Aug 16, 2010

PSA Education, the editorial

The biggest benefit of the Professional Skaters Association is also the thing that you'll hear coaches complaining about the most-- the continuing education requirement.

If you have a "rating" (i.e. a coaches' certification in a range of disciplines, acquired through both written and oral exams), you must garner a certain number of credits over any given 3-year period. These credits can be obtained by attending numerous local, regional and national seminars, conferences and meetings, sponsored by USFS, ISI, and PSA.

If you take students through either testing or to USFS sanctioned competitions, you must also take the on-line CER (Continuing Education Requirement) exams annually or you cannot get credentialed to stand with your student, or to list yourself as the coach of record.

It's time consuming and expensive. For extremely experienced coaches it can seem redundant. But I for one consider it extremely important.

I like to joke that I'm Exhibit A in "anyone can coach." When I started coaching I had zero teaching experience, was barely a Freestyle 1 level skater, and had never taken a USFS test or been in a competition. I asked if I could help with tot classes as a volunteer, and to my shock was simply assigned several tot and the beginning adult class to teach, on my own.

No training. No experience. No insurance.

No clue. It was scandalous, really. I kind of just don't even know what they were thinking. Fortunately I'm an ethical person and started going to every coaching seminar I could find.

In the absence of college programs that treat figure skating coaching like the serious profession that it is, (I don't know of even one. The way you start coaching is your coach gives you her run-off. I'm not kidding.), it's good that USFS and PSA have stepped in and made these requirements. I personally think that 100% coach's membership in PSA should be a requirement for a rink to be certified by whoever does that.

There can be problems with PSA education. They can be dogmatic. It's a small, closed world, and, again in the absence of other programs, they are the only game in town. Individuals within the ranks can be suspicious of people like me with non-traditional paths into the profession. As I said, on top of the nearly $500 annually in fees, memberships, insurance and online testing, it's expensive.

But I've also met wonderful coaching mentors and learned how to be both a better coach and a better person.

This week I'll be attending PACE Wisconsin, an annual 3-day seminar where they literally teach you how to take the ratings exams. Unfortunately, the new website does not have a description of PACE anymore, just a commerce link to sign up for it (um, guys, you want to fix that?) so I won't provide a link. I'm going to try to tweet from the seminar, and blog it each evening, although I'm driving back and forth Chicago to Milwaukee every day, so we'll see.


  1. Ice Coach is taking her oral exam today, before PACE.

    PSA, in its convoluted wisdom, has decided to give the seminar about how to take the exam after the actual exam.

    I don't know what teaching theory they're following, but it's strange to me and I'm an education writer/certified teacher.

    Anyway, have fun, Xan! Try to go to the Safe House for dinner. :)

  2. It was explained to me that doing PACE, where they teach you how to take the exam, and then doing the exam right afterward would be like cheating. Okay, so then I should study AFTER the test, because otherwise it's cheating.

  3. Cheating, my right butt cheek. That's called test prep. Honestly.

  4. Sandy Lamb today had a better explanation, which is that they don't want you just to parrot back what you've just learned, but to take it home and use it first. This is an explanation I can live with.

    So sorry Ice Coach didn't stay for the event-- would LOVE to have met her in person!