Choosing a Coach Part 2

Skating gifts & accessoriesChoosing a coach is an extremely difficult process and there are many things to take under consideration.  In the previous post we talked about personality, strengths, and credentials but there is much more to consider when choosing a coach.  We also need to think about finances, availability, and standards.

In most places figure skating coaches choose their own rates.  Usually the higher the credentials of a coach the more they charge.  Quality over quantity is important to keep in mind when choosing a coach based on their rate.  I have known many people who choose a low level coach with a low rate over a high level coach with a more expensive rate because they will be able to afford a longer lesson time.  In their minds a longer lesson equals more improvement.  More often than not, a student will learn more in a shorter lesson with a high level coach than in a long lesson with a low level coach.  The money can even be wasted when spent on the lower level coach because they can only progress so much with how they are taught.

All coaches bill differently but the majority of coaches bill on a monthly basis.  DO NOT PREPAY COACHES! There are exceptions to prepaying, but unfortunately there are greedy and sneaky coaches who ask advances that can end up being weeks and even months out.  Those lessons never end up happening and the money is lost.

Every coach has a different schedule and a different life outside of skating.  Some coaches live and breathe for skating and are at every competition, test session, and available practice.  Other coaches have families or other jobs and are not as available as other coaches.  Before choosing a coach, ask their availability not only for lessons but for weekend events.  This reason is not a make or break situation for choosing a coach but it is good to know in advance and be aware if the coach is always around or not.  It is better to ask and to know what to expect than to find out later on and be upset the coach is not able to attend certain events.

All coaches have a different style of coaching and with their different styles comes their level of standard.  Some coaches may let things slide such as posture, toe pointing, or wearing a hooded sweatshirt to practice.  Some coaches can be very strict with how you are dressed during a practice session.  Their level of standards on how you look when you come to the rink often resemble their coaching styles.  Competitive coaches are stricter on their standards than a recreational coach who doesn’t care if you wear jeans a hoodie to practice.

Coaches standards are not only with attire but with how the skater skates.  You can usually tell their standard by the majority of the coaches students and how polished their presence is on the ice.  Toe pointing, extension, posture, and flow are all things that need to be reminded to the skaters constantly.  Coaches with a lower standard don’t care about this and don’t emphasize it enough for the skater to make the correction.

Competitions and testing are another good indicator.  Some coaches make sure that their students are extremely prepared for the test or competitions where as other coaches have the approach, “we will see what happens.”  Neither approach is wrong.  It is a matter of personal preference what works with the skaters personality and what you are hoping to achieve from the event.

The list could go on and on about how to choose a coach.  Some reasons you can find out before hand and some things you may not realize until after you have had a few lessons with the coach.  If you start out with one coach and it isn’t working don’t feel like you have to stay with that coach.  Try another coach until you are happy with the work relationship.  Your coach needs to fit well into your life.  If they do, then you have found your coach.

