As part of its coaches education program The Professional Skaters Association offers coaches the chance to work with top-level coaches through the Apprenticeship Program. As part of on going education, or in preparation for Ratings exams, a coach can seek a colleague with a Master rating in the desired discipline, and set up a mentor relationship. The project can include skating instruction, co-teaching, off-ice instruction, and observation.
To reach my Master rating, I have put together a plan to do apprenticeships in Free Skate, Moves, and Synchro at the Registered level, and Group at the Senior and Master Levels. I completed the Senior one two years ago, and passed the Senior Group rating. In addition to the free skate apprenticeship just completed, I have lined up apprenticeships in all these levels to pursue over the next couple of years, prior to taking the Master Group ratings exam. If I can meet the other qualifications of the ratings, I'd like eventually to have Registered ratings in Free Skate and Moves.
It’s just a matter of time and money.
For the Registered free skating apprenticeship, just now finishing, I worked with the only coach at my rink who has gotten the Master FS rating. Ratings exams are not easy to get, requiring a serious commitment of time, money, and continuing education and a serious degree of knowledge, as well as the ability to impart it in an oral exam before a panel of Master coaches. Of the 17 coaches on staff, we have just one Master-rated and one Senior-rated FS instructor, two Senior-rated Group instructors (one of whom is me), and one Master-rated Moves instructor. (There is no requirement to work with a coach at your facility, or even in your city. I was just lucky to have someone interesting to work with so close at hand.) Of the younger coaches, to my knowledge only one of them is starting the ratings process; most of them seem to consider PSA ratings useless at best. Inexplicable. Since there is no college degree or in fact any sort of required credential at all to teach figure skating, I consider it to be very nearly irresponsible to forego the ratings process.
I have known the coach I worked with for more than 15 years. I’ve watched many of his skaters start from Learn to Skate as tots and finish with the Senior test before heading off to college. His commitment to the sport, sense of humor, and affection for his students are obvious and unmatched, and it was a fascinating to work with him.
Because of his general approach using group lessons for free skate instruction, even among his private students, having him as my mentor was made-to-order. I was able to observe how specific teaching approaches and technical information could be imparted in a group setting that yet honors the individual skater’s needs and abilities. I was especially impressed with his ability to keep a class moving, using the whole ice, and with minimal standing around gabbing (the curse of close coaching relationships, such as this coach has with his students).
As with my Group apprenticeship, this coach was unfailingly generous with his knowledge, his students and his time. For much of the course of our time together, it was very gratifying to find out how similar many of our techniques, class management approaches, and coaching philosophy were. Because of my background as a skating mom and adult skater, I often have to overcome feelings of being not quite up to par. His patience and affirmative approach to mentoring have helped me to overcome some of this.
Right now I'm taking a break from the Master skating exam to focus on my Master Gardener exam (one thing at a time). Even if I never scare up the courage to take the rating, apprenticeships are worth the time and effort for someone committed to excellence in figure skating instruction.