Sep 1, 2010

Those who can't

Everyone is familiar with the old saying "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." But it assumes that teaching is a fall back, and not a skill. Maybe this saying should be turned on its head:

Those who can, teach. Those who can't teach rely on their unrelated resumes and teach anyway.

I bring this up because I've had several skaters come to me in the past week to find out if I'll be teaching on a certain class, and then telling me that if the other regular teacher is the only one on it, a highly decorated former competitor, they won't take the class, because this person makes the class unrewarding and unpleasant. The class used to have 10 regulars in it, and this year it's going to be empty, unless that coach manages to find some new victims.

Think about this when looking for a coach for yourself or your skater. Your coach's skill at coaching has little to no bearing on his or her resume as a competitive skater. The thing to look for in a coach is connection with students, and the students' competitive and/or testing success. If you're looking for bragging rights, by all means hire that former U.S. Champion, or world competitor. But if you're looking for improving as a skater, hire the one whose skaters improve.


  1. I agree so very much. As a skater who will never be a champion of any sort, I want instruction to be fun & informative. A fistful of skating medals means nothing to me. Patience, a sense of humor & the ability to demystify the geometry & physics we call skating, are the qualities I appreciate in a coach.

  2. I totally agree with you, Xan. You don't need a PhD in math to teach algebra. In fact, a PhD in math probably won't help you teach freshmen how to solve an equation at all.

    Research shows: the personal connection between teacher and student is the single most important factor in learning.

    Sure you want your teacher/coach to have good skills. That's important, too.

    But without that personal connection, all the skills in the world won't help a kid learn.

    Ice Girl knows a high-level skater who is a very nice person. She coaches. Ice Girl has had her put her on the ice and for group lessons. I.G. doesn't want her for a coach. Why? High-level skater doesn't push her skaters.

    Pushing is a form of belief. Sure, high-level skater doesn't say she doesn't believe her skaters can do something, but she communicates it nonetheless.

    Great post, Xan!