Monday, June 22, 2009

There is No "I" in Team

PS Magazine May/June 2009

Why do some coaches and elite skaters feel they have a sense of entitlement? In the April 2009 International Figure Skating Magazine, a reader wrote a letter to the editor saying, “Shame on U.S. Figure Skating for not naming Johnny Weir to the world team….It is just good old skating politics again.” Is that not what we are trying to get a way from? Is it not the point to let the best skater on that day win? Why do so many of us believe that we are owed something for past production?

Current coach and former US Pairs Champion, World and Olympic team member Melissa Militano was quoted in the same IFS Magazine in an article penned by Tai Babilonia as saying,

I’d like to see a system implemented in which skating associations honor coaches who have reached a certain level of achievement, whether medaling at nationals, Worlds, Olympics or coaching skaters at these levels. We must stay informed of current changes and methods of training, but I find it disrespectful and demeaning to require these credible coaches to be tested and rated in order to participate in U.S.-sanctioned events.

First of all, it is a U.S. Figure skating program that requires coaches to educate themselves. The PSA ratings are a voluntary program. Secondly, I called Melissa to ask her if the quote I attributed to her was accurate. Yes, she told me the comment was accurate. Melissa was very gracious and we had an excellent 30 minute conversation in which we debated her comment. We ended up mostly in agreement, but that leads to what really bothered me about her quote. I am struggling with the words “disrespectful and demeaning.”

Why is it disrespectful that U.S. Figure Skating wants their coaches to understand the current ISU and U.S. Rules? I have a national title from 1977 and 1979… what does that have to do with being a good coach some 30 years later or for that matter understanding anything about the current judging system? All that means is that I have a novice and junior championship. Now by that same token, Melissa has been a member of the PSA since 1995 and has years of coaching experience. That could lead one to say that through experience and a great competitive record she is a “credible” coach. But by who’s barometer? The coaches themselves? Is it possible then, that every foreign coach in the U.S. is credible? They are almost all champions…. where do we draw the line? More importantly, who draws the line? Do we let those with a title “skate” and those without be required to educate themselves? Now from the perspective of coaches who have coached someone at that level. We can argue that point because they have a strong leg to stand on. They have earned their credibility. Those that have multiple skaters over multiple years not only have the credibility but have earned the respect of their peers. There is no comparing of apples to oranges here. You either can coach or not. Your body of work will speak to that. We need to get past the point of “I” and do what’s right for our profession, for all that practice it. The only way to make sure that each and every child is getting the most from their coach is to enforce the rules equitably and without bias. All must participate.

And why do some coaches have a hard time wearing their credentials at competition? This rule has been in force for almost a year. Coaches must be registered with U.S. Figure Skating and pass a criminal background check. Recently at the Southport competition held in Gurnee, Illinois, it was bought to the attention of PSA as well as U.S. Figure Skating that there were approximately “ten coaches who objected to wearing a nametag in the restricted ice entry area--with four of those behaving in a belligerent fashion.” My guess is that if they were wearing their name on their chest they never would have gone off on a set of volunteers who are just trying to do their job. Why is it so hard to understand that we need to do this for the safety of the children! Have they not seen the list of banned coaches? Unfortunately this is not an isolated case. Coaches have been giving LOC volunteers earfuls since Tonya whacked Nancy and security tightened at all events. The days of just walking into a competition is over and we will never go back. We need to follow the rules and start treating these volunteers in a respectful manner.

Men are respectable only as they respect. - Ralph Waldo Emerson