Coach wants exclusivity | Golden Skate

Coach wants exclusivity

sampaguita

Rinkside
Joined
Jan 24, 2013
I'm in a dilemma. I've been attending a group adult class, as well as taking private lessons with my primary coach. I've been stuck on elements with my primary coach, and have found some corrections by the coaches in the group adult class to be helpful. While my primary coach's technique aligns more with what more top-level coaches advocate, the corrections by the group class coaches have helped me more in my elements, despite their techniques being different from the primary coach's. So I asked my primary coach if I could take extra lessons with the other coaches to accelerate my progress. My plan was, learn the technique from the primary coach, and have the other coaches work on corrections, as needed, that my primary coach couldn't provide. The other coaches also have cheaper rates and are fine with shorter lessons on an as-needed basis, so financially, this works for me.

The problem is: primary coach refused. She also did not want me to take skating skills classes with the dance coach at my rink. In a nutshell, she said it's better if I just take lessons with her.

I learn best with multiple sources of information (I know how to work around conflicting techniques -- at the end of the day, it's about which would work most efficiently for my body), unless my coach has excellent technique and really matches my learning style (and that has happened only with one former coach many years ago, so very rare for me). I don't know about the coaches' politics (I try to stay away from it), but I find the exclusivity thing exasperating. Do I keep my coach who can show me how something should be done but has difficulty pointing out why I can't do it? Or do I switch to a coach who is very good at pointing out why something is not working, but whose technique is less efficient than the primary coach? I don't see why I can't keep both if they have available time slots.

Is this really what skating culture is like?

EDIT: I realized it may be weird to imagine how I can use corrections from a coach with a different technique to another. So just as an example: group class coach teaches the loop jump to be a shallower edge with a twist rather than a deep edge at takeoff (the latter is more efficient for me), but she was able to point out my free leg swinging and how I can correct that.
 
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christy

On the Ice
Joined
Jun 17, 2014
You've posted a couple of times about issues with your current coach, and from your posts it sounds like it may not a good fit. There are a lot of politics around coaching and changing coaches, and a lot of coaches do ask for exclusivity or work within a team, but tbh the majority of adult skaters aren't going to the Olympics and really just want to learn new stuff and progress. If you feel that you work better with a different coach then it may be time for a change, but you will probably be unable to return to the original coach if things don't work out.
 

silver.blades

Medalist
Joined
Jan 4, 2007
Country
Canada
This kind of thing happens quite a lot in skating. At the club I used to coach at, coaches were so territorial that they would pull their skaters out of the club arranged group lessons to work on their own to make sure they were the only person teaching their skaters. I find this is most common at lower levels. Once skaters become more advanced, most coaches specialize and therefore it's more common to have a different coach in different disciplines. However, if they're a freeskate coach, they won't let their skaters near another freeskate coach. Skating culture can get very nasty.

I personally believe that it's good for my skaters to spend some time with other coaches. As you say, different coaches offer different things and can often be complementary to each other.

As to your situation, you're the one who ultimately has to make the call based on what is best for you and your development as a skater. My two-cents? Give a new coach a go for a bit. If your current coach has difficulty pointing out errors in your technique so you can correct them, then that coach probably isn't the best option for you. Teaching/demonstrating the skills isn't unimportant, but a big part of a coach's job is to identify errors in technique to improve the elements. If a coach can't do this for you, then they're only giving you half of what you need.
 

WednesdayMarch

Final Flight
Joined
Mar 24, 2019
Country
United-Kingdom
It doesn't matter how good a coach's technique, if they can't actually teach it to you - and that includes giving corrections - then they're not a good coach. Teaching requires knowing 50 different ways to say the same thing and being able to work out several more if necessary. I'd be looking seriously at your relationship and progress with your primary coach and asking yourself if you would get better value from a different one.

I do know of coaches who are seriously territorial about "their" skaters. Strangely enough, none of them are actually top class coaches. Or even very good, despite the airs they give themselves...
 

Ic3Rabbit

Patineuse élite et professionnelle
Record Breaker
Joined
Jan 9, 2017
Country
Olympics
Find a coach that knows how to teach as well as correct your skating in many different ways and can follow up on it, and will also let you work with other coaches mostly the dance coach on the side w/o feeling offended. Drop your current coach once you've locked in the others.

Good luck!
 

spinningdancer

Rinkside
Joined
Feb 27, 2020
IMO a coach who wants an extreme level of exclusivity is not good. Is she a dance coach? If not, then she shouldn't have a problem with you working with a dance coach, even if it's on skating on skills and not dance, as dance coaches tend to teach from a slightly different perspective. When I was growing up, I had 4 coaches at one point, and they all were ok with me taking lessons from the others. Some of them weren't exactly best friends with each other, but they knew that at a professional level, they had different skill sets and it was good for skaters to train with not just them.
 

