The Coach-Friend Conundrum in Figure Skating
Hot Topics in Adult Skating
by Renee Lacy
You are an adult skater who loves skating. Your coach is an adult who also loves skating. Should you socialize away from the rink, and how will this social interaction change your professional relationship?
With the addition of SafeSport to the world of USFS coaching, there are many new restrictions on how coaches can interact with their minor students. Coaches are not permitted to have one-on-one interaction with skaters that is not out in the open and encouraged to have another adult present at all times. Coaches are encouraged not to communicate directly via electronic means with minor students.
Because adult skaters are not subject to these requirements coaches can and do have a different type of relationship with their adult students. It’s only natural that people with shared interests would like to spend time together doing or watching what they love. Who else would enjoy a multi-day viewing frenzy of nationals, worlds or the Olympics, complete with program, costume and hair critiques as well as gleaning creative ideas for your next program? That shared love of skating can provide the basis for a great friendship. It can also blur the line of the skater-coach professional relationship.
Texts, emails, and small talk around the rink can lead to going out to eat at competitions and interacting away from the rink. Add in a trip to watch U.S. Nationals or a professional skating show and the next thing you know, you are friends with your coach. You might find that you are spending your lesson time talking instead of working on skating. Sometimes we need that conversation, but if it gets out of hand, hopefully a quick “let’s get back to work” can take care of things.
There is a level of trust and authority that a coach has over an adult skater. They have knowledge and expertise that we want. It’s why we pay them for lessons. We want them to figure out how to motivate us to improve and fix our bad habits. Adult skaters are not typical students for coaches. We present them with a challenge because we learn in a different way from the kids and at a slower pace.
Adult skaters also have more responsibility as well. We are paying for ice and lessons, making our own goals, most likely choosing our own music and should have the right to have input into how we train and what we work on. We have to motivate ourselves because there is no parent at the edge of the ice yelling at us not to waste their money. We skate because of a dream deep within ourselves.
I currently have two coaches I have never seen away from the ice rink. Several years ago I had a coach that I exercised with 3 times a week and shared a hotel room with on trips. I would say that’s both ends of the spectrum. As an adult skater, the relationship you have with your coach should be up to you. Hopefully you can find a balance of coach-friend that works for you.
Note: Bullying, hazing, and sexual, physical, and emotional abuse is wrong, and regardless of the age of the skater, should be reported immediately to the local skating club SafeSport representative and U.S. Figure Skating.