Which of these is a reasonable deadline:
A. Inside 3 turns by June 1
B. All the singles before her next birthday
C. All my students have their axels by age 7
D. None of the above
If you answered D, you are correct.
But I have heard all the other three, and similar ones, and that's just in the past couple of weeks.
As I told one of these people, it's common for skaters to get stuck on specific skills, and deadlines like these are most notorious for being missed. If you, or your coach, are setting deadlines, make sure that they are in your skater's control, and not either misplaced psychology, or something for the coach's ego (that would be answer C, and yes, I know a coach who brags about that. Guess what happens to the kids who ruin her record.)
It is good to set goals as a way both to motivate and to benchmark progress. But deadlines have a way of superseding the actual goal, which is the skill itself. Especially for a skater who is struggling with a skill, that looming deadline can make it worse, not better. "Land the axel" is a goal. "Land the axel by Christmas" for some skaters, is a burden and a threat. I'm not completely opposed to calendar goals, but they should be used cautiously, and not arbitrarily. For instance, "all the singles by your Xth birthday is not a reasonable goal for a 7 1/2 year old who is struggling with back 3 -turns and scissors her waltz jump (i.e. lands with her free foot behind her). It's arbitrary, focusing on the date rather than the quality of the skating.
Comparing your skater's progress to that of other skaters, or setting up the coach's needs as the primary motivation is a terrible thing to do, especially to a young child. It removes her from the equation; the important thing becomes not her progress, but how her lack of it reflects badly on others-- her mother, her coach, her program. This is how you make children hate skating.
More damaging psychology
"Your child can be a champion" is coachese for "I think you have a lot of money for lessons." "I want to make your child a champion, but she has to land her axel by age X" contains the unspoken threat "Or I will dump her" and is particularly egregious when coming from prestige coaches. This sort of thing sets my blood boiling.
Why is that skill so important?
There are skills that inform everything that comes after-- in particular edges, mohawk turns, inside 3s back spin, axel, all must be perfected in order for other skills to follow. But focusing in on a single skill and placing a deadline on it can obfuscate the real problem, especially with kids who have blasted through the basics (which, in my opinion, is another mistake a lot of parents and coaches make-- the idea is not to get through basics as fast as possible, but to get the basics as good as possible).
Difficulty with axels, for instance, can often be traced back to a lousy back spin which can be traced to lousy edges. A coach who is too focused on that "axel by age 7" for instance, may let the skater get away with a bad back spin. Watch a skater who is struggling with the axel enter a back spin sometime-- I'll lay even odds that she's spending too much time on the entry edge and then spinning on her inside edge for 5 or 6 rotations before "catching" the proper outside edge. Slow to get into proper backspin position? Axel is not going to happen, I don't care what your deadline is. Can't do a flip? I'll bet you anything that skater has a spinny salchow and can't check her turns (i.e. closes her free shoulder right after the turn). Rushing to the "sexy" skills on deadline often means cheating the critical basics.
Anyway, it's not your problem
If you're the parent, your child's skating deadlines have absolutely nothing to do with you. Let her/him talk about it if they want, but don't impose deadlines on them, or dwell on those deadlines if the coach has set them. You can't fix it, and you can't motivate or advise your skater into fixing it. Best to sit back and let your skater and the coach work through it.
There are other skills, you know
While axels, or flips, or three-turns, or whatever it is that's holding you up are important, there are so many skills to work on. If you're stuck on a skill, set a certain amount of time to work on it, per lesson or per week, and then move the bleep on. Spending an entire lesson being told, essentially, that you're a failure if you can't do this one skill is pretty much like signing a contract in the blood of virgins to keep you from getting that skill. Double loop giving you trouble? Do ten of them and then practice spirals.
Have you or your skater gotten stuck on a skill? What helped you work through it?