Feb 10, 2013

Another soliciting post

Or, can the coach even talk to the parents of someone else's student?

In a word, yes.

And no.

The Professional Skaters Association  does not actually have an official definition of soliciting or tampering. They have examples, and admonishments not to do it, but nowhere in their Tenets of Professionalism can I find an actual definition.

I'll give it a shot-- soliciting is seeking to acquire a student who already has a coach. Tampering is seeking to undermine an existing coaching relationship (in other words, soften 'em up before moving on to soliciting). These are done clandestinely, as opposed to simple promotion or advertising, which are things like this blog, ads in programs, fliers or listing yourself in the PSA directory.

Most of my email comes from parents concerned that a coach is soliciting their child (or flattered that a coach seems to be soliciting their child). They want to know what to do about it.

And frankly, don't do anything about it. Below the rarified air of medal contenders, parents really have no obligations beyond getting the best coach for their child. You are not bound by the ethical considerations of the coaches. While you don't want to be seen to be constantly coach-shopping, there is nothing ethically stopping you, the parent, from talking to anyone, about anything.

No other teaching profession has rules against trying to get students, even someone else's student, and no other teaching profession makes the parents feel like they have to police it.

A coach who engages in the following types of behaviors-- telling other parents/coaches that she'd take on your kids in a heartbeat, constantly telling you how talented your child is, having her parents tell you that your coach is teaching Skill X wrong-- is definitely soliciting or tampering by the PSA non-definition.

A coach who is teaching your child in class and tells you that your child has technique problems is not soliciting or tampering, unless he goes on to say that you should switch coaches. He is also your child's coach and is entitled to an opinion.

And yes, coaches who seek other people's students are obnoxious slime. But here's the thing.

You cannot solicit a skater away from an unwilling parent.  If you don't want to switch coaches, then don't worry about what other coaches and parents are saying. If you are at all susceptible to the talk, then you probably aren't 100% happy with your coach anyway. The reasons for this don't matter. You might think the relationship could be better. You might notice that your coach doesn't have the best skaters (careful with this, there are lots of reasons for it). You might feel more secure with a popular coach, or a "top" coach (no judgement-- these are legitimate reasons to choose a coach).

And if someone is talking behind your coach's back, I would just not get involved unless you really want to switch.


  1. "there is nothing ethically stopping you, the parent, from talking to anyone, about anything"

    True. Except, if you try to talk to a coach who is not your primary coach, about your skater. Then you discover that "I'm not allowed to comment, it's against PSA rules" seems to be the skating version of "company policy won't allow me to give a reference". Meaning, "I'd love to tell you how bad that coach is for your kid but PSA won't let me". I've noticed that PSA rules never stop a coach from complimenting another coach.

    1. And this is why they had to institute the middle level called "tampering" which is what coaches started doing to get around the Everybody's a Fabulous Coach rule.

  2. I frequently hear "your Suzie is so talented I'm surprised she's not up to X level before now". Maternal ego makes it hard to be certain if it's subtle tampering or flagging a possible problem.

  3. Anon - look at the speaker..what do they have to gain?

    As for the level, the best way to get an answer is to ask your coach. They should be able to tell you clearly "Suzie has really strong spins and jumps, but she toe pushes and needs to work on edges before moving up. We are working on x to improve her skating skills. When she practices on her own, encourage her to work on x." Or maybe the coach says, "I focus on ISI, in addition I work with Coach Y who focuses in USFS. Would you like me to talk to Coach Y and see if we can work together with Suzie?"

    You just don't know until you ask your coach. ~meg

    1. This is such good advice. Ask. Your. Coach!