Monday, May 07, 2012

Under the Radar

PS Magazine May/June 2012

A few weeks ago, an e-mail was forwarded through several people, finally making its way to me. The message stated:

I have become aware of several coaches in our area who are flying "under the radar" in regards to the membership, insurance, background check and etc. Looks like it involves the type of coach who justifies it by saying, "I only teach a few hours per week and therefore it doesn't really apply to me". They have been seen coaching at recent test sessions, and are also signing up students for local Basic Skills competitions. Nobody wants to be the bad guy in this situation. The Clubs feel that it is up to the rink management/skating director and vice versa…

Amazingly, while 5,104 coaches can follow the rules, it continues to astonish me that some coaches do, in fact, believe they can fly under the radar. As one of the 5,104 compliant coaches, it upsets me to no end that some coaches believe the rules don’t apply to them. When I was a performer with Disney, I was told by an experienced soloist that it didn’t matter whether there were 10 people in the audience or 10,000…they all paid the same for a ticket. Every person who spent their hard earned money to watch me skate deserved the most I could give…every time! It’s no difference as a coach. We owe it to our skaters to be the very best we can be regardless of how much or what level we teach. The rule that was passed by U.S. Figure Skating should not be considered a punishment. It’s an attempt to provide our skaters with the most educated professionals.

I recently witnessed this phenomenon first hand. My wife, Jamie, and I are co-chairs for our local club competition. One month prior to the competition, we verified the compliancy of the 89 coaches attending our competition. Of those coaches, 7 were not compliant. We sent out e-mails to those coaches and all seven responded. While 6 either became compliant or were compliant under a married name, the 7th coach did not make an effort to become compliant. Over the course of 4 weeks, the non-compliant coach received 7 different e-mails and responded to 5. Each of our messages reiterated the requirements set forth by U.S. Figure Skating. As you can probably guess, the coach showed up anyway, arguing with multiple volunteers and finally the chief referee. In her opinion, since she had been at multiple test sessions and competitions that did not check for credentials, why should she need them here? So we became the bad guys. Following the competition, we sent a thank you to all the coaches and her response was:

To whom it may concern,
My skater and I did NOT have a good experience. This was due to a misunderstanding with CER certification for myself that was poorly handled at two different times by two different people involved with your club. Both times were in front of the skater while she was preparing to test and compete. No apology was given to the skater or myself once the misunderstanding had been cleared. I have already voiced my concerns with the USFSA and I know the parent of the skater intends to do the same. We will not be returning to test or compete at your skating club, nor will we recommend testing or competing to other skaters and coaches from our club.

First of all, thank you, please don’t come back. Secondly, there was no misunderstanding…we communicated with her what she needed to do to be compliant 7 times over 4 weeks! How could she be surprised when approached at the test session and competition about being non-compliant? This coach, who is not currently a member of PSA, was issued an Ethics Violation for Non-Compliance of Coaching Requirements from both PSA and U.S. Figure Skating.

Regarding an apology, if anyone should be giving an apology, it should be the coach to her student for creating a situation that she had every opportunity to prevent. Unbelievably and what really strikes me as funny is that she had one skater there and guess what? The skater…WAS CATEGORY B COMPLIANT! How embarrassing is that!

I wish this was an isolated occurrence, but it’s not. While “under the radar coaches” exist, they continue to exist because there are clubs that just don’t put forth the effort to enforce. While PSA is reviewing the coaching lists at as many competitions as we can, we need your help. All coaches can help change the culture and attitude about continuing education, a standard in many professions. The reality is that it is both an honor and privilege to coach at a U.S. Figure Skating event, not a right.

1 comment:

Val said...

Way to go Jimmie! These coaches put volunteer competition/test chairs in a very hard place. We are volunteering our time to the sport, unlike the coaches. We are required to enforce the rules to maintain our sanction, and this is their professional organization's rules; not ours. Unfortunately in every arena there are those who try to fly "under the radar", but Southport Skating Club is one small club that works hard to zone in on those bypassing the rules by making them tow the line or not allowing them to coach at our tests/competitions.