Finding a Coach Part 1

Figure Skating Coaching Blog PostStarting out in skating can be incredibly confusing.  How much should you be on the ice, how many competitions to compete in, group lessons or private lessons?  One of the biggest and most crucial questions is how to find a coach.  There are hundreds of coaches out there and although most clubs only have a few to choose from, you have to find the right coach for you.    If you are skating for fun, if you want to be competitive, if you want to join a professional ice show, or if you want to become a coach knowing which direction you would like to take in skating will help narrow down your search for a coach.
If you want to be competitive look for a coach who has trained to compete or has competed at a national or international level.  These coaches will have more knowledge than a coach who had never competed.  If you want to join an ice show, look for a coach who has performed in ice shows.  If you want to become a coach, shadow multiple different coaches.  Most coaches have a preference of what they feel comfortable coaching.  If you can find a rink that team coaches, you are in luck and should take advantage of this situation.  Many coaches are not willing to team coach because they are insecure about their coaching abilities and don’t want their students to work with anyone else.  Coaches who don’t want their students going to camps are often worried that if their students work with other coaches and make progress that those students will realize that the coach they have is not coaching them correctly or in a way that they will understand.  I believe that great coaches allow their students to work with other reputable coaches and should encourage them to attend to skating camps.  Many coaches are saying the same thing to a skater but every coaches words it differently.  One way of saying it may resonate more with the skater which is why working with different coaches can be so beneficial.
Its hard to believe but qualified coaches are hard to come by.  It is sad and although there are many nice coaches and a lot that may look good on paper; I have seen multiple coaches who lie about their credentials and extremely exaggerate in order to make themselves look more qualified.  The levels they have passed themselves is a secure guideline to how good of a skater they are/were and their knowledge of jumps, spins, dance, etc.  There are amazing coaches who have not passed tests but are still more than capable of coaching higher levels; however, these coaches tend to have more experience in other areas not on the ice.  They are committed coaches and have usually gone to camps, clinics, studied hours of videos, shadowed other coaches and have gone to seminars.  Ask the coaches about their other experience, who they trained with, what coaches they have worked with etc.  Many coaches in smaller cities have only worked with 1 coach their entire life and although they are confident they may not be very qualified.  If they have skated in a show with a famous skater, ask them details about the show.  I have seen resumes where coaches say they skated in a show with a famous skater.  In reality they did skate in a show with them, but it was a club show or a show where they didn’t need to try out and then they only skated in a group finale number.  It is awesome experience yes, but stating it as they skated in a show with a famous skater can be misleading.  Ask questions and get details.  If the coaches are reputable, they will be more than happy to share details.
A coach can have a huge impact in a students life due to the amount of time they spend together.  It is important to find a coach who is a role model and has a good attitude.  Take deep consideration if you are working with a coach or are thinking about choosing a coach who yells, make their students cry, or show signs of anger.  Do you really want to skate or have your child skate with someone who yells and is angry?  There is a difference between being tough on a skater and being down right mean to a skater.  Coaches can be tough on the skater in a calm way.  There is no reason to hit the boards or yell so much at the skater they cry.  The coaches personalities can rub off on the skater.  If the coach is stressed the skater may get stressed.  If the coach is calm, the skater tends to be more calm.  Would you rather be stressed or calm before competitions or test sessions?
Some personalities don’t mix, period.  There are some people who just get a long better than others and it is the same when finding a coach.  If you have a coach or are looking into a coach that you don’t get along with you should probably look for someone else.  Even if they are a great coach, how much are you going to respect or listen to them if you don’t like them?
There are countless things to take into consideration when trying to find a coach and these are just a few.  It is a big decision trying to find a coach, and although the options may not be bountiful it is still important to weigh the options.

Fat or Fit? Its How You Feel

Figure Skating Body Image

“This makes me look fat!” When you read this, who do you picture saying that? A 30 year old? A 20 year old? Maybe a teenager? Try a 9 year old!  A skater at our rink was trying on dresses during a test session this past Friday and she put on a gorgeous white lace long sleeved dress scattered with rhinestones and a soft chiffon skirt.  Her mom and I both agreed it was a must have dress.  She looked absolutely stunning like a little barbie doll in it.  The 9 year girl then said 3 words that left me stunned. “I look fat.”  Her mother was extremely upset and began to tell me how her daughter has gotten it in her head that she is fat and now refuses to eat. 9 YEARS OLD!

Figure skaters struggling with eating disorders is a whole other subject, but figure skaters no matter how old, need to understand body perception.  Your perception of how you look effects how you feel and your actions.  Someone who is comfortable in their own skin usually has better presentation.  They stand up straighter, chin is up, and are wearing a smile on their face.  Someone with low self confidence on the other hand will be more likely to be hunched over, looking down, and showing no emotion.  Figure skaters need to be proud of who they are and show it off to the world.  We spend hours upon hour training and too often how we perceive ourselves or our fear of how others perceive us inhibits us from performing to our fullest potential.  You are being judged on how you perform, not on what you weigh.  If you feel good about yourself you will skate with better performance.  So pull your shoulders back, stand tall, and own the ice because you are beautiful!

Sometimes we may not even realize that when we speak to others we bring attention to others body images.  I have heard and probably said myself, the really skinny skater or the heavier set skater when describing someone.  To someone who is struggling with their body image or self confidence they will immediately begin to wonder who they are more like.  For parents, coaches, and skaters it is important to be conscious when speaking to others to try to avoid comparing body images.  You never know who is struggling with how they feel, and they don’t need any more reminders for fuel to keep burning their fire.

