Choosing a coach
This section applies to skaters who do not already have a private coach.
Each coach has their own specialty be it artistry, technical, ice dance, syncro, pair skating, some coaches are more focused on competitive skaters, others are more focused on recreational skaters. Some coaches are best at coaching elite skaters, others are best at skate school beginners.
So I guess the best way to match up a skater with a coach is to consider your child's long term objectives, for example if they are just a recreational skater just for fun and are not likely to enter any competitions or if they are a talented free skater and are likely to go into competition then a competitive, qualified coach with lots of experience is best.
As a coach I enjoy coaching recreational skaters but at the same time am geared towards developing competitive skaters whether it be at skate school level or championship level, to that end I have studied the techniques used by top international coaches such as Kathy Casey and others including 6 months in England training at Richmond ice rink in London with a former student of Arnold Gerschwiler.
Types of coaches
If you child is going to do freestyle (jumps and spins) try choosing a coach with a freestyle background as a skater, if your child is going to be an ice dancer then try choosing a coach that has a background in ice dance. Ask a coach what their background is in skating, were they an ice dancer, syncro skater or freestyle skater. Remember that ice dancers do not do jumps or solo spins, for an example of ice dancing click here, uses Youtube., so a coach with an ice dancing background may not be a good match for your child if your child is going to do freestyle (with jumps and spins).
Ask if your coach is qualified, for example do they have a coaching accreditation with APSA and the Australian Sports commission, just because a person may be wearing a coaches jacket and is paid by a rink to coach skate school classes does not mean they have any coaching qualifications at all. To check whether a coach is accredited click here and find their name on this list. Ask if they are a member of APSA, members of APSA are bound by a code of conduct, full members of APSA carry public liability insurance and they are screened under the prohibited employment ACT to comply with the child protection act.
For more on choosing a coach click here this mostly concerns US skaters so prices will be in US dollars and references are made to the US system.
Is a coach up to date with the International Judging system?
If your child is at or going to compete at levels above skate school, for example Preliminary and up, then a good knowledge of the International Judging system ( IJS ) by the coach is important.
The IJS is new and constantly changing, for the latest rules and clarifications go to ISU.org, then click on communications, as at late 2007 communications 1445 and 1459 were the latest concerning freestyle skating.
Is a male or female coach better for you?
Male coaches tend to be more authoritarian / dominating, this is like the difference between fathers and mothers, they are also more technical, in a sport that is highly technical and demands a high level of discipline this has meant that many of the most successful coaches have been men. Take for example in the U.S - John Nicks, Frank Carol and Don Laws are among the most successful coaches in the U.S. So if your serious then there is a good chance that a male coach will be the best fit for your child.
Which is better a Russian, Chinese or American coach?
This was recently discussed by an international coach at her seminar this year, it went something like this, in the U.S there are currently only 3 or 4 men landing quad jumps (4 rotations in the air), but in China there are 20, so the American coach is talking to the Chinese coach and asks her what they are teaching them in China that they don't know in the U.S? The Chinese coach reply's - Oh No, we were watching the American skaters on video and copying.
Now in China they have skating schools, it works something like this, the best and most talented skaters in the country are sent to the skating schools, all they do there is skate and a bit of school work, they live in the school and visit their parents on the weekend if they live nearby, they are assigned the best coaches in the country, the coach is paid a salary so they can devote all their time to coaching, the coach only has 3 students, the skaters are paid to skate or perhaps their parents get paid? The first time they do not do what they are told they lose their money, the second time they get sent home and another skater takes their place.
Now I am sure if we had a system like that we could produce a lot more international level skaters, so the moral of the story is that the system produces the skaters, not the coach, although having a good coach is important sometimes it is given too much importance, sometimes not enough. The coach cannot do the skating for the skater, it is still up to the skater to make achievements, in other words the talent of the skater is still the most important factor in achieving results.
Parents and skaters have the right to choose a coach or change coach, coaches work for parents and skaters. To change coach the old coach should be contacted and lessons cancelled and paid up if anything is owing. Parents do not need to give a reason and coaches should not make it difficult to change. The coach cannot demand payment for lessons not yet given or ask for a period of notice.
However give a thought to the coach who may feel a great sense of achievement after having worked with your child for several years for hours each week and coached your child from early days at skate school to competing at championship level.
The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, but once you get there your new coach may not care as passionately as the old one and not be as focused on your child's skills.
Once you change coach please do not rubbish/criticize your old coach, the following are typical remarks that parents make :
Oh my daughter has improved heaps since changing - (but no mention to the fact that you are paying for twice the number of lessons per week with the new coach). Then this usually goes on to say "Oh you should change coach as well".
Yes there will be short term improvements because of the extra enthusiasm that a new coach might bring, but this wears off after a couple of months, so long term you may be worse off.
After you change coach it is very unlikely that you can go back to your former coach, especially if you have burned your bridges by rubbishing your former coach.
For more info on changing coaches please click here.
This is a bit of a sad story about a skater I coached who was doing really well and then changed to another coach because they wanted an elite Russian coach, names have been withheld click here.