Oct 6, 2009

In search of Type III Coaches

When I was still just a skating mom, someone gave me an article about the ideal skating parent-- one who shuts up, pays the bills, and sits quietly in the stands, or better yet never even comes into the rink.

It seemed kind of one-sided to me. What should coaches be like? So I turned it on its head, and described the three types of coaches.

Type I Coaches stick with the ice and leave the parenting to the experts. They arrive for a class or lesson, put in the time, and disappear. They never figure in rink gossip because no one is entirely sure who they are.

Type II Coaches make parents feel like idiots, never explain what is going on, but expect parents to have endless emotional, time, and financial resources. They are contemptuous of children and parents who aren’t “competitive,” ignore all but their own students in classes, and are rude or dismissive of other coaches and students on practice ice. Through their own behavior they teach their students to be cliquish and arrogant.

Type II coaches think they know your child better than you do, and gossip with other coaches and parents about what a bad parent you are. They have no respect for children with lesser talent or drive, and coach primarily for their own aggrandizement, reasoning that a kid who doesn’t compete and win does nothing to enhance the coaches’ own reputation.

They devote all their energy to a few kids whom they think will make their reputation, and just go through the motions with the other 30 or 40 kids on their schedules. They ignore rink rules, and seem to be waiting around for a better offer from a more prestigious center.

Type III coaches are the ones who are waiting on the ice and are happy to see every child for a class or lesson. They abide by the rules, treat all the children equally, notify you if a lesson needs to be cancelled and never pressure you to spend more money than you are able or willing on clothes, ice, coaching or classes. They explain the mysteries of figure skating culture. They seldom figure in and never engage in rink gossip.

Type III coaches always have time for parents and are always willing to make appointments to discuss progress and concerns. They offer friendship and mentoring to their students. They respect, indeed seek to know, their students’ own goals and desires. They know when to push and when to lay off and know that their duties as coaches involve supporting and supplementing the parents. They teach students to respect the rules by demanding responsible behavior from all of their skaters, regardless of talent or ambition.

At tests and competitions, they do not expect parents to supervise warm ups and clearly explain what they perceive the parent’s role to be. Type III coaches view their students as individuals and not as their own personal ticket to fame. They respect skating club and federation rules, as well as other coaches, parents, and skaters.

Many parents are appalled by the behavior they see on the ice, not by the children, but by the coaches. As the number of Type II coaches increases and is tolerated by rinks, parents are put off by what they perceive as an unhealthy culture, and choose to engage their children in other sports. These coaches become an embarrassment for the rink and the sport.

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