One of the reasons, of course, that figure skaters become coaches is that they are really good figure skaters (something I have never been, ahem, accused of). I became a writer, after all, because I was really good at it. Sadly, the only thing I ever get to write, aside from these blogs, is grant proposals, but oh well, writing is writing.
When you're really good at something, you want everyone to know it. So I write these blogs. Artists put up shows, figure skaters keep skating. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, blah blah blah.
Let's all do it in its appropriate time and place, hmmm?
For instance, the appropriate place for a very gifted former champion figure skater to show off is on practice ice that is set aside for that level of skating. It is NOT on a Learn-to-skate lesson period on a studio-sized rink crowded with coaches teaching very young children who cannot skate. Coach Fab, your waltz jumps are amazing-big and free and graceful. Not gonna look so graceful, however, if it lands on my 5-year-old student, whom you have not bothered to notice. And let's not even talk about the lawsuit.
There is a coaching approach based on observation: coach executes the move perfectly, student copies. This works brilliantly with gifted students who happen to be visual learners, who are working on ice where there is room for this kind of demonstration. Demo is very important for figure skaters, but you have to be careful 1. to be demonstrating the skill in a way and at a level that a student can absorb (even a gifted, visual one) and 2. that you can do it safely.
The silly thing about these over-the-top demos is that they are completely unnecessary. Everyone in the stands assumes you can do that anyway. I like to be very upfront with my skating background, so that my students and parents aren't helpfully clued in by others. If I kept my mouth shut, everyone would just assume that I was a high level skater, because what kind of crazy person goes into a profession that they aren't good at?
Which is the point. Coaches are not professional figure skaters. They are professional teachers, a very different thing, requiring different skills. As a parent, if I see a coach demonstrating too much, especially demonstrating at a level much higher than my student, I'm going to assume they don't know how to teach and are just trying to impress me. Okay, I'm impressed. Now could you focus on my kid? Coaches who use larger-than-necessary demo in lessons are using it not so much as a teaching tool, but as a public relations tool. "Look at me, parents" they are saying, "I'm a fabulous skater. If your kid skates with me, they'll look like this."
Now, these coaches are looking at this and saying, "oh sour grapes. Xan can't skate her way out of paper bag, she's just an adult skater, and she's jealous." Fair enough. This is why you don't see me demonstrating all that much. If I have a student that really needs a demo, I'll call over one of the junior coaches. But a skater with my approach and limitations is forced to focus on the skater rather than on impressing everyone with my wonderfulness (that's what blogging is for). The most successful coaches at my rink seldom or never use high level demos in lessons.
I'm not talking about all demos. You have to use demonstration in teaching anything; it's a valuable tool. But a coach who is demonstrating waltz jump entries by doing giant axels, or spirals by doing Level 4 spiral combinations, is not teaching, she's showing off.
A good teacher understands that he or she is not the most important person in the room. Big demos take the focus off the student and put it on the coach. The focus should always be on the student and his or her needs, skills, and level of understanding.