Mar 2, 2010

Another great practice ice question

Great question from a regular reader:
Do really high level coaches only have one student at a time? And, do advanced (like, international) skaters have private ice time, outside normal freestyle sessions, when it's just them and their coach on the ice? It's just something I've always wondered, for some reason.
Elite coaches (if any of you are reading this, feel free to chime in), like any coach, will have more than one student (after all, what happens if that student switches coaches or quits- suddenly no income!). I imagine that when the big competitions come up they focus in on the skaters attending, and pass their other students at least for a while, to their staff, underlings and developmental team. One at bat, one on deck, couple in the wings. They're going to have fewer students than less lofty coaches, if for no other reason than an elite skater is working with the coach every day, sometimes for hours. The fees add up.

Elite coaches not only have more than one student, just a few coaches will account for most of the top skaters in a single country or discipline. Frank Carroll and John Nicks used to pretty much own U.S. singles, and Tarasova is working on owning the rest of the world. Just two coaching teams accounted for 5 of the top 7 ice dance teams this year. We're witnessing the rather exciting (to a skating geek) phenomenon of the emergence of a couple of new coaching dynasties in the U.S. with Tom Zakrasjec (ha! spelled that right without looking it up!) who coaches Rachael Flatt among others and Jim Peterson who coaches Denney and Barrett and a couple of other high ranking pairs teams.

Anyone can have private ice time if they're willing to pay for it. People rent ice for birthday parties all the time, about $160-200 per hour. This is undoubtedly negotiable since most ice goes unsold; I assume a lot of rinks would like the ability to say "so-and-so trains here" as much as the extra income. A little bird tells me that there are probably rinks who would give away ice to a "name" skater in exchange for the ability to say that. That said, my daughter has shared regular club ice with Evan Lysacek, Vikotoria Volchkova, Gregory and Petukov, Totmianina and Marinin and others, not because she was some fantastic skater, but because that was her regular ice and they showed up. You go where the ice, or the coach, is.

Finding "empty" ice is a religion to the less fortunate (and wealthy) skaters. Kids work with school districts to rearrange schedules so that they can skate during the day. Finding optimum training time, including that empty ice, is one of the reasons you find so many so-called "home schooled" kids in elite skating. (So-called because in fact they're being taught by professional tutors, not mom. This always bothers me; it's not homeschooling if you're farming it out to pros, as far as I'm concerned. Tara Lipinski, famously "home schooled" had separate tutors in math, science, English, and foreign language.) What I always wonder is how U.S. Figureskating can keep these kids on the road for weeks and weeks (think 2 Grand Prix competitions, possibly Sectionals, Regionals, Nationals, and Worlds) out of the school year and not be required to provide tutors for them. Trust me, the film industry isn't getting away with that.


  1. Can I ask a newbie question? When do most people start getting private lessons? Also, what's the difference between USFS and ISI programs?

    Would you consider doing a newbie post explaining the basics of being a skating parent, the levels of skill, when you start competing? I'm so lost and I can't seem to find a book or anything that can tell me all of this. I need Ice Skating for Dummies or something!

  2. Kate, I can't believe I haven't done the "when do I start private" post! Thanks for pointing it out! Coming right up. There actually is a Figure Skating for Dummies book, and it's great! ISI vs USFS post is actually in the works right now.

    Best advice I can give you on being a new parent is to take it slow, talk to as many different people as you can, and let your child's level of interest guide you, but not consume you!

  3. Thanks! I actually googled FS for dummies and found that last night. It's on the way to me right now! Great advice too. I'll try to remember that!