by Kim Hansen
You’re walking through the mall one afternoon with your 5-year-old daughter and she stops in her tracks and announces very emphatically to you that she wants to do the tricks that she is watching on the ice skating rink just in front of you.
You think: Why not? Sounds like a fun activity, the location is convenient and it gives me an excuse to get to the mall every Saturday. A win-win situation! So you take her into the pro shop, sign her up for the next set of group classes and you’re on your way.
She starts the classes and, although she is having fun, she seems to be moving a little slowly compared to some of the other kids in the class. You begin to worry that there is something wrong since she has never been so cautious before. You mention this to the class instructor, who immediately hands you her business card and offers some private lessons. Now your fun little activity starts to take on a whole new dimension.
Private lessons? What does that mean? Will this next step mean more commitment, money and time? Is she bound for the Olympics, or just destined to struggle with a one-foot glide? How does one know? What should you do? The first step is to ask, What does my child need? Is she loving the class and wanting more out of her time on the ice? Is she frustrated, yet determined to succeed? For either of these two scenarios, a private coach can be a huge benefit. He or she can better address the needs of your child on a one-to-one basis, provide immediate feedback and help guide her along her skating journey.
The key to all of this is finding the right coach for your child. Just because the class coach hands you her card doesn’t mean that she is necessarily the best fit. Many factors determine who should work with your child: personality, experience, skill level, communication style and personal agendas are just a few of the traits that can affect the outcome of their pairing.
For example, perhaps the senior, most-experienced coach on staff is recommended to you by one of the moms who seems to be at the rink every time you come. She is convinced that this coach is the best in the rink and is extremely pleased with the progress her skater has had under her direction. Should you choose that coach? Maybe. It might be a great match and your daughter might be happy and progress wonderfully under her tutelage. But maybe not. Perhaps this coach will demand more time than either of you had in mind. Perhaps she is impatient with beginners, or maybe just too busy to answer your questions.
You have noticed a younger coach working out on the ice with a little skater. No one mentioned her. She has a big smile on her face, seems animated and engaged, and you wonder is she might be the right one. After all, this is supposed to be fun, right? But how do you know if she has the experience and the skill to help your child? You don’t, but a good skating director can help.
Guidance from Skating Director
Any parent wishing to hire a private coach should take the time to talk with the director or manager to get some guidance. Being honest regarding your expectations, your child’s interest and your commitment will help the director determine who might be your best choice.
But that’s only part of the answer. What does your daughter think? After all, she is half this equation. Ask for trial lessons. This simply means that there are no commitments made immediately. Lessons can be scheduled with several different coaches, giving you the opportunity to determine which one feels right. Taking your time selecting who will work the best with your skater is one of the most important things you can do to help her learn to love the sport. It will pay dividends and you will be reminded of that decision every time you pick her up after lessons and see the same smile on her face that she had on the day you first signed her up for classes.
Kim Hansen is ISI’s skating programs and national events director.