WednesdayMarch

Final Flight
Joined
Mar 24, 2019
Country
United-Kingdom
IMO a coach who wants an extreme level of exclusivity is not good. Is she a dance coach? If not, then she shouldn't have a problem with you working with a dance coach, even if it's on skating on skills and not dance, as dance coaches tend to teach from a slightly different perspective. When I was growing up, I had 4 coaches at one point, and they all were ok with me taking lessons from the others. Some of them weren't exactly best friends with each other, but they knew that at a professional level, they had different skill sets and it was good for skaters to train with not just them.
This. 100% this.
 

Lutz Mark

Rinkside
Joined
Aug 1, 2022
Country
Canada
I feel like your current coach has two strikes against them. First is that they don't seem to be able get some techniques across to you, and second is that they demand such exclusivity. And maybe even a third, because I feel as a coach it would be good for their own benefit to see and learn new coaching techniques by observing how other coaches approached different problems.

One thing you could do is insist on persuing what you feel is right for you and not necessarily because of them (attending other classes for example) and let the coach decide whether they want to part or not.

As to your loop jump, has your current coach tried different entries to the jump? It can make a big difference with that jump. I've had coaches teach it from crossovers, inside c-step, and three turns and they all make the jump feel a bit different (I wasn't really comfortable with it until taught from the inside c-step). Maybe ask them to teach you different entries?
 

sampaguita

Rinkside
Joined
Jan 24, 2013
I thought I'd give an update in case other people encounter a similar dilemma in the future.

I decided to be an independent skater, i.e., to have no primary coach. I've also done this by the (USFS) book: inform my coach first that I would like to transition to being an independent skater before talking to a few other coaches for scheduling. I've always known this was a really risky thing to do (drop coach first before looking for a new one), but I've reached the point where I've done everything I could and was willing to take the risk. I'll also continue taking group lessons in the meantime. Hopefully it'll all work out.

I may get a primary coach in the future if I find someone whom I can work well with, but this experience has taught me to pick a coach who's okay with me getting external instruction, especially on elements where I get stuck.

Thank you to everyone for all the advice. So much coaching drama this summer but I look forward to skating again in the fall.
 

spinningdancer

Rinkside
Joined
Feb 27, 2020
I thought I'd give an update in case other people encounter a similar dilemma in the future.

I decided to be an independent skater, i.e., to have no primary coach. I've also done this by the (USFS) book: inform my coach first that I would like to transition to being an independent skater before talking to a few other coaches for scheduling. I've always known this was a really risky thing to do (drop coach first before looking for a new one), but I've reached the point where I've done everything I could and was willing to take the risk. I'll also continue taking group lessons in the meantime. Hopefully it'll all work out.

I may get a primary coach in the future if I find someone whom I can work well with, but this experience has taught me to pick a coach who's okay with me getting external instruction, especially on elements where I get stuck.

Thank you to everyone for all the advice. So much coaching drama this summer but I look forward to skating again in the fall.
Sounds like the right move for you. I've never heard of it being risky to drop a coach before finding a new one. It's not like quitting a job before having a new one lined up. It sounds like you're skating just for fun, and adults especially may drop private lessons for a variety of reasons, only to return to them a few months, or even years later, with a different coach. If you're transparent, some coaches may even be open to a trial period, where you take lessons with them for a few weeks and see if you think it's a fit. I think for adults especially, this can be important, since they're obviously not seeking out the coach who can get them to regular Nationals or whatever, but a coach who they can work with more as peers.
 

sampaguita

Rinkside
Joined
Jan 24, 2013
Sounds like the right move for you. I've never heard of it being risky to drop a coach before finding a new one. It's not like quitting a job before having a new one lined up. It sounds like you're skating just for fun, and adults especially may drop private lessons for a variety of reasons, only to return to them a few months, or even years later, with a different coach. If you're transparent, some coaches may even be open to a trial period, where you take lessons with them for a few weeks and see if you think it's a fit. I think for adults especially, this can be important, since they're obviously not seeking out the coach who can get them to regular Nationals or whatever, but a coach who they can work with more as peers.
It's risky in the sense that I could end up coachless. Since skaters at our rink schedule lessons on a contract basis (even the adults), if none of the coaches have vacancies by the time I set up lessons (which has to be after I drop the old coach), then I'd be coachless for the fall, or even longer. I've always wondered why the rulebook doesn't explicitly allow for trials with a new coach while still taking lessons with the old one, but at least that's not how things are done in the club.
 

spinningdancer

Rinkside
Joined
Feb 27, 2020
It's risky in the sense that I could end up coachless. Since skaters at our rink schedule lessons on a contract basis (even the adults), if none of the coaches have vacancies by the time I set up lessons (which has to be after I drop the old coach), then I'd be coachless for the fall, or even longer. I've always wondered why the rulebook doesn't explicitly allow for trials with a new coach while still taking lessons with the old one, but at least that's not how things are done in the club.
That's really interesting. Are you in the U.S., or in another country? That's basically unheard of at just about every U.S. rink. Maybe at the elite training centers that's a thing, but I've never heard of that being the case at a typical local rink.
 

