May 16, 2011

Look for a coach with a good story

As I've said before, I love it when my various areas of expertise conflate. I recently read the brilliant advice, regarding how to acquire students, that a coach should "tell the best story."

This is classic marketing and fundraising advice, which is what I do in my other life. You need to engage your potential customers, or they'll go with the person who does engage them.

My story is summed up in my tag line: "anyone can learn to skate." I've got a good story as an adult skater who loved the sport so much that I changed my life in order to pursue the passion. Looking around my rink I see some other good stories-- the young coaches who grew up at the rink. The grade school teacher who coaches during her off hours. The Russian stars (at least according to them, but whatever, it's a good story), "my dad's a former champion," and of course, the former champions.

Then you need to ask yourself: why does this story resonate with me? What is it about this story that makes this person a good coach? Does the answer change if you think about different skaters-- for instance, the former champion has a great story, but is that the right story for the recreational or timid skater? "My dad's a champ" is a great story, but do that coach's skaters actually get to skate with dad? In other words, is the coach adapting aspects of the story to reach your individual skater's needs?

What's your coach's story? What coach do you know who has a good story of their own?


  1. Haha, at first I thought you were going to say to find a coach who could tell a good story :). My IceBoy's coach is an amazing story teller, I think that is part of the reason he is such a great teacher.

    In fact, just the other day at a competition, I told my skater to have his coach tell him a funny story while he was waiting to take the ice to help keep him loose. It worked well. :)

    His coach also owns a good story as well. Quite a few of them come to think of it. :)

  2. I love your story Xan. I think it's an inspiration for adult skaters. And in fact anyone who loves skating and wants to do something with it but isn't a high level skater.

  3. We have 2 coaches because we live in one place for 9 months and in a different place for 3 months each year. Both are former competitive skaters which is what my oldest wants to be. One has a Canadian husband where many kids start skating very early (just like in northern parts of Russia and in Finland, where my roots are from), so she didn't think that I was crazy when I brought my 2 year old to the rink. The other one is Russian, also started skating very early, and says that her father helped her developing into a great skater a lot by being involved. She says that while only the coach (not parents) can teach proper technique, parents' support and involvement is very important and is underestimated in the USA. So she is very supportive of my desire to learn everything I can about the sport and even to supervise my kids' practices.

    Maria, mom of 2 skaters: Basic 7 and Snow Plow Sam

  4. I'm not sure what my coach's story is. I'm thinking along of the lines of born into skating family, skated all her life & tested high.

    She tells me smaller, anecdotal stories which correspond to whatever she's teaching me. I love those little snippets of her past skating life.

    My future story (provided all goes well and I continue skating) will be the coach growing up at the rink one. I don't plan on leaving the rink- it'll give me a better chance of coaching there after having skated/tested there. And my future college is 2 minutes down the road. :D