It is very easy, too easy, to become self conscious of your body type in this sport.  Unlike team sports, every skater wears a different outfit.  Unlike team jerseys, these outfits are form fitting and show off any bump, lump, or roll.  It is only you on the ice being the center of attention in a tight dress.  We as skaters need to take pride in our image.  We get to put on fancy dresses and get all dolled up.  We should be strutting around showing it off instead of looking for a sweater to cover up.  Team sports compare themselves to other teams as a whole where figure skaters compare each other as individuals.  Often times skaters compare their bodies to their competitors.  Skaters need to remember to focus on the skating not the image.  Everyone has a different body type and is built differently.  You could try the craziest diets in the world but it won’t make your legs longer, it won’t make you grow a few inches, and it won’t change your body type.  You are you and not someone else for a reason.  Own your body and love who you are.

A skaters body is our tool for success, not an object to be posed in a magazine.  If you want to pose be a model instead of a figure skater.  Skaters have muscles for a reason, and having muscles does not mean you are fat.  Those muscles allow you to perform.  Perform with presentation and be proud of how you look.  Beauty doesn’t have a weight limit.


Not-So Supporting Schools

Pink Figure Skate in Book Not Supporting SchoolsI want to start out by saying that this is not aimed towards all schools or teachers.  There are many wonderful teachers and schools who are doing amazing work in shaping the lives of tomorrows future.  This article is about the ignorant teachers and principals that let their personal opinions stand in the way of what is in the best interest for the students.  It’s sad to see some schools deny their students opportunities that can lead to wonderful opportunities and achievements in their futures.

We have heard it before, skating is not a sport.  No, it is not a school sanctioned sport, but that does mean it is not sport.  I strongly believe that although it is not a school sanctioned sport, students who figure skate should get the same rights as students who play sanctioned sports.  Students in volleyball, track, basketball, etc are allowed to leave school in order to attend meets and events.  Depending on the teachers and principals, figure skaters are not so lucky to have that privilege.  By not allowing students to leave for non school sanctioned sporting events, what is that teaching us about being different and going for your dreams?  It is like telling the students you have the option of being a scientist, mathematician, geographer or english teacher because that is all they teach at school.  Anything else is not allowed.  Students should have the option to be whatever they want to be and play whatever sports they want to play even if the school doesn’t offer that sport.

I have seen it in schools and experienced it myself (and fought tooth and nail to overturn the ruling) that skaters are not allowed to leave for competitions or extra training.  Some teachers and principals understand and allow it and I commend and appreciate those who do.  Those who deny it; however, I am disgusted by.  Teachers have a huge influence on a students life.  I distinctly remember, and always will, the two (yes only 2 from grade 1-12) that believed in me and supported my skating.  If a student is learning in your class and achieving good grades, why should they not be allowed to leave?  I understand not allowing the child to leave school if their grades are failing, but if their grades are high then what is the harm? Letting them attend their event not only allows them to do what they love, but it will also teach them about time management, balance, and independence.  If they are away and not in school, they still need to finish their homework and study on their own.  Balancing skating and school together is quite an accomplishment and they should be rewarded instead of punished for it.  Teacher or no teacher, anyone that denies a child a chance to better themselves should be ashamed.

I can guarantee that if a student makes it to the Olympics or if they get any name recognition in their sport all of a sudden their school is proud and supports them.  When it comes to actually putting in the time and training the athlete only gets flak and the school makes it difficult for them.  It is only when they are successful that certain schools want to share in their success.

If you are dealing with non supportive teachers or principals, do not let it affect you’re skating or hold you back from your dreams.  Voice your concerns and problems you are having.  Plan a meeting with the superintendent, attend school board meetings, have your coach speak with your principal or teachers.  Do anything and everything you can in order to address the situation.  You can also look into independent studies in school so you will not have to associate with any teacher that is giving you difficulty.  Just because a teacher is stubborn about their opinion doesn’t mean it should or can prevent you from furthering you’re skating.

