Thursday, March 11, 2010

Leaving a Figure Skating Coach

Note from Ice Mom: This guest post comes from reader, mom to a male figure skater, trainer, and Advisory Board member sk8rmom. She wrote this in the comments of Ask the Ice Moms: Why Do Coaches and Parents Have an Adversarial Relationship? It's so good, though, that it needs to be a post.

If your situation is not working, and you have raised your concerns and met with a brick wall, then by all means make a change after careful consideration. Don't get stuck on a treadmill going to nowhere. The families I see that made a change were really stressed at the time, but have since been very happy with the decision.

I think that the "problem parent reputation" can be avoided if you:

1. Educate yourself. Read everything you can get your hands on. talk to other parents (though with caution). Listen to other people's experiences. USFS has handouts on these topics and blogs like this one and others are great resources to learn of other people's experiences.

2. Make a move with thought and consideration.

3. Don't hop from coach to coach. Do your research. Observe other parents and students working with that coach. Talk to other parents to see what their skater's goals are, are they similar to your child. Do the values that coach exudes seem to mesh with your child. Do you feel comfortable "having a relationship" with that coach. Are you willing to work on this relationship with this person. Does your child like the new prospective coach?

4. Close the old relationship in a professional way. Start the new one with your cards on the table. State what you need in terms of communication, find out if the coach is willing to work with this. etc.

4. Give the new coach a fair shake. Don't expect miracles in a short amount of time. Relationships take time to build. Skating is a journey, not an event.

One other thing that is very valuable is that after you have done your job and hired the coach, let them do their job. Step back and be the parent, not the coach. Trust them to get the job done. Support your skater emotionally and with praise. Their coach will do the rest.

Good luck!!! I wish everyone a great coach, each child and family deserve one!
- sk8rmom

VERY IMPORTANT UPDATE! From reader, coach, and Advisory Board member Xan of Xanboni!: I would like to add that you should make sure you have paid in full the coach you are contemplating leaving. An ethical coach will not take on a new student if they owe money to the former coach (this is a stricture of PSA ethical guidelines). And don't think you can hide this information, because the new coach will ask the old one, if they're smart. This is just smart -- if they didn't pay the old coach, what's your guarantee they will pay.


Have you ever switched coaches? What made you reach that decision? How did it go? How's life at the rink - awkward or O.K.? Is your figure skater happier? Let us know - you can comment anonymously, we don't mind!

Update: From reader Anonymous: I have switched coaches a few times before, and it was mostly because of scheduling or one coach moving away, etc. One thing I learned is that you must tell the old coach you are switching, and give them somewhat advanced notice. It is a little awkward, but just smile and say hi to new and old coaches and everything will be fine. They are used to it, honestly. People are always switching.

Update: From reader jumpingbeanmom whose daughter just switched coaches: [...] But once I decided and once I got the yes from the new coach that my daughter could go the their team, I didn't toil, make excuses or draw out telling old coach- I just went and said "I think this is what is best for jumpingbean" and left it at that- more like tearing off a bandaid!

Update: From advisory board member Seasonedsk8rmom: I researched changing coaches and realized that I can not compare my daughter to what other skaters are doing. My daughter's coach is also very good at knowing what her strengths and weaknesses are as a coach and when she sees that one of her skaters is not grasping a skill under her instruction, than she will happily have the skater work with another coach for a couple lessons to get different perspective on the problem.

Update: From skater idratherbeontheice: We switched because the previous coaches paid little attention to me, were often a little harsh, and did not know how to teach very well. In fact, one of them was teaching me incorrect technique- something that is biting me in the tail as I work on axels/doubles.

Have a question for Ice Mom or the Advisory Board? Have an idea for a post you'd like to see? Know more than Ice Mom? Better yet, do you know about dip-dying figure skating dresses? E-mail me at icemom.diane@gmail.com.

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20 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have switched coaches a few times before, and it was mostly because of scheduling or one coach moving away, etc. One thing I learned is that you must tell the old coach you are switching, and give them somewhat advanced notice. It is a little awkward, but just smile and say hi to new and old coaches and everything will be fine. They are used to it, honestly. People are always switching.

