Dec 7, 2009

Gadflies are useful beasts

Two things about me. I'm a little crazy. I don't suffer fools (or anyone else) gladly.

This combination means if you're an idiot at my place of business, I don't care whose parent you are, or how much money you make, or your place in the heirarchy, or who you are married to. If you're an idiot and make my job harder I'm going to call you on it.

Personally I think the world would work better if everyone would, well, not necessarily call the idiots for what they are, but question what looks wrong. And not just by snarking with your mates, but by going to the source and saying-- why is it like this, this seems wrong.

For parents, if you don't understand the coach's apparent approach to your child's training, ASK. "Why are you doing this?" Tell the coach what you've observed from other coaches and skaters and make your coach justify his or her approach. This is not the same thing as telling a coach to teach in a certain way. It's not the same thing as criticizing. Just asking for explanation in clear English. Then it's your job as a parent to make a judgment on whether you accept that explanation or not.

Case in point-- a talented child "cuted" up. I've learned of one particular child whose mother starting noticing that there were great huge gaps in her ability. She did the right thing and asked the coach about it. Coach's response was "she'll pick it up." Okay insofar as it goes, maybe she will, but will this coach demonstrate that? Will the coach let the parent know where the gaps are and what is being done about them? Or will the coach just say, let's add another lesson or two to catch up. Hmmmm. Methinks me detects a wee conflict of interest there.

Skating directors (if any of you are reading this)-- the coach you hear complaining is your best friend. Because believe me, we are ALL talking about the issue. The one with the courage to bring it to you should not be punished, but should be rewarded. Look into the issue, don't just shut down the complainer.

And my biggest pet peeve for last-- the skating director, coach, or rink manager who finds out a parent is complaining and says "there are lots of other rinks, they can just go somewhere else."


I have no words.


  1. Once again you have validated our experience. I guess you could categorize me as a gadfly and it has gotten me in trouble with pros. I have a good reputation among parents but pros don't like that I thoroughly check things out with resources outside the rink, question why certain things happen and sometimes insist that status quo is not the only option. In fact, I once told a coach, after several mysterious explanations of a problem, that I thought "she was making excuses." For the last several months I have been laying low and not going to the rink. But I feel empowered by your posts and realize that I'm probably not wrong--just the only one bold enough/stupid enough to speak up. When something seems wrong, I speak up.

  2. Denise, I hear this so much. Skating can be very mysterious, and I don't like it better than any other coach when some parent tells me how to manage a skater's lesson. But a lot of parents are afraid even to ask, and then feel intimidated about saying that they don't understand. We just need to remember that as consumers we have power.

  3. Maybe you can explain something to me. Our daughter's previous coach would only give us a limited amount of information which was restricted to information that put her in the best light, we never got a comprehensive explanation of anything. She would only provide info on a need to know basis and resented that we investigated things for ourselves. We felt like she was keeping things from us, and we felt we were being coerced and molded into the parents she wanted us to be--not fully informed parents. I felt like a Stepford Mom. It was definitely a "I know better than you and you should just do as I say" approach. I have seen this tendency in other coaches, as well, and worry that it is a rampant approach among coaches. My feeling is that the better approach is educating rather than dictating. When we encounter this approach again, and my tendency is to speak up and question, how can I better handle the situation? I completely agree that this is a customer service driven society and consumers have the power, but I don't think that many skating pros understand that yet.

  4. Denise, stay tuned. It's a great comment that deserves its own post.