Teachers and schools have a huge impact on a students life.  I am deeply bitter towards school and many of the teachers who taught me growing up.  How they acted and the things they said towards not believing in my skating, that it wasn’t a sport, I was wasting my time, etc was just plain wrong.  I am now coaching students who are facing the same challenges and to see them having to struggle through it is incredibly painful.  I had the mindset to prove everyone wrong, but there are many students out there who will not be that strong and will give up instead.  Teachers can either make or break an athletes future.  Don’t let your teacher hold you back from following your dreams.


Injuries Are a Bump not a Road Closed

You have been training hard and you are at your peak! Your jumps are solid, spins are fast, and every movement you make feels natural.  And then BAM, an injury takes you out.  Unfortunately in life there are unpredictable injuries.  There are countless exercises and percautions that can be taken to avoid getting hurt, but that doesn’t always stop fate from intervening.  The injury might not even happen skating, but it can still effect or prevent you from performing in your sport.  The discouragement from the set back of an injury is often times the reason why skaters hang up their skates.donjoy-double-strap-ankle-wrap_3

There are hardships, set backs, and just plain bad luck in everyone lives.  It is incredibly discouraging when you’re skating is going so well to have it interrupted by an injury.  Whether it is an injury that takes you away for a week or a year it can take a toll on your mental health.  The injury is preventing you from doing what  you love and what identifies you.  I am a skater, but with an injury that keeps me off the ice what am I?

Some skaters find it easier to quit skating from due to an injury to protect themselves from the pain of trying to get back to the level they were performing at.  Some view it as “I wasted all of that time training just to get injured.” The successful skaters view it as “I spent all of that time training and I learned what to do and what not to do.  I can come back even stronger this time.”

Some skaters may encounter serious injuries that prevent them from doing everything they once were able to do, but that doesn’t mean they have to give up on skating forever.  If you are no longer able to do freestyle, you can still do ice dance, moves in the field, professional shows (you do not need to jump in all of the shows) or coach.  The possibilites in skating are endless.  Just because you have an injury doesn’t mean the road is closed.  You may just need to take a detour or create a new path to follow.

Every injury is just a bump in the road that is a learning experience.  An injury is not a reason to quit; it is an excuse.  Try not to let the injury be a failure, but instead make it your reason to be stronger.  You shouldn’t want someone or something to tell you when to quit something you are passionate about.  You are the only one who should decide if you are going to hang up your skates.  It may not be easy recovering from an injury, but if you love it there is always a way to have skating in your life.

You Are the Only Judge

Better Than Yourself Figure Skating PrintIt kills me to see skaters so proud of themselves for how they skated and then be crushed when the results are posted.  They could have a great skate for themselves and be on cloud 9 until they see their name posted at the bottom of the list.  Competitions are a wonderful way to gain motivation to see how you can improve based on others, but in the end you should be your only judge.

You never know how much time, commitment, money and training anyone else in your group has put in.  All you know is what you have done and how far you have come.  If you haven’t trained as hard as you could have, you know you need to for next time.  If you have trained as hard as you could, then you should be happy knowing you gave it your all.  Many times skaters don’t realize how much the other skaters in their group train.  Instead of getting discouraged from your placement be encouraged by it to train harder and stronger for next time.

Skaters continuously are moving up in levels and it is always hard to compete the first time at a higher level.  It is often times a learning experience and you may not win right out of the gates.  Again, you need to remember that other skaters may have been in that level for a few years or have been working on the harder jumps for more years.  If it is your first time competing at a new level, learn from the other skaters and see what you could improve on.  Most importantly, remember how much you have improved instead of comparing yourself to others when you don’t know their history.

Below are a few great examples of reasons to stop comparing yourself to others written by Joshua Becker

  1. Comparisons are always unfair. We typically compare the worst we know of ourselves to the best we presume about others.
  2. You have nothing to gain, but much to lose. For example: your pride, your dignity, your drive, and your passion.
  3. There is no end to the possible number of comparisons. The habit can never be overcome by attaining success. There will also be something—or someone—else to focus on.
  4. Comparison puts focus on the wrong person. You can control one life—yours. But when we constantly compare ourselves to others, we waste precious energy focusing on other peoples’ lives rather than our own.
  5. Comparisons often result in resentment. Resentment towards others and towards ourselves.
  6. Comparisons deprive us of joy. They add no value, meaning, or fulfillment to our lives. They only distract from it.

