Oct 16, 2009

"She's SOOOOO talented"

If you hear this from a coach, regarding your child, Proceed With Caution. This is a coach who may have a one-dimensional view of your child.

This is not to say that your child isn't talented. But talented at what? Natural ability to perform figure skating moves? Meh. I never met a child who couldn't learn, and learn well, every skating move up to the axel if he or she practiced and worked at it. (The axel is a little trickier, and does in fact require some talent. But a kid without the talent or motivation is probably not going to get that far anyway. If your kid gets legitimately up to the axel, he's talented, QED. More about kids who get up to the axel non-legitimately in a future post).

At any rate there are all kinds of talent-- there's the kid with the natural affinity for skating moves. There's the kid with the analytical mind, who can break down steps and positions intellectually. There's the kid with a talent for learning, or listening, or the capacity for a lot of practice. But I most often hear coaches say "your child is so talented" just to the parents of the first type-- the child with the natural sport ability.

So, your kid likes figure skating, why hasn't a coach said this to you? Well, there are a lot of coaches like me-- I seldom seldom praise a child's talent, because he or she has no control over it. I like to praise the things the child does have control over-- a specific skill, or a skill learned quickly, or a skill mastered after a long difficult effort. There are also coaches who will tell you your child is talented because they want to be that child's private coach. (Coaches like this might also tell you that the child "can't learn anything in class" "is too talented for class" "has the wrong teacher in class" etc. Any coach who discourages participation in any classes except the ones he or she teaches is to be approached with a giant grain of salt.)

It's possible that I take this farther than I should, because I feel a lot of empathy for the kids that get overlooked, and for the ones that just plug away in the corner, doing the job and learning the sport. Every child is talented, and every child is worthy of every coach's full attention and knowledge.

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