Ic3Rabbit

Patineuse élite et professionnelle
Record Breaker
Joined
Jan 9, 2017
Country
Olympics
There are local rinks in the US that do abide by the way the OP has referred to, and run the risk of being coach-less for some time or for part of a season. And no these aren't major training centers for elite I'm referring to.
 

spinningdancer

Rinkside
Joined
Feb 27, 2020
There are local rinks in the US that do abide by the way the OP has referred to, and run the risk of being coach-less for some time or for part of a season. And no these aren't major training centers for elite I'm referring to.
Really? I've skated in California and the midwest and haven't encountered any, at least not yet. Is it an east coast thing?
 

Ic3Rabbit

Patineuse élite et professionnelle
Record Breaker
Joined
Jan 9, 2017
Country
Olympics
Really? I've skated in California and the midwest and haven't encountered any, at least not yet. Is it an east coast thing?
No, I've known of it happening all over the country. It's not an "east coast thing"
 

sampaguita

Rinkside
Joined
Jan 24, 2013
That's really interesting. Are you in the U.S., or in another country? That's basically unheard of at just about every U.S. rink. Maybe at the elite training centers that's a thing, but I've never heard of that being the case at a typical local rink.
I'm in the U.S. The official protocol (at least in the club) is that if you talk to a new coach, they'll redirect you to the old coach and make you try to work it out/get the old coach's permission. Then if you can't work it out, you drop the old coach, and find a new one. Nothing in the protocol allows someone to take trial lessons without the old coach's permission.
 

spinningdancer

Rinkside
Joined
Feb 27, 2020
I'm in the U.S. The official protocol (at least in the club) is that if you talk to a new coach, they'll redirect you to the old coach and make you try to work it out/get the old coach's permission. Then if you can't work it out, you drop the old coach, and find a new one. Nothing in the protocol allows someone to take trial lessons without the old coach's permission.
That seems restrictive, but I guess it is what it is. I know it's pretty common for coaching relationships to work out for various reasons, one just being a coaching style that doesn't work well for a student. So am I understanding clearly that even if you drop your old coach, you still need their permission before you start working with a new coach?
 

Query

Rinkside
Joined
Aug 28, 2015
I'm in the U.S. The official protocol (at least in the club) is that if you talk to a new coach, they'll redirect you to the old coach and make you try to work it out/get the old coach's permission. Then if you can't work it out, you drop the old coach, and find a new one. Nothing in the protocol allows someone to take trial lessons without the old coach's permission.

I think that used to be the official policy of the PSA (the organization of coaches) and the USFS[A] (the national U.S.A. skating club that "belongs" the ISU). Then I think they got worried about being sued for anti-competitive practices (or maybe they or some athletic organization was successfully sued??), and dropped it. But they didn't require local clubs and facilities to drop it - they effectively left it up to each club and facility to make their own decisions. It probably wouldn't be worth it to sue on a local level, so local clubs and facilities don't worry much about being sued. But it makes for a lot of potential unpleasantness.

Of course, some club members could organize a "subversive" movement to alter the rules, and replace club management if they won't comply, or organize a second club, but that would create unpleasantness too, and might involve a lot of work. Last I knew the USFS[A] usually forbids organizing a second USFS[A] club with the same home rink, though people can get around it by organizing an ISI club, or convincing the rink to run its own sessions with different rules.

To some extent, this is a case of satisfying the desires of competing local interest groups (students, and coaches who attract students, vs coaches who have trouble holding onto their students). I happen to think it is better practice to satisfy the end customers.

I believe a "good" figure skating director (and club good management) should explicitly forbid that kind of de facto ownership of students by coaches, because it makes end customers (e.g., students) unhappy. But to some extent, some organizations and institutions exist to protect the careers of it's least successful members. E.g., I knew of a skating rink whose figure skating director had trouble holding onto students.
 
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sampaguita

Rinkside
Joined
Jan 24, 2013
That seems restrictive, but I guess it is what it is. I know it's pretty common for coaching relationships to work out for various reasons, one just being a coaching style that doesn't work well for a student. So am I understanding clearly that even if you drop your old coach, you still need their permission before you start working with a new coach?
You have to drop your old coach first before working with a new one. You can't keep your old coach while having trial lessons with potential new coaches. Somehow there's an implicit understanding between coaches that they won't talk to students about scheduling/prices etc until the student has dropped the old coach.

I believe a "good" figure skating director (and club good management) should explicitly forbid that kind of de facto ownership of students by coaches, because it makes end customers (e.g., students) unhappy. But to some extent, some organizations and institutions exist to protect the careers of it's least successful members. E.g., I knew of a skating rink whose figure skating director had trouble holding onto students.
Sadly it does feel like that. My club isn't big and though at some point they had a lot of kids, now there aren't that many new young skaters coming in. I'm not sure if that's the reason why the club decided to keep the old USFS policy but as a paying adult, I do feel it's rather wrong -- there's an implication that your coach has to "release" you even if you have no outstanding balance, when you're actually the one paying!
 
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