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A Guide to Selecting an Figure Skating Coach

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Importance of Selecting the Right Coach

If you make the decision to move your child from group lessons to private instruction many factors must go into choosing the correct coach for your needs.   It is a significant step, requiring a great deal of commitment as well as an extensive monetary investment, so take it very seriously.  You must feel comfortable with the coach and his/her methods, styles, philosophies and techniques should be consistent with your values.  It is imperative to find the right blend of the coach with the personality you prefer, the experience that is important to you, and the goals that match your child’s.

What is PSA Certification?

In the U.S., as long as you have a student to teach, anyone can call themselves a figure skating coach. Fortunately, the industry has established guidelines known as the PSA rating system, and most reputable rinks prefer to hire coaches who have this certification.   The Professional Skater's Association (PSA) works closely with figure skating's two governing bodies (the U.S. Figure Skating Association and the Ice Skating Institute) to establish certification levels for skating coaches. This association offers continuing education in the sport of figure skating. The highest level rating is Master. To reach this level the coach must have met the following requirements:  passed his or her Senior level freestyle tests or coached a competitor through this level; attended required PSA seminars; taught for 5 years; passed an oral examination.  A coach with a PSA rating is one who has maintained their training and is constantly working to better their teaching skills as well as the proficiency of their students.   

Guideline to Help Select a Figure Skating Coach

To select a coach for private lessons, start by making a comprehensive list of possibilities.  You can ask about available coaches at your club/ice rinks.  The rink management can help you to determine if a coach is right for you.  Be sure to ask if the coach a PSA member and if so do they carry any ratings through the PSA?  Other skaters and parents of skaters are the other great source of information. You will find that this network is extremely valuable and very helpful.   So talk to students or their parents and find out what they like/don't like about the coach. Determine if the coach is professional.  Is he/she organized and punctual?  Is the coach experienced in teaching students that are comparable in age/ability to your child? Many times coaches will have preferences to the students that they like to teach. Remember that the best advertisements are the one coming from word of mouth.

Observe the prospective coach teaching students and watch how they interact.  Seeing how a coach interacts with his or her students will help you predict how well you or your child will react to their style of coaching.

Finally, arrange an interview with the coach. Asking the right questions will give you the ability to properly evaluate the coaches. It is important that you ask each coach the same questions so that you can do an accurate comparison.  It is not necessary to ask all of these questions it is simply a guideline to help you. You may have others that you feel need to be addressed.   What's important is that you feel extremely comfortable with the coach that you select.  Always remember that it should be a positive, fun experience for your child!  

Selection of Questions to Help With the Interview...

  • Find out how long a coach has been teaching.
  • What are the coach's credentials? Ask them questions about their skating history.
  • Ask what level they attained when they were active skaters. 
  • Are the credentials verifiable?
  • What professional organization[s] does the coach belong to?
  • Ask what experience they have had as teaching professionals.
  • Ask them to provide you with names of other skaters they are/have been coaching.
  • Ask what level students they teach now.
  • Discuss fees.
  • Ask about their billing mode.
  • What is that trainer's approach toward teaching skating?
  • How realistic is the coach about your potential progress?
  • Does he/she see you entering competitions?
  • Do you and the coach share similar goals for improving your skating?
  • Do your schedules coincide?
  • Ask if they are currently active in the figure skating community and what some of their activities are
  • Does your coach teach on the weekends and/or weeknights?
  • Is your coach interested in teaching during public session times, or is he or she involved only in freestyle or club sessions?
  • Is there mutual respect between student and coach?
  • What is their cancellation policy?
  • Is there a fee for a missed lesson, or will the coach be flexible enough to understand when there happens to be an emergency?
  • Does the coach cancel on you.

 

Set up coaching time. Don't be afraid to take a trial lesson (at your expense) with a few different coaches.  You will quickly know if the student and coach are compatible.

Making the final decision. Don't make a hasty decision and plan to give a coach a month or two before making a more permanent commitment. Sometimes it takes a while to get the communication flowing well.  Find out as much as you can before you sign on. Making an agreement with a coach is not a lifetime commitment but switching coaches is not always easy.