You call in the specialty coach. (Maybe. We'll get to that.)
A specialty coach is a coach with a strong track record in technique on a single type of element-- you'll most often find specialty coaches working on pairs spins, jumps (or a specific jump, or a specific level of rotations). Off-ice training and choreography are specialty fields. Dance teams in particular might work with a number of coaches because of the complexity of the discipline--pairs and dance spins, lifts, stroking and tracking, expression, compulsory patterns. A specialty coach may also have general students, but then team teaches with the main coach on some kids working on the specialty.
So how do you know you need one? Who decides that, and when? Who are the specialty coaches? How long do you work with them, who takes part in the lesson, how much will it cost (and how do I keep my husband from finding out).
How do I know I need a specialty coach?
If your regular coach suggests it, you need one. However, if you're only working on single axels, it's possible that you don't need a specialty coach, you just need a regular coach who knows how to teach axels. I hate to break it to the newbie parents, but single axel is a low-level (ok ok mid level) jump. Your regular coach really should know how to teach this. If you're having trouble with your axel and the coach suggests a jump coach, you might want to look around and see if your coach's other students are landing axels. (Then, just for good measure, make sure the supposed jump coach has kids who are landing axels, and isn't just the regular coach's buddy.) You might not need a "jump coach" so much as you need a "coach." If you're having trouble with your axel while working with a coach who has a track record, stick with him. The only reason to get a jump coach in such a case is to break down mental barriers that you may have built up with your regular coach.
If you think you might benefit from specialty lessons, it's okay to approach the regular coach with this idea. This is where I might relent a little on the idea of a specialty coach for the axel. If you've been working on the axel for the better part of a year or more, sometimes just hearing even the same technique from someone else really can help.
If your coach suggests a specific specialist ask around and see if this person really is a specialist in this area. You will tend to start to know who the jump wizards are at your facility. (Ask the parents, not the coaches. A coach will not pass judgment on a colleague. We are actually prohibited by our professional association, the PSA, from stating an opinion on another coach's teaching ability.)
What if my coach suggests working with a "guest coach?"
Sometimes a guest coach might be in town and your coach suggests taking a couple lessons with him or her. The guest coach might be a famous person (at least in the figure skating world), so go for it, because what fun! We had former U.S. Ice Dance Medalist Morgan Matthews teaching at our rink last year; her friend that brought her in even had her working in tot class, which was just wonderful.
Higher level skills
You're more likely to need a specialty coach for doubles and triples than for singles because of the greater complexity, and because it frees the regular lessons from overworking the jumps. When you take a specialty lesson, this is additional, not in place of your regular lesson. Including the additional cost. Further, find out if your regular coach expects to be there, because if he does, you're going to be paying two coaches for that lesson. (This is not always clear to parents.) Again, especially with doubles, which are basic skating really, make sure that you need a guest coach because it's the best option, and not because your coach doesn't know how to teach doubles. Again, because of the additional cost involved, check out your coach's other students-- are they landing doubles? If so, then a specialty coach may or may not be called for. (Sometimes a coach might say right up front, look, I don't teach doubles, why don't you work with Coach Special on those, and we'll continue to do everything else in our regular lessons. This is fine, and bully for that ethical coach.)
Spin features, expression, stroking technique, and other narrow skill areas are also places where you might find specialty coaching. Your Xanboni says if you are competing only in Basic Skills or non-qualifying events, and call in an expensive specialty coach to work on your Level IV spin, you're either pretentious, indulgent, or delusional. But that's just me.
What will it cost?
Whatever the market will bear. Some coaches will charge their regular rates for specialty coaching. Some coaches will charge more when it's framed as a specialty skill. Some can charge a lot more because they've got a reputation for being good with the specialty. Plus, remember, additional ice time and fee; you're doing this in addition to your regular lesson, not in place of it.
When are we done with the specialist?
Up to you and the regular coach. When you master the skill, or after a set number of lessons. Or you do occasional one-offs. Or when you run out of money (if you think this might be an issue, please tell all parties involved at the outset. Thank you.)
What's the best way to brag about this?
Cool, specialty coach! Well, maybe. If you're working with a specialty coach because it's been 3 years and your kid still doesn't have an axel, I'd keep it on the QT. But if you're working with Famous Coach, or you've started working on triples, or you just really can't keep your pride to yourself (yeah, yeah, I get it I get it), don't say (nose in air) "Owh, that's her jump coach." Say, "Oh, she's just working with Butch on jumps." Please don't start in on "well, Princess' jump coach blah blah blah and Princess' choreographer blah blah blah and Princess' sports psychologist blah blah blah and Princess costume designer blah blah blah" or if you do, don't come crying to me about your slashed tires.
So, specialty coach, yes or no?
Yes. Even if you're not sure about your coach's motivation. Even if you feel a little silly having a "specialty" coach for a nearly recreational skater, as long as you can afford it, it really can't hurt.
And there are those bragging rights.
Have you worked with a specialty coach? Was it a good experience, or do you think you might as well have gone without?