Oct 18, 2011

Get over yourself

I had to quit my job.

Right now, it looks like I won't be finding another one. Whether this is the economy, bad timing, or a vast district-wide conspiracy to keep me from teaching I don't know. But right now, I won't be doing group classes.

I not only quit, I don't ever want to walk through that door again. Since that isn't practical I gave my students the option to stick with me at the old rink until the end of the session, and then to follow me to a different rink. No one took me up on it. They are all staying at the old rink, and looking for a new coach.

I actually expected this. I have seen it before, when coaches have gotten fed up and moved to a new place. Sometimes coaches float the threat "give me my way, let me get away with my bullshit, or I will take my toys and go home." One coach tried to move the entire synchro program. They always end up backing down, because in the end, parents are looking for location and convenience, and kids want familiarity--to be with their friends at a place they know.

However much you think your kids and their parents love you (and they do), in the end, they will make the economic choice, and seldom the one from the heart.

As a coach, you have to be able to accept this. People move on. Yes, I wish my kids would follow me, in fact I wish the whole staff would follow me, because nothing will get better there if people don't start voting with their feet and their wallets, but in the end you have to make the choice that works for you and your family. I reached a tipping point where the unprofessional behavior of certain members of staff and management became intolerable. My students were not at that point, and frankly what affects me does not affect them.

Here are some tips if your coach moves to a different rink:

Don't send the coach emails about how upset the kids are. If the coach needs to leave, she needs to leave, and you adding guilt to what is probably already a difficult decision is just pointless and mean. (This is not the same as thoughtful emails or calls explaining what you are going to do. It's the ones that start "Mary just cried and cried when I told her." I can't tell you how helpless that makes me feel.)

Don't talk to another coach without alerting the old coach FIRST
. The old coach is going to know you're looking, because the gag rule requires that the new coach tell her. Further, if your coach is leaving, as I am, because of intolerably unprofessional behavior from coaches or management at the old rink, and you know this, don't you think you'd like to know who to avoid?

Don't talk about the change to anyone at the rink. This is how career-damaging rumors get started, particularly if there is bad blood which has forced the coach's hand. If anyone asks what's going on, the correct answer is "she had another opportunity" or "she decided to make a change." Don't feed the gossip mill.

This is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I stayed as long as I did because I couldn't bear to leave my students, and because I kept thinking I could effect change from within. This turned out to be an idealistic fantasy.

In the meantime, I'm hoping to have a soft landing at a new facility, or to set up my own mini-skating school through a local home school network. And of course, I'll keep writing. What would you do without your Xanboni?

Have you ever had to leave an intolerable (for you) situation? How did you handle it?


  1. Xan, I am so sorry. I hope you will find a new skating home soon where your obvious dedication to the sport & your students, and your talent for teaching will be appreciated and valued.

    I had to leave an untenable job situation a few years ago myself. After attempting countless times to effect change from within, it was obvious that it would never happen with the leadership in place at the time. So I finally decided to effect the change I could control and leave.

    It was unbelievably stressful at the time and I second-guessed myself the whole way through, but I am SO glad now that I followed through with it. It has made an immense difference in every part of my life. (Including the fact that the job I have now is 5 mins from a rink with empty daytime FS sessions. :) It's not where my coach is or where my daughter skates, but man is it wonderful for extra lunchtime practice sessions). I think it can be hard to fully appreciate how much a bad job situation weighs on you until you are out from under it.

    I wish you all the very best and I'm so glad you will keep writing - I love your blog and am always thrilled to see a new post on my Google reader!

  2. So sorry to hear that things were so bad at the old rink. Good luck with your new adventure. Some lucky kids and their parents will be glad to work with you.

    Keep up the great posts. There are lots of us out here enjoying and being informed by them.

    "The Reverend Mother always says, 'when the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window'."--Maria, Sound of Music

    Best wishes in the search!

  3. Xan, you are a truly wonderful teacher and person. I wish you all the best, and please do not give up being the change you want to see.