Here is a question though, what do you do when you move to a new city and do not know anyone at the rink? I'm moving in June and won't know of any coaches where I am going...but I need a coach! I'm not sure what to do besides read their bios online and hope for the best...

Ice Mom said...

Hi, Anonymous!

Awesome question about finding a new skating coach in another city.

I'm going to put that one out to the board to see what they say.

However, I've found that skating is a pretty small community. You might ask your current coach to see if she knows anyone in your new city.

Thanks for the question!

Ice Mom

jumpingbeanmom said...

We switched recently (3 months ago) and it was hard on everyone, but even my 9 year old knew deep down she needed something different, and something more than what she was getting.

I gave her old coach many opportunities to change the things I had issue with, but in the end, I just don't think old coach was really capable of what I was looking to get for my daughter.

There have been a few tears, a few rough spots but all in all, we are both happy with the decision. I sent flowers to the old coach thanking old coach for all that had been done for my daughter- it wasn't like we didn't appreciate that and I think that helped things a bit.

But once I decided and once I got the yes from the new coach that my daughter could go the their team, I didn't toil, make excuses or draw out telling old coach- I just went and said "I think this is what is best for jumpingbean" and left it at that- more like tearing off a bandaid!

Anonymous said...

I have not had to go through changing coaches with my daughter, however, I have contemplated changing coaches because there was a time when I thought my daughter was not progressing as quickly as some of her peers.

I researched changing coaches and realized that I can not compare my daughter to what other skaters are doing.
My daughters coach is also very good at knowing what her strengths and weaknesses are as a coach and when she sees that one of her skaters is not grasping a skill under her instruction, than she will happily have the skater work with another coach for a couple lessons to get different perspective on the problem.

Often time she will have my daughter work with a master rated coach when she is struggling to learn a new skill. Master rated coaches are recognized by the PSA as having the most expertice in coaching various skating skill. My daughters coach will also take this opportunity to observe the lesson to learn from the master rated coach. This helps her to be a better coach and helps my daughter figure out what she is doing wrong and helps fix the problems she is having with new skills.

I really like that my daughters coach is open to team coaching this way. I know that many coahes are not like this but if you are shopping around you may want to consider a coach who is open to team coaching. Seasonedsk8rmom

Anonymous said...

We recently did this. It was more of a personality thing. Luckily both the coach and I agreed that it wasn't working out for the both of them. My daughter seems happier with this new coach. Also, the new coach has a daughter that is similar in age to my daughter so she knows how to relate to her. I try to tell my daughter to tell people that "It was just not working out"

Xan said...

I would like to add that you should make sure you have paid in full the coach you are contemplating leaving. An ethical coach will not take on a new student if they owe money to the former coach (this is a stricture of PSA ethical guidelines). And don't think you can hide this information, because the new coach will ask the old one, if they're smart. This is just smart -- if they didn't pay the old coach, what's your guarantee they will pay.

Idratherbeontheice said...

As I've said before- I've switched coaches a bit. We switched because the previous coaches paid little attention to me, were often a little harsh, and did not know how to teach very well. In fact, one of them was teaching me incorrect technique- something that is biting me in the tail as I work on axels/doubles. The first time I switched, I almost gave up skating because the second coach was just as bad as the first. The second time, my mom and I were completely satisfied with my Ice Coach. After one lesson, she fixed a lot of things with my spins and single jumps that the other coaches had never seemed to be able to get across before. Even though she always expects me to do more than is standard, and it's a lot of hard work, she's definitely the best coach I've ever had. The sad thing is, however, that my I.C.'s husband is in the military and she has to move to London this summer. So now we have to get another coach...and we're not sure if we'll ever get one as awesome as her. :(

Ice Mom said...

Well, jumpingbean, it sounds like you tried to make the split in a classy way.

Ice Mom

Ice Mom said...

Hey, Seasonedsk8rmom.

