Jun 3, 2011

The once a week skater

A discussion popped up in the last couple of weeks, you might recall, about what to focus on during lessons.

For the most part, you'll do what your coach has planned out for you. In most cases the coach has a goal in mind--pass such-and-such class level, introduce higher level skills, get ready for testing or competition.

For skaters skating several times a week-- say a class, a practice or two and a lesson-- this usually will work out without all that much communication back and forth with the parents. You'll be having enough quick conversations, and the skater is getting enough ice time to progress.

But what about the skater who doesn't have a lot of time. What if the skater's goals conflict with what seems to be happening in a lesson? Here's how to stay on track:

Talk to each other
This works both ways. Your coach should be telling you "I want to work on such-and-such, we'll measure success by xyz outcome in # weeks." You should be telling the coach-- I want to pass Freestyle 5, or I want to do competitions, or I want to learn new jumps. Sometimes parents will nudge me back on track, by reminding me of a goal that's gotten neglected, or asking me to test a specific skill, as this morning when a parent asked me to see whether her skater was ready for Freestyle levels.

"I just want to skate for fun" is not a goal. If you just want to skate for fun, don't take private lessons. Just come and skate for fun.

You are the customer
If you want to learn jumps and all your coach is teaching you is Moves, you need to say something. If you don't want to test and the coach keeps teaching you the test, say something. If you DO want to test, you're observing other people passing tests, and your coach is doing nothing, for goodness sake, SAY something. The coach may then have a very good reason for doing this. However, if the coach's reason is "because I don't want to teach you jumps," "just do what I say," or "I don't want to talk about it," then you may want to rethink this relationship.

Make sure your effort matches your goals
You're not going to learn an axel, or, frankly, anything else, if you only skate once a week in lessons. You will simply get the same lesson over and over and over and never progress. If you really can only skate a half hour a week then you goals have to reflect that, and the pro needs to accept it.

If you really don't want to give up the challenging goal, you'll have to find a way to increase your practice time. If cost is a factor, do practice ice without a coach, come to public ice, take classes and see if your coach will do semi-private, small group sessions. Personally I feel that a skater whose only ice time is that once-a-week half hour lesson is wasting everyone's time and their money. It's like playing an instrument-- you won't get any better without practicing on your own.


  1. What if you do speak up and tell the coach what you want but they don't follow through? What if you do remind them of goals but they aren't met in a reasonable amount of time? Often I feel like the coach merely smiles and agrees but it's really just a way of dismissing us.

  2. You have to assess what's holding you back from the goal--coaching barriers, inadequate practice, or unrealistic goals? If it's legitimately the coach, you need to deal with that.

  3. For Stitch to remain challenged, progressing and Winning (Yes, that is a goal of his) he needs at least a lesson a week plus a few hours of structured practice. I got the practice structure from Coach and I do my best to enforce it, though lately he's shown he's memorized bits of the warmup routine. He may not need my enforcement much longer.

    Other Parents who comment on his talent will suddenly balk when I tell them our weekend schedule. It's not magic, it's practice and patience.

  4. I tell the beginners, it's not instruction, it's mileage.

  5. IMO, it's both. I've seen a few coaches whose answer to everything is "you need to practice more." Let's face it. Some coaches teach better than others (or rather, know how tweak their instruction to get the most out of a particular student) and that, in addition to practice, will get the best results.

  6. Anon, I'm going to disagree. For new skaters, Alpha or even Beta, and especially PreAlpha true beginner level, the best thing you can do for your skating is skate. There's a limited number of ways to "teach" someone how to glide and balance. But this IS something you can do on your own.

  7. You give great coaches no credit then.

  8. Anon, I take huge exception to your completely ridiculous contention that because I think beginners should get out there and skate that this means that I give great coaches no credit.