May 2, 2012

Getting the class coach you want

 It's (relatively) easy getting the private coach you want-- you identify her/him, you work out the schedule, you pay the fee, done.

But class coaches are another problem. What if you want a particular class coach, or DON'T want a particular class coach? Are there options?

Don't sign up until you know the schedule
If you're in a program that keeps registration open, then just wait until they post the schedule so you know who is teaching what. If your rink doesn't post the coaches' schedule, just ask the coach you want. They will know a couple of weeks before the session starts.

There are three ways you can ask: A "will you please assign Coach Wonderful to X level class at [time] or, B "who teaches X level class at [time] or C "when does Coach Wonderful teach X class" (or what classes does Coach Wonderful teach).  Good luck with A.

There are all sorts of reasons that Coach Wonderful can't be assigned to Class X. They might not have that time available, or may want, or be needed on, a different level at the same time. They may not have the seniority to get assigned a class if someone else wants it. The Skating Director may be unreceptive to customer requests of this nature (even multiple customer requests, and especially if the SD doesn't like the coach in question or the parent doing the asking). This is especially common with the obverse-- "please stop assigning Coach Arschloch to Class X, everyone hates him, that's why no one ever signs up for that class."

But you can always ask.

What's the cost vs. benefit. Is it better to be in a large class with a beloved coach, or a small class with the coach you don't know?

Don't move up
If you really love a coach and you/your skater moves up but the coach doesn't, just stay in the class. There is almost no skater who can't benefit from another round at any level, and if they love the coach that much, they might be receptive to this.

Get over it
Your child is going to have to deal with a lot of people in his/her life that they don't click with, or that they in fact don't like, and certainly that they don't know. They're going to have to deal with people in authority who don't like/get them. Shyness/discomfort with new people is not an excuse, because it's completely unrealistic to control your child's contacts to that extent. So to some extent this is not just a skating, but also a parenting issue. Unless it's a question of abuse, inappropriate behavior, or actual shirking of responsibility on the teacher's part, a skater (child or adult) who refuses to get something out of a class because they don't like the teacher is not a disatisfied consumer, but rather a spoiled brat. 

It's wonderful to have that teacher whom you love, but not always possible. Go ahead and ask, but then just take the class with the new teacher. You might discover that they are wonderful, too.


  1. I've always considered LTS group classes to be a great economical option for instruction. But how long should one continue with LTS?

    The program at our rink offers ISI group classes through FS10 (the FS7-10 levels are often combined). The FS6 class had been overcrowded for a long time and therefore not very effective. Recently, a few students moved to FS7 which, undoubtedly, will eventually be overcrowded too.

    The reason there are so many kids still participating in the group lessons at this level is not because the program is good, it's actually not effective for the higher FS level skaters, it's because skaters have to be enrolled in skating school all year to be in the annual ice show or to be considered for a solo in the ice show. The park and rec skating school puts on the annual ice show, not the USFS club that uses the same rink.

    It was our experience that this skating school was good at the lower FS levels, but when the kids get to the higher FS levels and have private coaches, the skating school instructors are reluctant to correct or work with another coach's skater. The skating school instructors are all USFS coaches at the rink. I believe that they are reluctant to help a colleague's student to improve or, perhaps, they are concerned about tampering if they correct technique.

    We have taken our daughter out of this skating school because it just wasn't effective for her any longer. I'm wondering if we should consider putting her in another skating school (she's in FS7) or just be done with skating school. Do you think we will find the same situation at another program--instructors reluctant to work with another coach's student?In your opinion, how long should skaters consider taking Learn to Skate Classes?

    1. This is actually a very common problem, and sadly your assessment of why the classes don't work is also fairly common (but not ubiquitous. There *are* programs with a thing called "collegiality" believe it or now).

      A good fix for this problem is to try to get the skating school to implement specialty classes for higher level kids.

      Here are a couple of posts talking about this:

  2. LOL, there is asking and wishing for good luck that that the request is honored and asking with the expectation that the request WILL be honored.