I think your daughter's coach's willingness to call in experts and learn from them alongside your daughter is a sign of two desireable things:

1. She wants what's best for your kid. It's not about her; it's about your daughter.

2. She is not just a coach, she is someone who is constantly learning

I wouldn't change coaches, either, if I were you.

Ice Mom

Ice Mom said...

XAN - THANK YOU! EVERYONE SHOULD READ HER COMMENT!

Essentially: pay your bills. Settle everything. Make everything right with the first coach before you move on.

Another coach can't work with your kid until you've settled everything, so make sure your accounts are paid.

THANK YOU XAN!

Ice Mom

Ice Mom said...

Hi, idratherbeontheice.

At least you know what it feels like to have a coach who is a good fit for you. You can have the conversation with her before she leaves about which coach might be another good match for you.

Good luck!

Ice Mom

Lindsay said...

Switching coaches was very hard for me but it has really paid off. I didn;
't used to be very serious with my skating and had had the same coach since I was seven. Then last summer, I wanted to be competitive and it just didn't seem like my coach wanted to achieve that the same way I did. I don't think that he realized the dedication I was willing to have to skating. Then he went away for a few weeks and I relized that it was time for me to switch coaches. Just because I had had him as a coach for so long made it so much harder. That was in September, and I didn't even have a clean axle. I love my new coach, I now have through double lutz-double loop, but I still feel bad when I see my coach at the rink.

Kates said...

I only had one experience where I left a skating coach (the other coaching change occurred when my coach moved to a different state). In hindsight, my mom and I really should've given her more warning. I'd been unhappy for a long time, and I was getting more from the coaches I had for group lessons than in my private lessons. I think we could've told her when I started becoming unhappy instead of waiting until I had absolutely decided to switch.

That said, long term everything worked out. We gave the old coach flowers on the last day, and though it was a little awkward and tense for a while, I'm currently closer to the old coach than I ever was when she was coaching me.

Ice Mom said...

Hey, Lindsay.

I think that you and your old coach weren't a good fit. That happens.

But, congratulations on your doubles! That's fabulous! It's a testament to your hard work!

Ice Mom

Ice Mom said...

Hi, KateS.

I'm glad that your coaching change isn't awkward anymore and it's good that you have a good relationship with her. It sounds like, in the end you did things right and that your previous coach is a real professional.

Ice Mom

SpinGirl said...

I'm an adult skater, so when I wanted to switch coaches I had to fire my coach myself - I didn't get to have my mom do it for me. It was super uncomforatable because I had become semi-friends with my coach, but I wasn't getting where I knew I could get. So after a muddled attempt to not hurt her feelings, I switched and I reached my goals with my new coach.
Unfortuneatly, seven months after I switched to my dream coach I had to move to another state. So I know what "Anonymous" is going through. It took me two months to find a new freestyle coach, three months to find a new ice dance coach. Since coaches don't advertise it's really hard to find a pro. I wish there was a coach database where I could enter my Zip code and see all the coaches' bios within 50 miles of me. Is that too much to ask for?

Ice Mom said...

Hey, Spin Girl.

You're right. It's very difficult to find a new figure skating coach.

I sent your comment to Ice Coach. Maybe she can write about it and help folks out.

Thanks for the comment.

Ice Mom

Anonymous said...

moms and dads should stay out of this as much as possible.
if you didnt do your homework before picking a private coach, it is your issue, not the skater!!!
listen to your kids....

sk8rmom.p said...

It's always easier on paper than in real life. Situations vary and personalities differ, but I believe that if you go into it with a good heart and do what you believe is right, that's all that anyone can do.

One thing I'd like to add is that we as parents are not perfect, especially when we don't have the benefit of experience behind us. You can do all your homework and still have a situation that is not a good fit. Don't beat yourself up about it, just learn what you can so that you don't make the same mistake again, be as good as you can in your actions and move on.

That's why I love this blog, it's so informative, wish this was around when DS started skating! :)

Ice Mom said...

Thank you sk8rmom.p!

I think that's the challenge that figure skating brings parents: a lot of unspoken rules, not many guides.

I like that this is a safe place to exchange triumphs and gaffes.

Ice Mom