Nov 13, 2009

Don't expect miracles

A friend of mine tweets "Okay, really sick of parent who expects miracles from me."

I'm guessing this has to do either with a student who is not passing tests, or who is not placing well at competitions, or who is not mastering a difficult skill.

I'm not saying that it's never the coach's fault. There are coaches that couldn't teach a frog to jump, and there are coaches that don't care or pay attention. But if you're disappointed in the coach, if you think your or your skater's problems are due to the coaching, here's what you need to ask first:

• Are you skating enough to achieve the outcome you're looking for? If you're trying to test Moves, you need a dedicated lesson and at least half of every practice devoted to the test. Is the coach telling you that the student is not ready to test? Listen to her, and ask her what you need to do to get ready. (quick answer-- practice more, and practice effectively). Is it a jump? Read my formula for achieving mastery at freestyle. If your skater is working on the axel and is not on the ice 3 hours a week (including practice, lesson, and class), it's going to be a looooong slog.

• Is the skater practicing effectively? Does the coach give the skater practice guidelines? How much are you practicing that jump? Are you breaking down the skill (i.e. practicing segments of the skill in isolation). How many times are you willing to fall? Skaters who aren't falling when learning multiple rotation jumps are not trying to learn the jump; they are trying not to fall.

• Am I basing my expectations on what other skaters are achieving? This is a huge error that parents make, and one I regret that coaches encourage. (Overhead from a coach-- "Oh, all my skaters are in Freestyle 5 by the time they're 7!) Maybe the skater who seems to keep moving ahead of your child skates 2 or 3 times as much. I hate to say it, but she might be more talented. Or, she might be getting "cuted" up. If you're concerned that little Mabel is all the way to Freestyle 5 while your Suzie is "stuck" at 3, take a look at Mabel. Does she really look like a freestyle 5 skater? I worked on a Nutcracker number last night in a lower freestyle level, and there were an awful lot of cuties in there who did not have a clue how to do the basic jumps at that level.

• Understand that what it really takes to place well at competitions is not just skill, talent, and levels, but also a great big walloping dollop of sheer dumb luck. You have absolutely no control over what happens on competition ice. Forget the program. Here are the things you cannot control:
-Incompetent or spiteful judging. I hate to say it, but this happens.
-Your skater had a bad day
-Another skater in the group had the skate of their life. Our own local hero, Evan Lysacek, US Champ, World Champ, was on his way to Olympic Gold. And then former World Champion Yevgeny Plushenko decided to come out of retirement and give it one more shot. And now everyone is saying, hey Evan, enjoy that Silver!
Miracles happen in the movies. Skaters happen through perseverence, work, and an awful lot of bumps and bruises.


  1. You can't imagine how much trouble it gets me into! ;)

  2. Thank you! Between you and Ice Mom I have a good dose of reality in my life.