Wouldn't it be nice if that was the first thing you heard from your peers when you started at a new job or school or, god forbid, skating rink?
Parents and skaters set the tone at a rink. A rink with unhappy participants is a miserable place. No amount of competence from the staff can overcome it. Parents and skaters have not only a stake in the success of any program, but a huge influence on it without ever having a suggestion even listened to, let alone implemented. Your ideas for improvement may or may not be welcome, it depends on the culture of the rink, but your attitude will define the personality of the place.
So what can you do, as a customer, to help your skating school thrive and improve?
Know the program
Be aware of what is offered, not only at your skater's level, but at all the levels. Newbies, whether tot parents or free style skaters, are going to look to you, their peers, for information. Rink staff is busy and sometimes off putting (depending on the rink). You are the rink's first line, and the information and attitude you project can give your rink a reputation, good or ill. When people ask you for information, don't roll your eyes and complain about the program, direct them to sources, tell them what you've liked about it, encourage them to sign up. If you start right in complaining about it, or if you put them off, they'll draw the correct conclusion that you must be an idiot, because if it's so terrible, how come your kid skates here, and that if this is not a friendly/safe/competent place, why stay.
Participate in the program
Take classes. Please take classes. Did I mention you should take classes? Does your coach really hate the idea of your taking classes with someone else? How about power class, at LEAST take power class. And then, well, do the ice show, or the exhibition, or the rink's ISI or Basic Skills competition (by the way, Basic Skills, you did realize that the abbreviation for that is BS? I hate that I can never abbreviate Basic Skills. Also, well, 'nuff said.) Ahem, where was I.
You cannot complain about the program if you don't participate in it. (Corrolary-- once you stop participating you also have to stop complaining.) There is an on going feeling at my rink that certain coaches only pay attention to their own students in free style class. Fine. Fair complaint. But you can also think about the class as just more practice time, because frankly the class is not much more expensive than practice ice and it's way less crowded. (Plus you can go to the coach before class and ask for specific help "Mary's worried about her xx, could you check it out? This works, trust me. It's embarrassing to have it pointed out that you've neglected a child.)
Participate in the extras
Volunteer. I'm not talking about the club. I'm talking about the rink. Offer to help fill out paperwork, or hand out costumes, or help with the costume sale or other fundraiser. Wrangle children at the ice show. Bring cupcakes and share them with everyone on practice ice. (Ignore the little hippie child who tells you "cupcakes aren't healthy." She doesn't have to eat them.) Ask a coach to show you how to tie skates and help out with tot class. You're just sitting around gossiping anyway-- go do something useful.
I can tell you that the parents who complain about the program without either signing up their kids or helping out as volunteers just get eyerolls from the staff. Why should we even listen to you when you make no attempt to be part of the program?
Make new skaters, and their parents, welcome
Say hello to new mothers. Make sure you don't appear to just be mining them for dirt. Acceptable-- I think you're just in time to sign up for the ice show! Do you know about the discount option! It's great. Not acceptable-- what level is she skating? Really? Who's her coach? Really? Oh, now that she's here she should skate with our coach.)
Know the staff
Again with the complaints. Say hello to the office staff and the other coaches when you walk in. Know their names. That's it. You don't have to volunteer, or offer to help, or send Hanukkah gelt to their grandchildren.
Know the Skating Director
Even if you have a skating director who hides in a cave, they do come out to feed every now and then. Know who this is, introduce yourself. Probably she already knows who you are, but it's nice to get eye contact and a hand shake. Once in a while, tell her something that you really like about the program, or let her know of a specific class coach who's really helped your child.
I won't go into the negatives, because you know them. Refrain from harmful gossip (I won't tell you not to gossip, because I know it's pointless. Just watch out for the really poisonous stuff.) Don't trash individual skaters, parents, or coaches. Don't compare this program to other programs. They aren't the same. Don't ever ever trash the program you're in to someone in another program. It just makes you look like an idiot.
If you do one of these things, you are already in a class by yourself. If you do all of them you're an uber-skating parent and we want to clone you.
What have you done to help your program?