Aug 9, 2011

The cost of coaching

We talk a lot about the high cost of learning to skate. But what about the cost of being a skating coach? Here's the low down.

PSA membership: $120
PSA continuing ed (ratings requirement) $40 to $300 (depending on if there are events in your area, otherwise you have to pay for travel)
Liability insurance: $85
USFS membership: $65
USFS background check $43
USFS coaching certification (tests through PSA) $75
ISI membership $65
ISI background check (same info, different company) $40
Red Cross First Aid certification: $40 (actually $120, but you only have to do it every 3 years)

That's $610 to $870, equivalent of up to 2 months of class take-home pay (assuming 14 hours of classes at $12 to $20/hour, which is what a lot of rinks pay, even for nationally rated coaches). Rinks do not cover this expense. One rink I worked for allowed one $50 credit per year for an educational event.

Coaches pay all these fees out of pocket, plus their own health care, retirement, and equipment. There is no positive benefit to covering these expenses like an effort to help coaches form unions so that they get guaranteed income, pension and health benefits, and job protection.

Coaches are all subject to forced lay offs several times a year when the rink shuts down, which can also impact your private lesson income, and if your regular classes happen to fall on a holiday, tough luck. You can get credentialed out the wazoo and never get a raise.

There is a punitive aspect-- if you don't get credentialed you cannot take students through testing or competition, and there is a movement afoot to make even baby coaches jump through these hoops.

Coaches complain about this system a lot, and rightly so. USFS, PSA and ISI need to add positive benefits to the high cost of being ethical in this business by pressuring rinks and clubs to treat coaches like the highly qualified professionals that they are.


  1. Granted, this would never happen because it likely means less money for the organizations, but you would think they could all get together and streamline the process a bit. I mean, 2 background checks? You would think one background check would be enough... send the results to both USFSA and ISI. And one would think since exams are required for membership they would be included in the fees? All so crazy.

    Do judges for ice also have to go through similarly expensive processes? I know that often times they are volunteers in terms of spending time judging at tests or competitions, but are they also paying hundreds of dollars in membership fees?

  2. US Figure Skating judges are all volunteers. They have to pay their own US Figure Skating membership and they have to pay whatever expenses are involved in getting certified for the various judging levels they may be qualified for, including travel if needed.

    They do get reimbursed for travel and expenses when they judge a competition.

  3. Figure skating judges are saints. They do it all as volunteers, training and continuing ed is out of pocket and they don't whine about it, unlike certain coaches that I could, um, name (winces). Not all competitions reimburse for travel.

  4. there has to be a way to unionize. even actors have a union. at the very least for insurance

  5. I don't understand how background checks work, but I've thought the same thing. In one year, I've had background checks to get into school to volunteer, and then two additional checks, one for each youth group I work with.

    I know they are important and necessary (unfortunately), but yes, it *seems* like there should be one way to just "okay" certain groups having access to that info without having to pay multiple times. It's not a deal-breaker for me volunteering, but...

    Are any of the fees tax-deductible because they somehow benefit a charitable organization?

  6. The real scandal about background checks is that they are ALL GOING TO THE SAME PLACE, namely your State police headquarters. In some states this is free, in Illinois it's just $18 and anyone can request it; they will send it, for that same $18, to multiple recipients. This is how I used to do it. Now there are all these intermediary for-profit businesses doing it, but they have to go to the same place, for that same $18 fee to get this information.

  7. Good to know that skating coaches, like all independent contractors or solo business owners have these types for expenses. Heck, I'm an employee and still have to fork over nearly $300 a year for my professional dues (which my employer does not pay for). At least you can write these off on your taxes.

  8. The difference is that many coaches are like me-- this is not our primary source of income, so a very high percentage of income goes to credentialing. Mind you, I am in favor of the credentialing process; I think it is long overdue. But the entire system is set up for negative incentives (i.e. banned from testing and competition), with no positive incentive, like advocacy with rink managers and clubs.

  9. I teach snowplow sam exclusively. I actually elected not to get paid, because it's just too little money for the hassle of filing taxes with a second job, I just do it for the free ice/lesson benefit.

    The new background check for basic skills instructors is almost 8% of what I would expect to make for the entire year if I taught every week, and was paid. That is without me carrying seperate insurance. That seems really high. How do your fees compare to your income as a coach? (My only other fees is more frequent sharpening from all the stomping and "making snow" we do. I was shocked how the sharpenings went down when I took a break from skating.) I just figure this new fee means I have to teach one session totally for free, then after that I get my free lessons.

    Our LTS program is in trouble with USFS's new requirements, because most of the basic skills only coaches have elected to not bother teaching, rather than pay the money for the background check (the company that employees us did it's own check when we were hired). We don't have enough registered coaches in the area to tach all the LTS- many of the Basic Skills coaches could easily be registered coaches, but elect not to do privates. Now they just aren't teaching skating at all anymore.

  10. Skittl, coaching fees and ratings requirements consume 14% of my GROSS and 16% of my net income from classes and 4% of my total gross income from skating. In other words, I pay more in fees than I pay in Illinois state taxes.

    Again, the background check requirement is particularly onerous, and a place where PSA and USFS could pressure rinks to cover this cost. In fact, many rinks ALREADY pay for this. If you work with children, for a municipal rink, *you are getting background checked.* So why make coaches pay this again, not once but twice!

  11. Yeah- the 8% is what my gross would be, not net. They just require the USFS minimum though, so no PSA membership or ratings needed for classes, that is just if you teach privates (and then, not all coaches are registered coaches).

    I don't work for a municiplal rink, but a private one, and they background checked too.

  12. Don't forget about the commission you pay every month to the rink. I pay $270 a month and teach 6-7 hours of privates a week.

  13. Anon 11:24--right. I always forget this because our rink doesn't charge staff pros a pro fee, and guest pros pay only $2 per lesson. (Low pro fees are something of a feature at Chicago area rinks because there are so many options. It's one of the signs of an unfriendly rink around here- high pro fee)