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Would it be possible to coach differently?

Recently I went to try public skating. I’ll leave out the part that I went skating for the second time in my life and I probably didn’t look elegant on the ice at all. I will focus on what fascinated me and actually surprised me unpleasantly.

Anyone who has ever been to public skating knows that there are different types of people. People who just go skating, amateur hockey players, parents who have taken their children to skate, and sometimes there are individual lessons for young figure skaters.

During my efforts to stay on the ice, I took a break several times, during which I could observe what was happening on the ice. Among all the people, I noticed a skating coach with a 10-year-old figure skater in a cute figure skating dress and a dad who was there with a 7-year-old daughter who was wrapped in protective pads and a helmet.

I was able to observe 2 different ways of training. The coach demonstrated the method of shouting, negative feedback, and at times I witnessed her pulling her lightly over the head when the little girl did not follow the instructions correctly. The practice took place in such a way that the coach specified what to do and then rode with her around. When the little girl didn’t do what she had to do, she only told her negative feedback, she used sentences like „Why are you doing this so badly?“ or „How come you can’t do it again?“ etc. When the girl didn’t like it for a long time, she used mild physical warnings at that moment, see a slight drag on her head or leg. I haven’t heard a single compliment or encouragement at all. When the hour passed, the little girl immediately went off the ice, never smiled, and it was clear that she didn’t even want to try anything else herself. I was a little sorry for her. But what really struck me was when a lady and her son followed her on the ice for a while and I realized that it was her mother. Suddenly, the whole training I saw had another level. At the beginning, I thought that the coach went through school a long time ago, when these methods were commonly used, and that it would be great if she wanted to educate herself in newer approaches that are more positive and motivating for the child. In the end, I realized that it’s not just about coaches, but that this approach seems normal to parents and definitely pays a lot of money for it. Education is also needed here for parents to ask for a different approach to their children than this one.

The other couple I watched was a father and daughter. Dad was probably a hockey player who took his daughter to skate. They certainly weren’t skating for the first time, which was evident from the fact that his daughter knew what to do. Dad let her skate freely. When she fell, he helped her to her feet. He laughed at her and she laughed back at him. At the same time, however, he did not lead or advise her in any way, letting her try everything herself. When skating was over, I could see that she didn’t want to get off the ice, and she left excited and asked when they would go again.

I observed both pairs only during one hour, so I do not criticize either approach, because probably the pair coach – figure skater certainly have dozens or hundreds of trainings and this one was therefore taken out of the context of their entire training sessions.

But what I think could be done differently is the approach to training. In both pairs. The coach used only criticism, did not praise, did not encourage, did not use constructive feedback. I didn’t see any spark in that little figure skater girl, no enthusiasm and in the long run I don’t really believe that she would enjoy this style of training for another 20 years. In the second approach, I lacked any guidance and advice. Dad let the little girl try everything herself without advising her. On the other hand, the enthusiasm, despite the frequent falls, was evident throughout the stadium.

Every coach and every athlete is different, so there is no universal guide on how to do it right. However, everyone should ask themselves, „Could it be done differently? Better? How can I help my mentee as much as possible?“

Here are a few examples of what I would like to see in training for coaches:

  • praise – the coach should praise the mentee; if athletes do something, if they learn something new; I’m not saying praise for every little thing, but don’t forget to always find something you can praise the athlete for; the best praise is for the approach and has the greatest effect that is transmitted to most aspects of life; if an athlete is praised for improving and that his approach is great, it will motivate him to try next time, each of us needs praise and loves it
  • constructive criticism – it is not always possible to just praise if the athlete is doing something wrong, to tell him/her clearly what to try differently next time in order to succeed; if something went wrong, try to explain why it didn’t work out so he/she knows what to look out for next
  • joy – to enjoy your job, if the athlete is trained by a coach who loves his job and enjoys it, it will have only a positive impact on the athlete
  • plan – every coach should go to training knowing exactly what will be done in a given session and clearly communicate to the athletes; they will know what the exercises are for and how it will fit into the entire development of the athlete

And a couple basic things I would like to see in parents:

  • praise – most parents praise their children for everything and it is not so important for children, although if there was a lack of praise, children would suffer in the long run; What a parent can praise for having the greatest impact is the approach as well as the coach
  • trust the coach – if a parent chooses a club and a coach to whom he entrusts his child, he should trust the club, it will never have a good impact on the child, if he criticizes the coach in front of him or if he speaks out loud during competitions and matches; if he is not satisfied with the coach and the club, he should consider changing the club and the coach; if this happens repeatedly, you need to consider where the fault really is so that it does not have a negative long-term impact on the child
  • support – every child needs support, especially emotional support; children seldom realize what parents are able to sacrifice (financially and temporally), they usually realize this only in adulthood, or when they have their children, but what they perceive is how much their parents support them, how much they support them, how much engage in other activities related to the club or sport in general
  • listening and healthy motivation – I would like to see all parents listen to their children in what they enjoy and what they would like to do; sometimes it may differ from the parents‘ ideas, if so, the parent should be able to support the children in what they really want and motivate them healthily


So what will you try to do differently in the next practice session?