More reasons found out

Everyone trains differently.  Everyone performs differently under pressure.  And everyone goes out and tries their best.  That is all you can do is go out and try your best.  Even if the placement is not what you had hoped for, just remember how you skated in the past.  If you have improved since the last time, you are a winner no matter what the paper results read.

Regionals Ready

Breathe Figure Skating Poster“Sometimes you just need to relax and know that everything is going to be okay”

Regionals is right around the corner and with that comes preparation.  More often than not, I see skaters around the rink training their programs like crazy a day or two before traveling to the big competition. Every time I see them doing a program run or drilling their jumps without doing exercises I scream inside “WHY!?”  Doing your program over and over breaking down every little step the week before Regionals is NOT going to help.  When in preparation for a big competition the only thing that can help the week of is to prepare yourself mentally.

In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, habits can take on average up to 2 months to form.  This means that if you haven’t been landing your jumps consistently or running through your program to fix certain habits for more than 2 months before you compete, running it 200 times the week of the competition will not help.  Running the program over and over may help your endurance, but it won’t keep you on your feet any better than sitting on the couch would.  Instead, try doing program runs to focus more on you’re breathing or the key words you use before the jumps.  The week of the competition should almost feel relaxed and at ease.  You want to slow everything down in you’re skating because once the adrenaline hits you will be in overdrive and rushing into everything.

Adrenaline not only makes us rush going into our jumps and spins but it also makes us do things we are not used to doing.  All of the sudden there are people watching and you feel like you have to perform.  Your smile and expression gets a little bigger and your presentation gets a little stronger.  That is all fine and dandy until you are about to set up into a jump or a spin.  How often do you go into your jumps with your head held high in the air and a huge grin on your face during practice?  If you do, all the power to you! For most people; however, they are intensely focused going into jumps and they are not smiling.  It is important to be aware of your presentation, facial expression and where your focuses points are during the program runs.  Most skaters hate to perform with facial expression during practice because they feel “stupid.”  Having great expression during practice not only looks better but it will prepare you much more for the competition.

Practicing breathing is another very important act that needs to be trained before Regionals.  The week before the competition is a great time to run the program with single jumps and primarily focus and practice where you are going to take breathes during the program.  We are all guilty of holding our breathes when we compete.  I never remember breathing during my earlier competitive days! Adding choreographed breathes into the program can make a world of a difference.  Those deep breathes not only help our endurance but it assists us in slowing down and relaxing.  Try taking a deep breathe and saying your key words before going into a jump.  This helps us take our time going into the jump and gives us the highly needed moment of focus prior to take off.

Months and years are spent training for your 1:30-4:30 minutes to prove it all.  With that one short chance, the stress can be high and shatter all of your hard work.  Too many times I see coaches or parents stressing the skater out the week of the competition.  Some parents think it is helpful to have tough love to motivate the skater and remind them how much money and time they put into the sport.  It may seem like a form of motivation, but it just adds more stress the skater.  The skater starts performing for other people instead of themselves.  Coaches also tend to get stressed because their skaters are representing them and they have also dedicated many hours to the skater.  Many coaches let their stress out by yelling at their students and pushing them intensely in their training the week before or week of the competition.  For parents and coaches, this is the time to sit back and be calm and supportive.  If the coach or the parent is stressed, the skater will probably get stressed which will then effect their performance.  I am sure you have all seen the skaters who are phenomenal in practice and then right before the competition the stress gets to them and they can’t land or do anything.  Those skaters are the perfect examples that skating is equally a mental sport as it is a physical sport.

Months prior to Regionals you want to be training your program both mentally and physically.  The week of the competition you especially want to be training your mind and your focus to be positive.  Running your program over and over, drilling all of your jumps, breaking down each step of the program will only put stress on you.  You know you are capable of performing your program or you would not be signed up to compete.  So breathe, relax.  You know you can do it, so go out and perform your program just like have you been in practice.