  4. Alice in WonderlandOctober 18, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    Xan, I'd love to see you write a book! You clearly have a gift with writing. I know that when I first went down the rabbit hole of skating, I searched for a book on skating, something similar to Vicky Iovine's Girlfriends Guides, but found nothing. Hence, the search for blogs....

  5. Xan, I'm so sorry to hear that things were that bad and that you are having to make a new start. But I am glad for you that you have made the move you needed to make, and I send you all the best wishes for things to improve dramatically as a result. I do hope you keep blogging (the online community has helped me through several really difficult life moments), and I hope you find a job so very much better very soon.

  6. Xan

    Sorry to hear that you've had such a rotten time - you are clearly exactly the sort of coach that I would like for my daughter - if you fancy moving to the UK that is! Best of luck finding a new rink where they appreciate what they've got - and don't let the b*****s ruin your love of the sport and of teaching. And i agree with Alice - a beginners guide to skating would be fabulous!

    Best wishes

  7. Everyone, thanks so much for your support. The online community has been amazing in this and other instances.

    I'm working on redoing the blog on Word Press, with useful tabs like Just for Parents, Skating Skills, Coaching Issues, to make search a little easier.

  8. I'm all for a book - and self-publishing is easier now than ever! - but a souped-up blog site would be fantastic!

    I'm so sorry that you had to make this change. I wish some of your students had the ways and means to follow you, but another rink will be lucky enough to get you, and those kids and parents will be truly blessed to have your time and talents.

  9. oh thats terrible. Was it because of the response to the ice throwing incident. The kids will miss you a lot.

  10. Ice throwing was the tip, if I may, of the proverbial iceberg. Sadly, nothing can really be documented, and a lot of it involved unwarranted personal attacks that will not affect the children there at all, although I think that management and staff issues always affect the quality of a program.

  11. So sorry to hear about this. Changing rinks is never easy - I should know I have done it three times so far. I was lucky that my parents didn't make the economic choice - we followed my coach through three rink changes. A lot of his other students followed him as well. Not a one of us regret it for a minute. I had only been skating a little over two years before the first switch. If we hadn't gone I probably wouldn't still be skating now. First rink change was because they were only going to pay the new instructors for teaching the classes, cutting out the instructors who had been working to build them up. Second time we moved was because the rink was closing. This last move (actually happend only a few months ago) was because the rink decided to implement a tiered system, and was going to reassign students to different coaches based on levels. We left. Along with 10 other coaches and over 40 skaters. The new rink is... a bit crowded. But so much better than the last environment. Skating drama is skating drama - it is everywhere. The trick is to find a place where you can live with the nonsense enough to deal with the skating and the students.

  12. I'm sorry you are leaving but do not want you to feel guilty. Hopefully in a few years there will be a new rink, a new culture, and a new door so you can come back.

  13. Go west - like NW suburbs west. Our rink could use a little Xan.

  14. I hope this turns from a bad situation into a great opportunity for you. No matter what, keep up the blogging! We love them.

  15. I agree with Ice Charades, a horrible situation can end up being a great opportunity for you!

    This happened to a coach before my time, but the rink she moved to is an hour away and I'm not aware of any skaters who followed her, although a few have lessons at that rink with another coach.

    My first coach also left an intolerable situation, I would've followed her (for lessons if not practice), but sadly she moved 400 miles away! I still visit a couple of times a year though as we're close friends.

    Having sat with her while people on the phone told her how much their skater cried, I agree it might not be for the best, she was in tears listening to it. But on the other hand, I appreciate that people wanted her to know how loved and appreciated she was. It was also a very sudden change so extra hard for everyone.

    And finally, another coach left for personal reasons to move back home. As she gave a couple of months notice, she was able to help people find new coaches and ease the transition.

    Best of luck at your new rink Xan, I'm sure you'll be missed!!!

