Nov 17, 2009

Coaching philosophy, part 2

Picking up where I left off:
  • Talent is not the most important thing.
  • There's always something new to learn.
  • It's about the journey, not the destination.
  • Kids are great.
When I first started coaching, I took on a little girl who had the most heartrending difficulty doing ANYthing on the ice. One of the games I play with young beginners is "lose the swizzle." We count how many swizzles it takes to get across the ice, and then see how many we can lose on the way back. Eventually, I tell them, we want to lose all except 10 of them.

The first time we did this it took 5 year-old Patti* more than 100 swizzles, and more than 10 minutes, to make it across the studio rink (about 50 feet). Just getting through to her the concept that you can balance on one foot on the ice was agonizing. But that amazing child stuck with it and today she's landing axels, skating on a Juvenile synchro team, and I make her competition dresses. One of my precious teaching memories is the moment that the light literally went on in her eyes when she finally did a one-foot glide. I will never forget the expression of joy and understanding in her face.

It took her a year. For a one-foot glide. Talent is not the most important thing.

There's always something new to learn.
No such thing in skating (or in anything else) as "I already know how to do that." One of the ways I motivate post-Alpha/Basic 4 skaters to continue to work on forward crossovers is to tell them we're going to work on "freestyle" cross overs. Everybody loves this! Or learn "double" cross overs (with 2 undercut pumps for every crossover.) Every single skill in skating, from falling to triple jumps, can be elaborated. We saw it happen in this new competitive season-- everyone does lutzes, and then Brian Boitano invented the "Tano Flair"-- one arm over his head. This year American skater Adam Ripon learned something new-- the Ripon flair, with both hands over the head.

It's about the journey, not the destination.
Unless you've bought a train ticket, you don't know where you're going. I first got on the ice at age 37 with the single idea that I wanted to be able to do cross rolls. These turn out to be fairly easy, but by the time I achieved this goal I was hooked. Figured I'd learn all the jumps. In my wildest dreams I never guessed I'd end up teaching, or that I'd be so good at it. Let the road take you where it goes.

Which brings us back, of course, to kids are great. I have learned more from my kids than I have in the cumulation of the coaching seminars I've attended. I learn games, and I learn when I'm talking too much, or paying attention too little. I learn that I'm important in these children's lives, like when my student Chris, all grown up and skating this week at Midwestern Sectionals, mentioned how he remembered when I taught him how to do "freestyle crossovers", and how cool that was.

Anyone can learn to skate. Kids are great. The rest is just the icing on the cake.

* name changed

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