But in many programs, junior coaches are just left on their own: no education requirements (even though there are lots of opportunities from ISI, PSA, and USFS). No mentoring. Sometimes they're put on classes by themselves. Sometimes their own coaches use them as subs-- how would you like to pay for the highly credentialed freestyle coach and end up with the inexperienced junior instead? Happens all the time.
Coaches that I have spoken about this with almost universally tell me (sometimes rather patronizingly) that "kids learn how to coach from taking lessons". So, I've been to second grade, I guess that means I'm qualified to teach second grade? And that's how old some of these kids were when they learned these skills "in lessons". I remember when my daughter started teaching and came home one day asking, how in the world do you teach a swizzle? Because she had learned it when she was 3--for her, it was like trying to explain to someone how to breathe.
I can't think of another profession where you jump from student to pro with no training in between.
The Professional Skaters Association is working on the problem through programs like Excellence on Ice, where rinks get benefits if the entire staff are PSA members, through the Entry Level Coaching Course and Apprentice Program, and through a comprehensive national education program. But until rinks insist on teaching credentials and not just skating credentials, you might not even know if you've got the pro or the junior.
Several years ago, at the request of my Skating Director, who knew I was interested in this issue, I created a Junior Coaching course. Being able to implement this is one of the reasons I've always wanted that Master Group credential from the PSA-- so that I could work with young coaches on this. Sadly I never got to implement it, as that SD left and the new one was not interested in training her junior coaches.
But I have continued to tweak the program in hopes that someday, someone will implement it. The basic outline of the course is as follows:
- Have passed at a minimum the in-class ISI FS 4 or USFS FreeSkate 4 test.
- Be at least 14 years of age.
- Have a signed parental waiver.
- Have a recommendation from a coach.
- Arrange an on-staff “mentor” among the professional coaching staff.
- Be an individual member of the Ice Skating Institute or USFS Basic Skills, and join the Professional Skaters Association at the appropriate level.
- Attend an Orientation Session.
- Be available for a minimum of 4 hours up to a maximum of 10 hours per week, including at least one peak class session.
- Be available for each entire session.
- Attend at least one ISI, USFS, or PSA training seminar every 6 months.
- Participate in ice show rehearsals for Tot and Pre Alpha levels in any capacity deemed necessary by the Pro in charge.
- Work at the annual competition, including trial judging.
- Clock 10 hours (about 1 session) of supervised coaching at a given level before handling a class at that level on his/her own as a Junior Coach.
Junior coaches would receive Community Service credit hours, discounts for rink programs, and priority in hiring over other similarily-qualified applicants, once they had audited or taught in at least 4 different levels, and had booked 100 hours in any combination of assigned classes or events, private lessons in instruction technique, audited classes, seminars, ISI or USFSA tests taken.
Sadly, I know of only one rink that has anything approaching this comprehensive a junior coaching program, and rumor has it that this much-vaunted program is more honored in the breach than in actual reality.
Does your rink have a comprehensive junior coaching program?