About this time each year, coaches have returned from Regionals; the culmination of 12 months of blood, sweat and tears. The skilled (parents perspective) or lucky (fellow coaches perspective) coaches are continuing the competitive season, getting ready for Jr. Nationals or for Sectionals, but unfortunately most are planning for next year. Being a Chicago Cub fan, I have always been a huge believer in next year.
Each year after Regionals, I would always take a step back, evaluating not only my students’ weaknesses and strengths, but the strengths and weaknesses of my own coaching philosophy and technique. This self evaluation was critical in my improvement as a coach. How many coaches actually go through this process of self evaluation? If you were a believer of the 20-60-20 theory (20% does the work, 20% won’t work, and 60% row with the current) referenced in my first editorial in the July/August issue of PS Magazine, I would say 20 percent or even less. Why would we think that only our students are making mistakes? Is it possible that some coaches will misinterpret the rules for the IJS or maybe have a fatal flaw in a jump technique?
A popular buzz word for evaluation is critical thinking. Critical thinking: who, what, where, and why of the thought process. Who will help me improve? Where is my technique lacking? Why do my skaters cheat jumps? This process allowed me to set goals and to create a plan to improve my teaching skills. To improve as a coach, you MUST WANT to improve as a coach. And that means doing whatever it takes to learn. I continue to preach about attending continuing educational programs. “Give a man a fish; feed him for a day. Teach him to fish; feed him for life.”
In response, I continue to hear how difficult it is to attend, how expensive it is to participate. The income of many professional coaches is tied to the performance of their skaters at competition. Most would agree that the week after Regionals can be the most nerve-racking. A poor performance or placement gets coaches fired. One skater who takes a lesson a day would cost a loss of over $5000 annually ($60 per hour). THAT is expensive!
Our skaters go through a rigorous testing procedure to qualify to compete at a particular level. Our judges and officials go through schools and test annually to achieve their various appointments and are annually re-tested to keep those appointments. Interesting thought when you think about it. Skaters pay for the privilege; Judges give up most of their vacation time, volunteer to judge…the only professionals are the coaches and many choose to have no training at all or, if at all, want it for free. I just don’t understand why coaches don’t want to get better or at least SHARE their knowledge with their peers. As professionals it is time to give back to the group. Get involved. You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem.