But the parent's job has very little to do with the skating. The worst thing you can do as a parent is to ever talk about technical skills. Your job is greasing the skids, whether it's getting the kid to practice, mediating coaching disputes, or, yes, paying the bills.
Not that I was this sort of parent, but the best way you can help your skater is on the sly.
By this I don't mean sneak around the skater's back, exactly. (Okay, there's a little bit of sneaking around his back.) I mean create an environment that rewards good skating behavior.
Your skater needs to own her schedule, but kids think about this minute, not the next minute, and tomorrow never comes. Twelve hours ahead of the lesson, ask about the lesson. Very innocently, butter wouldn't melt in your mouth-- "when's your next practice/lesson, honey?" For after school skaters, you're asking this in the morning over breakfast. For early morning skaters, you're asking at dinner, or bedtime. Make the kid think about it.
A great idea is to have a calendar on the fridge with nothing but skating on it, so the skater can go check. Tie a bright red sharpie to the calendar, so she can put an X through the practice or lesson once it's done. Put the calendar in a public and accessible place, not the skaters room. The message is "we all support/make space for this" and "it's easy to keep track of."
The idea is to make sure the skater has the schedule in his or her head. You don't want to say "don't forget you have to skate in the morning." Very confrontational, and implying that without you the skater will forget. (This may be true, but don't rub it in.) Ask "when is your practice/lesson?" or ask what they'll be working on, or bring up the new dress or tights (if appropriate).
Speaking of tights
It drives me absolutely insane to see parents 1- rifling through the skater's bag, and 2-complaining about it. The skater's bag is her personal space at a rink. Serious skaters in particular live their lives in public. They can't practice by themselves, eat by themselves, cry by themselves or even dress by themselves. Give them that small bit of privacy, and let them rifle through their own bags. Of course, since we're being sneaky here, this does not mean you have to always be going to the rink with only one glove. Give the skater 10 extra minutes (I know that's hard) to go through the bag before you leave the house. Tape a checklist onto the top, or laminate one and hang it off the handle. Make it part of the bedtime ritual--"check your skating bag!"
And if she forgets her tights, or her gloves or her practice journal? Let her figure it out at the rink. If you're always rescuing her (or him), you're not teaching self-reliance, a crucial skill for a skater. Believe it or not, they can find a solution to the missing tights--other skaters, lost and found, the costume room, or the tights that they in fact know are stashed under the back seat of the car, which you didn't know about.
Everyone is overbooked. But late-for-lessons is THE number one complaint I hear from coaches. Especially when the parents then expect the coach to do the full lesson anyway. Not going to happen. You don't pay for 30 minutes. You pay for a time slot. It's only 30 minutes if you're there at the start of it. If your lesson is 3:30 to 4:00 and you're not on the ice until 3:45, that doesn't mean you get a lesson until 4:15, because someone else has the 4:00 time slot. It also doesn't mean the coach only charges you for 15 minutes.
But you know all that. And you're always late anyway. Which stresses out everyone.
And here's the solution-- Do. Not. Schedule. Lessons...if there is even a chance that you're going to have trouble getting there. Not a morning person? Please don't schedule 6 a.m. lessons. School gets out at 3:15? 3:45 lesson is NOT going to happen unless the school is next door. And you know it. It's like a diet. Don't set an impossible goal, however noble it is.
Post hoc, propter hoc, ad hoc
We're talking about the lesson review. Don't talk about what happened in the lesson. Not after, not before, not about. You can ask "did you have fun" "did you learn anything new" "is there anything I need to ask Coach about." You cannot make the child preview the practice "what are you going to work on today." You can make sure the practice journal is on the bag checklist. You cannot (cannot cannot) make the child talk about the lesson, the practice, the competition on the ride home. Ask any former student athlete the thing they hated most about growing up as an athlete and the ride home Monday morning quarterbacking tops the list. Never do this. It's that private space again--let the kid own it.
But I need to know stuff
Ask the coach. Better yet, ask the coach if she has "office hours" when you can call or sit down, without the child present. Use email. Don't try to get the low down just before or just after the lesson. Chances are the coach has another student and won't be able to give you the attention you want (or deserve). If your skater is right there you won't be able to be as honest, or if you are honest, you're embarrassing the skater.
What are your best tips for sneaky parenting?