Friday, February 13, 2009

Where are we heading?

July-August 2007, PS Magazine

The image of the coaching profession must improve. Recently, I was talking with a coach from Southern California. She relayed to me that there are unaffiliated coaches in her area who charge up to $95 per lesson. These coaches have neither teaching credentials nor experience, but just charge what the market will bear; more likely what they can get. This is an issue that hurts us all as coaches. Really, why bother to educate ourselves when others do nothing and charge the same or more? The reality of the matter is that if the skating market declines, only those professional coaches who produce quality skaters will survive. Those who misrepresent themselves will find their business shrinking as parents question their professionalism or their child’s lack of progress and performance.
Bob Mock wrote in his March/April 2007 article entitled ‘Is Coaching Figure Skating Still an Honorable Profession’, he states, “…it is our responsibility to approach every day as a new opportunity to raise the standards of coaching.” As usual, Bob’s writings always generate an abundance of debate. One response to Bob’s article was from this coach:

We have had three skating directors in the 10 years that our rink has been open. Each director has continued to successfully build the program where the other has left off. We took pride in our profession and our coaching staff of seven has attended seminars, workshops and the last PSA Conference together. Instructors new to coaching were expected to apprentice in group classes until the director felt they were ready to take on their own class. They would have to teach up to one year in group classes during which time they were expected to attend available seminars/workshops and complete their written exam [basic accreditation] successfully before being eligible to teach private lessons. We earned an [Excellence on Ice] certificate to proudly display in our rink.
Management (a hockey mom driven to be at the rink because of her two children) has decided this year that the rink does not need a Skating Director and has promoted and positioned five teens to start teaching groups classes and now private lessons with no real apprenticing or accreditation all within two months time. One of these teens has now been positioned to run the Learn to Skate classes and now responsible to continue the skate camps and competitions that have been organized and run by experienced and knowledgeable Skating Directors. These girls have given up competing, testing and have not shown any interest in participating or assisting the skating camps or ice shows/productions during the past 2-4 years. Yet, here they are back as if they’ve never left to add respect and credibility to the profession and build the program. The parents of these girls feel that their girls are finally where they belong … entitled to join the coaching staff. There have been many parents who have expressed concern and disappointment to see the direction the Skating School has taken yet management seems intent on proving that these girls can replace the credible coaching staff that has developed respectably during the employment of the past three Skating Directors.

Another story; a coach who handed out her resume complete with a web based article about herself featuring her “professional” relationship with Toller Cranston, complete with a picture of the two. One of the rink moms was curious about Toller and “googled” his name. You can imagine her shock when she found the article and it contained a different name and picture. It was alleged that the coach had photo-shopped her face over the girl in the picture and inserted her own name in place of the girls. I couldn’t confirm this story, but which is worse: the alleged misconduct of the coach or maybe a parent who made up the story. Regardless, all coaches pay the price. I truly wish people would just take responsibility for their own actions. The ice skating world would be a better place. I could say that these are isolated cases but unfortunately, I receive many calls and e-mails each week regarding the behavior of our members.
As discerning as these examples are, not all is lost. We can change. To accomplish that ideal, there will be no one more important than you. Each and every one of us must take up the torch and move forward. For most of us, just being a member of the Professional Skaters Association has shown that we have already chosen to make an investment in our future and to be part of the solution. Investing in your education empowers you to become the best coach that you can be. The time and resources we devote will not only directly increase our value to the skaters, clubs and arenas we represent, but will improve the image of the coaching profession as well.
And finally, it is that positive image that we must sell. Do you promote yourself? The PSA offers a variety of ways to promote and sell you as a competent professional. A PSA accredited coach is certified for basic skills and knowledge. A PSA rated coach has experience and proven skills to earn Registered, Certified, Senior and Master Ratings. PSA regional, national and international rankings are also a useful tool in proving your proficiency. Ratings and Rankings are standardized methods for proving to the consumers that you care enough about them to invest in yourself. How else can you convince them to spend their hard earned money on your professional knowledge?

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