At my main rink, we allow Junior coaches to teach privates. A lot of the staff feels this is inappropriate, as it directly hurts our bottom line, and also means that students working privately with junior coaches are not getting the best instruction available at the facility. But I generally don't begrudge the junior coaches their chance to learn on the job.
Be that as it may, today I found myself feeling rather hurt, when I saw that the parents of a skater who has been struggling in my classes was taking private lessons with the junior coach. It really felt a little personal.
So how do you decide, young coach or old coach? It's a topic that comes up a lot. There are very gifted young coaches. With a younger coach, you're betting on a coach with more energy, who may be more fun, and who may relate better to a skater. What you're losing is experience, depth of knowledge, and a certain hard-heartedness that coaches develop, and need. With a younger coach, you might be their first competitive student, or one of the first which that coach takes through testing, or learning a difficult skill. You have to be willing to grow with the coach. This can be very rewarding, but it's something to be aware of.
An older coach may be more set in his or her ways, and less willing to adapt personality or pedagogical technique to the child. Sometimes more experienced coaches will teach the way they teach and the child adapts or fails. Conversely, some younger coaches may only know one or two ways to teach a skill, or be inexperienced in identifying problem areas and focusing on them.
You can take it a step further down, forget young or old. What about Junior coach or staff coach? For me, there's no contest. Don't hire the junior coach if there is a staff coach available. In a million years, I don't care how good a skater the junior coach is, or much fun she is. The junior coach should never be the first choice. They do not have the experience or knowledge of the staff coach.
If you're not sure whether or not the coach is on the staff, if it's a younger coach, ask. If the coach looks like a teenager, you should know whether they are junior or staff coaches, especially if the junior coach is charging the same as the pro. (At some rinks the junior coaches are on staff, so you need to ascertain whether they are high school students. If it's a high school student, that's a junior coach.)
If you've chosen the junior coach because she seems knowledgeable, and has connected with your child, that's great. If you've chosen the junior coach because her mother has solicited you in the stands, not so much. Coaches should do their own promotion. They should not be sending skaters, offspring, or parents into the stands to do their promotion for them. (Promotion not the same as soliciting, by the way. Topic for another time.) A lot of junior coaches will tell you "I've been teaching since I was 12." Well, maybe. But I'd still rather hire a 24 year old who's been teaching since he was 20, than a 16 year old who's been teaching since she was 12, and better still a 30 year old who's been teaching for 10 years, or a 50 year old who's been teaching for 30. (Plus, that junior coach has NOT been "teaching" since she was 12. She's been helping in tot class, picking up the slippery ones.)
Don't hire a junior coach who has not worked with your child in class. Aside from being a slap in the face to the professional already working with your skater, you have no idea what you're getting. (I would actually make this recommendation for any learn-to-skate/basic skills to low freestyle student. Don't hire a coach that your child doesn't know.)
So that's a little insight into what coaches feel about who you've hired. I'm sure people have thought that about me-- why are they hiring Xan, who's only been teaching for 12 years, rather than M----, who's been teaching for 30? Well, I hope it's because I've proven myself and because I'm the best fit for your child. Not because I seem cute and young and my mother has been in the stands puffing me up.