Dec 21, 2009

Commitment in figure skating

Back to private lessons! A frustrated coaching friend on Facebook chat one day:
There are a lot of people who take privates who don't quite get what that means as an investment and commitment. A lot of people are under the impression that a private lesson is like a magic wand, so they don't stick with the schedule and they blow off lessons all the time, and then wonder why their kid isn't doing any better.
Especially those of us who focus on recreational skaters, that is, kids who are in it for the fun and the show solos, this is an on-going frustration. To progress at anything you have to commit. A coach can only give you information. The skater has to apply it, and they have to learn to apply it on their own.

Commitment is not only about honoring the coach's time and showing up for lessons, it's about committing to improvement by taking your own time and practicing as well. And by practicing effectively. One of the major things skating coaches try to overcome is bad habits and poor technique that gets in the way of successful skill acquisition. I'll often hear from skaters, "it's too hard to do it that way" "I like the other way better" "I'm used to the other way" etc. If a skater has a lesson where the coach changes the technique, but then doesn't apply the new technique on her own, for these or other reasons, or through sheer laziness or disdain, that's a failure of commitment to their own goals and desires.

Parents fail at this too, especially in the bill paying. There isn't a coach in America who doesn't have some parent who keeps promising to pay "next week." You don't want to punish the kid by refusing the lesson; after all it's not the kid's fault. But parents not committing to the expense, whatever they agree to, are passing on a bad lesson to their kids, and are risking losing face with the kids when the coach finally has to say "no." (This goes for paying for ice time, too. Please stop sneaking onto the ice without paying. We take attendance, and you will receive a bill.) What parents also forget about canceling lessons is the direct effect that has on the coach's well being, inasmuch as that's her income. If you are constantly canceling lessons, bills are not getting paid. This is not going to make the coach feel like she needs to commit to you either.

I don't exempt coach's behavior here either. Too many coaches blow off classes, especially at the lower levels, or don't give the weaker kids the same attention they give the gifted ones.. If you take a staff coaching job, and the skating director puts you on a class, you need to be there. If you don't want to commit to whatever class you're assigned to and to all of the students in the class, don't take the job.

Most coaches will accept the skater's (or the parent's) goal. So if what you are really willing to commit to is only maintenance, for instance, be honest about it. If you know you can't attend practice, or that you'll miss a lot of lessons, just say so. A lesson plan can be structured around a more erratic, irregular schedule. But if you tell the coach that your goal is to compete, or to get a top role in the ice show, or to achieve a certain skill, you have to commit to the work it will take to get there.

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