I've worked with a couple of great skating directors-- creative and engaged, supportive of the staff, nurturing with the kids, firm but understanding with parents. Heck, they put up with me, 'nuff said.
I've also known several who have told me that the PSA (Professional Skaters Association) is bullshit, and that they don't need continuing education because they already know what they are doing. I've observed programs where the kids demonstrably are not skating to the passing standard, whether USFS or ISI. And I've heard complaints about programs where they do insist on the passing standards as being "too tough."
This week I attended a Nationwide Seminar sponsored by the PSA. These are seminars staged annually and semi-annually, where all of the coaches across the nation are getting the same curriculum, in a largely successful effort to standardize teaching and outcomes across many diverse markets. Years ago, when I was a baby coach and first started attending these things and others like them sponsored by USFS and ISI, there would be maybe maybe 20 people there-- I got amazing one-on-one coaching instruction from some very well known skaters.
Then PSA got serious about coaching education, using both carrots and sticks to encourage and even compel attendance at these things. There were more than 80 people at yesterday's event.
The main presenter, Diane Miller, spoke eloquently about her coaching methods, and the importance of instilling proper technique early. I believe she was talking, however, about kids who have already made that leap into competitive skating (not necessarily elite skating, but just kids who skate a lot, and do the non-quals and regionals).
And she made a statement that brought me up sharply. She said that "only 2% of skaters will ever achieve a double axel."
Now, there are all sorts of barriers to the double axel, starting with it's really hard. There are competing activities that take away from the level of commitment it requires. There are cultural barriers regarding hard work and focus. There's cost.
But there is one really key barrier that might help kids overcome all the other ones, and that is competent, consistent coaching by knowledgeable coaches at the real developmental level, that is, in learn-to-skate classes at skating schools.
Now. I have not met all that many coaches who don't know how to teach a proper cross over or three turn (I've met some, but mostly we're all pretty good at these). Nevertheless, I see lots of coaches who don't insist on the standards. Maybe they're passing their own students, since they're going to be fixing stuff in privates anyway (don't ask). Maybe they don't care about kids who aren't their students. Maybe they don't care about any of the students. Maybe they're "cuting" the kid up because they don't want to stand up to the parent, or because they're trying to solicit that parent.
And often, the skating directors let them get away with this stuff.
I seldom see the skating directors at these PSA events. A lot of them aren't even members. After all, what's in it for them? The coaches all had to join finally because USFS muscled them-- join PSA or you can't register your students for tests or competitions. It worked-- nearly every coach I know is now a member of the PSA.
Why not do something like this with the skating directors? You want kids from your facility to be able to register for tests and competitions? Then you have to join the PSA and/or attend continuing education.
But I would not make these educational events the same ones that the coaches get. These would be geared to skating directors, and cover things like staff management, safety issues, ice scheduling, and skating school testing standards. Especially skating school testing standards.
There is a skating management certification called iAIM, run by the Ice Skating Institute, and from all reports its excellent, but it's expensive and is not required by any of the federations. It can't be, because it's expensive. You could, however, require continuing education outside the iAIM certification at lower cost, but carrying a penalty for noncompliance. It worked brilliantly for the coaches.
Skating School directors are probably the least represented and most hidden part of the skating equation-- you hear lots about parents, kids, judges, and coaches. But you never hear about the person guiding all these efforts and herding all these cats.
It's time for USFS and PSA to professionalize this aspect of the industry, and give support to skating directors while also compelling these individuals to acknowledge that they are part of a nationwide industry that needs enforceable standards. Nearly all coaches are required to join PSA at this time, and not joining is pretty much tantamount to saying "I'm never going to have a student advanced enough to test." Why not have this same standard for skating directors? Give skating directors the tools and backup they need to enforce basic skills standards, and keep kids in the sport.
And maybe we'd see more kids getting double axels.