: I totally agree with this parent. Our daughter is also in other activities and sports and none of our sports/arts experiences has been anything like skating. I am totally frustrated with the skating culture. I think skating has an archaic culture which puts the needs of the coaches before the rights of the parents. Figure skating needs to be more attentive to the concerns of the present day consumer.
I think there are a lot of diva coaches which naturally follows from their years of being diva skaters. They don't want to COMMUNICATE with the parents they just want to TELL us what's what. No questions, please, thank you very much.
Update: From Canadian reader Falyn S who is v. satisifed with her daughter's coach: My daughters coach made up a book with a daily practice log (which has everything from off-ice warm up, stroking, spins, jumps, footwork, combos, and solo on it with how many times she should do each session and my daughter checks them off when completed) [...]
Update: From one of my favorite commenters, reader Season Williams, a figure skating mom and an adult skater: Coaches that are worth your time and money will be more than happy to have a meeting with you or speak with you over the phone. If you have a coach who is not willing to speak with you directly (in-person or by phone) than you should consider getting a new coach.
Do you have any suggestions for this mom? How do you make the practice thing work? How do you make the coach-parent communication thing work? Please include your experiences in the comments!
Do you have a question for Ice Mom and the Advisory Board? Feel free to suggest a topic or write a guest post and share your wisdom, too! E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.