    In the first (the wishing and hoping), you are totally cool with the outcome.

    I think that is the best mindset for making a request. I also didn't involve my daughter in making the request. ~Meg

  3. At our rink, there is NO posted schedule for the simple fact that they don't even tell the coaches what classes they are assigned to until the first day of class. They offer the option to sign up for every level class (from Snowplow Sam 1 to FS 6, USFSA) at every class session time offered (only six time slots per week) -- but the deal is that you simply pick the time you want, and then they set up who teaches what based on who signs up. Of course, they sometimes complain that they only have one skater signed up for a particular level at a particular time, but I don't have a whole lot of sympathy for that complaint, given that they don't do anything to plan ahead and make it possible to work around that problem. Perhaps I am a curmudgeon.

    1. I've never heard a coach complain about it but our rink works the same way-there is a board where coaches put their availability and a board where the number of students is posted. I'm not exactly sure when these get matched up but it seems to be either the day of or the day before a session begins. They do have different levels at different times so some control over how many are out there at one time.

    2. I'm not sure how coaches put in a bid for a coaching slot for LTS at my old rink, but I know that they don't know until they get to the rink that day what class they're going to get.

  4. In one six week LTS session I had 3 different instructors in 4 the first 4 weeks. Each one had a different method for teaching Sit on the Ice and Stand Up / Falling.


  5. Xan, this is a good post question topic Jenny raises: what to do about the fact that when progressing through class levels, different coaches teach skills in different ways. For example, the one I've been working with starts all spins with both arms already stretched left, so the body is following arms, while others start with both arms stretched right, so the arms are swinging with the body. Coach A feels the latter leads to people flinging their arms towards a spin while the body lags behind. Coach B feels the former forces a skater to start out too twisted up. Student moves from Coach A's class, just starting to get the feel of a scratch spin, into Coach B's class of next level where scratch spin is supposed to get polished more, and finds she's either doing it "all wrong" or that the coach feels incapable of giving clear correction to a different technique. Student thus finds it very difficult to get a solid scratch spin. Ditto for approaches to jumps, the question of whether arms pull into right shoulder or left in the air, and many many other small things. Obviously, once one gets to privates, this gets resolved -- but what's a good strategy for students to adopt when moving through different assigned coaches in group lessons?

    1. I've heard skaters tell LTS coaches "that's not how my coach wants me to do it". Some coaches say "Do it my way" and some respond with "Do it your way".

      In this situation my skater just tries how the teaching coach tells her to do it. Sometimes a method works better, sometimes it does not. I don't worry about it because she will adapt/make corrections with her coach.

      It ends up that this works well because now she has 2 private coaches and they do teach things differently (maybe differently is not correct - more like...they have different things they notice so they have different corrections). But keeping her mind open lets her trust what the coach is saying.

      We had a hard time when at another rink the LTS coach was changing every week in the session. There was no progress for the kids because every week they were starting with step 1. We ended up changing class rinks because it was just not worth the money and time.

    2. MT, this is not an issue of too many techniques, but rather an issue of poor teaching. There are numerous ways to position your arms at a spin entry; every coach should know them all and be able to teach and explain each, and be able to give each skater the one that works best for them. Especially at the freestyle levels, you're simply never going to have a class so huge that you cannot personalize the technique for the skater.

    3. Thanks makes sense, Xan, and I'm not surprised, given the specific personality of the coach who has simply given up with a "well, that's not how I teach it, so we'll just skip working on that skill."

  6. The Same AnonymousMay 3, 2012 at 1:52 AM

    One for the teens especially: if you're that age where you could go to either adult or kid skating class, find out who's coaching each and then you can choose! :) Works for a few years anyway!

    1. Plus, many programs restrict the lower, but not the upper, age, so adults CAN take the kids' classes. If you do, however, remember that you are somewhat of a guest, and don't go all "adulty" on the group, with excessive demands for specific explanation.