Figure skating coaches do more than just teach skating. They motivate athletes
to perform at the highest possible level. Successful coaches need strong teaching
skills, motivation and excellent communication skills.
"I assess who the skater is and where he's going," says Doug Leigh, coach
of Olympic skating champions. "I go over his goals, his dreams, his objectives.
I'm a technical coach. I assess talents, whether it's recreational or competitive
skating. I'm not a choreographer. The skater and I will lay out a plan, have
a challenge or obstacle and shoot for success."
Leigh also spends much of his time running his popular skating school.
He's a coach and a businessman.
Charles Fetter teaches at a family recreational club with no testing levels
-- unlike competitive skating clubs. "I teach all forms of skating, including
some hockey skills. I have students who are four years old, some who are in
their 30s and others who are over 65 years old," he says.
"We teach whatever area of interest our skater has," Fetter says. "Free
skating, movement, dance, pairs -- once you're beyond the basic skills level.
We do have standard achievement tests, too. Gold medals are available to skaters
at each level if they want to try."
Joanne McLeod is the figure skating director of a skating academy. She's
certified to teach at the Olympic level, and she also teaches choreography.
"I'm responsible for the management of my students' careers," says McLeod.
"We plan and set goals and schedule timetables for examinations and competitions.
I devise a building block system to teach them skills. It has to be a solid
foundation -- a step structure -- for them to acquire good, solid, consistent
It's not surprising that most figure skating coaches spend most of their
time on the ice. "I'm on skates all day," says McLeod. "There are some top
coaches who don't, but I do. Some of my time is off the rink, too. I'll talk
to my students, give pep talks and go over theories in the dressing room.
I also offer biomechanical lessons and ballet in studios. Ninety percent of
development, though, is done on the ice."
So being on skates isn't necessary to teach figure skating -- but it helps.
"You could teach in a wheelchair," says Fetter. "But I like to skate when
I coach. Skating equipment is uncomfortable, though. Sometimes I'll teach
in hockey skates."