  16. Bravo to you for getting out of a bad situation, it isn't easy to do.

    I hope something better comes up for you.

  17. Sorry that you had to make such a move, but I hope and trust it will work out for the better in the end. Hang in there!

  18. You should come over to skating forums and post a little. There's a couple of people from your former rink there already.

  19. ooh CAPTCHA was 'CRESSONS' Crisis + lessons. How apt.

  20. I used to do skating forums but it just got away from me! I guess I have more time now!

  21. Sorry you had to leave. I had to switch rinks once and it wasn't fun. Although, the completely unrelated synchro team switch that I had been forced to make the year before was worse.

    I'm now beginning year 3 at new rink, and year 2 without synchro, and I'm much happier.

    Good luck in finding a new opportunity! And do keep writing. I would be sad without my XanBoni.

  22. Hugs, Xan! Sorry to hear the bad news. Does it pay to be a private coach at all? I'm ignorant when it comes to these things - give me a stove and some good food and I can do almost anything. =)

  23. Private coaching is where the money is. Hard to work more than about 14 hours a week as a group coach, and it pays really badly. People do it as a loss leader, and to get rink privileges. Unfortunately, I really like group. I'd rather not do privates at all, frankly.

  24. Well your rink management were stupid in the extreme to loose you - I'm guessing most coaches prefer private to group lessons, and here they had a coach who prefers group. Good luck with your new opportunity and please keep blogging - long blog silences (as experiencing with Icemom who hasn't blogged since March) are worrying for your readers (says me who has just come back from a long blog silence!)

  25. So how many senior level students have you had?

  26. Anonymous, not sure why this is salient to the discussion? It seems as though you're trying to bring up an unrelated fact in order to discredit me, although that is so out of left field that I must be wrong.

    I have never had nor sought senior-level students, nor indeed any over the Juvenile level, nor have I ever claimed to want students at that level, it's neither my strength nor my interest. I would like to have a Master Group rating as an independent measure of the hard work I have put into this profession so eventually I need to be able to have CLASSES at the FS5 and up level. A senior-level student is not something I need to achieve my goals.

    I've delayed taking this rating because I feel that my skill set is not yet up to the test. It's called ethics.

  27. Xan, I was in one of your adult classes. You are a great teacher. All of the adult skaters know it. I hope you land somewhere else and I can take another class from you!

  28. Anon 1:03-- thanks; the support on this site has really helped. Also, I'd just like to say that my drama will not really affect either the coaches or the students in the program; this was a personal decision based on my internal ethical needs, and I wish everyone still in the program the best luck and success (plus, it's the only place you get to do Nutcracker on ice!)

  29. Everyone knows Senior Level skaters come from eggs laid by the Zamboni. As she crosses the ice, she deposits them carefully so as not to disturb the fragile yolks. Then, after six long months, provided the Beta kids and Tots don't fall too much, the Senior Level skaters chip away at the shells with their K Picks. It takes about six hours for their Chloe Noel Jackets to dry, and in that time they will imprint on the first Coach they see. They arrive already fully capable of doing double jumps and deep edges, show solos and winning programs. Oh, wait....

  30. Xan,
    So sorry to hear this.
    I wonder if there's a chance you could develop a new system of coaching that's a bit of a compromise between group experience and private fees? Ie: "shared privates".
    I'd love to cut costs and increase the fun factor for my DD by having her share lessons with 1-3 others at a similar age/stage who train similar hours and are likely to progress similarly for a while. But coaches don't generally seem very receptive to this idea around here. Group lessons aren't the same to me at all as choosing who to share with.
    Is there a rule against it?

  31. I do a lot of semi-privates with 2 to 4 kids in a group; this is actually a very common practice, especially at the higher levels where families are trying to save money. For obvious reasons most rinks will not allow larger private groups because it cuts into their learn-to-skate programs which is their bread and butter. On package ice it can be disruptive to have a group class going because they will tend not to skate within the flow of the session, if you see what I mean.