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what do coaches look at to assess skaters potential ?

Discussion in 'Moves In The Field' started by Artifice, Jan 11, 2011.

  1. Artifice

    Artifice Guest

    I see some young (and less young) skaters of an overall same level and wonder who are those who will improve more and faster. Watching them doing only simple moves and single jumps, moves that don't require specific strong physical qualities, I hear coaches anticipating on some skaters potential improvements and their capacity to reach more or less given levels, and I wonder what criterias do these coaches use to manage to see skaters future so precisely.

    Do you, as skater, coach or simple experienced skating viewer, manage to "predict" a (beginner) skater's future ? What do you look at to fix your assessment ?
  2. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Hates both vegemite and peanut butter

    I don't think you use a specific criteria. It is more just when you watch a skater you can see they have potential.

    However as a judge and adult skater of many years, if I was to suggest some things that would make me think a skater had potential, I look at knee bend, ankle flexion, posture, how they apply the blade to the ice (no toe pushing), flexibility and how quickly they pick things up (jumps and spins).

    What bugs me though is when a skater has potential and a coach who can't help them get there through letting the skater get away with bad technique, but the coach doesn't recognise it.
  3. KatieC

    KatieC So peaceful

    I should think that along with everything mentioned by Aussie Willy, as a coach, you'd also want to see enthusiasm for skating. Some kids just take to new things like a duck to water, and some just don't get it.
  4. Doubletoe

    Doubletoe Well-Known Member

    At least in the U.S., I think what most coaches look at to assess a skater's potential is the parents' ability to pay for lots of lessons. ;) Very few coaches ever have a skater that gets sent to the Olympics, but every coach needs to pay the rent.
  5. backspin

    backspin Active Member

    I'm sorry, I'm a coach & I'm pretty offended by that comment. And I have to say, I can't think of a single coach I know who would ever take that attitude.

    Back OT, with younger skaters, I'm looking for a sense of body awareness and coordination that comes naturally for some & not for others. Also, as someone else mentioned, the mental attitude; if they're focused, work hard, able to practice on their own, and willing to try something dozens (or more!) times before they finally get it.

    The willingness to work hard can go a long way toward making up for less God-given ability. The magical combination is when you have someone with that natural physical ability, PLUS the mental attitude that will take them far in the sport.
  6. hanca

    hanca Well-Known Member

    I don't think Doubletoe meant it in any nasty way. I believe that what she meant was that no matter how much you enjoy teaching, it is a business. You have to earn your living; you can't afford to give out free lessons like they get them in China and used to get them in Russia. It also needs to be acknowledged that children do have different level of talent, as well as the determination and willingness to practice, and for every really talented child who could potentially take it as far as the elite level you must be teaching a lot of children who don't have the same amount of talent, will never take it as far as nationals, or some may be lazy to practice etc. So when someone approaches you whether you will give them lessons, you probably are not using the same selection criteria as the chineese would use (the level of talent, the figure of the child and the parents, how supportive the parents are, the character of the child (will he/she be able to bear the harsh treatment of chineese training methods) and child's willingness to practice extremely hard). You may just think - does the child likes to skate, can they pay for the lessons, can I get on with the child and with the parents and that's it. You just can't afford to be as picky as the chineese where the training of the talented is paid by the state.
  7. jp1andonly

    jp1andonly Well-Known Member

    sometimes you just see a spark, something that sets them apart. There were a couple skaters i know that someone said would go far but I looked at them and said no they wouldnt make it to nationals. One skater grew so much and didnt have the jumps but is lovely skater non the less and the other didnt get the jumps either. Sometimes its a gut feeling. I watched cynthia phaneuf long before she went to seniors and clearly predicted that one day she'd go to the olympics. I was right. As other have said, body awareness, musicality are all things to look at as well.
  8. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Hates both vegemite and peanut butter

    I agree with Hanca. I don't think Doubletoe's post was meant to be nasty. Rather more practical. Having been a driving instructor, the worst thing is to have people who don't turn up for lessons or don't pay. It mucks you around and wastes your time.

    One of my coaches (who coaches in her spare time outside of her regular job) places reliability as one the reason why she likes to coach particular people. She has no problem about their level or ability - she treats every student with respect because they pay their hard earned money to her. And they are all enthusiastic to learn, regardless of their ability. But she really hates having her time wasted by being at the rink for a lesson and then the person doesn't show up.

    We have had a number of threads about difficult students/coaches. You can have the student with the greatest potential in the world, but if the parents are a nightmare, or totally unreliable, the stress may not be worth it.

    On the other hand you can have a coach who tells the parent that their child is exceptionally talented and will be doing triple jumps within 5 years and they are the coach to take their kid there. In some instances the coach is just bullsh*tting the parents and wasting the parent's hard earned money. And it is not fair on the skater.
  9. backspin

    backspin Active Member

    I took Doubletoe's comment to mean that most American coaches will tell parents that their child has great potential just to string them along & take their money. Maybe I was mistaken. *shrug*
  10. Doubletoe

    Doubletoe Well-Known Member

    Backspin, I'm sincerely sorry to have offended you. The point I was trying to make was exactly what Hanca said. Unlike in China or in the old USSR, I don't think many coaches in the U.S. choose whether or not to take on a student based on an assessment of the child's potential. They neither have the need to do that nor the luxury of doing that, since they are not employees of the state.
    I think most coaches just do their best to bring out each child's potential and they hope the student works hard, makes progress and enjoys the process, and of course it would be icing on the cake if the student ended up making it to Nationals or beyond. I am very lucky that most coaches here don't reject students based on their perceived potential because otherwise I wouldn't have the benefit of the two wonderful coaches I have!
  11. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Hates both vegemite and peanut butter

    I know what you mean. I feel very lucky as well. :)
  12. Artifice

    Artifice Guest

    Potential's assessment can be perceived by the viewer as something felt or just predicted based on an overall feeling, but to set such opinion it is based on some criterias that are more precise and measurable. It's not just a personal feeling, given the personal feeling is because of objective criterias, that have been listed here by different users.

    Backspin said "coaches will tell parents that their child has great potential just to string them along & take their money." I think it is an economic reality that coaches need to pay their bill and need to have regular money incomes. So they have to ensure that they get enough money from parents to support their living. As a consequence they need to have skaters in their group, and for sure they won't keep skaters if coaches tell them that they are bad without potential. They must at least explain that with work skaters will improve, otherwise parents won't see the point of spending lot of money to not reach anything. And sometimes coaches go a little too far telling skaters and parents that they will bring them to a high level, even when it's obviously not possible regarding the student's potential.

    The bad thing is that skaters and parents feel flattered and believe it worths sacrifices to allow the kid to reach elite level. The problem is that the skater doesn't have the potential and all sacrifices are just useless, but they are real nonetheless. Those skaters end up missing classes, lowering their academic education and their parents spend all their money, for nothing, at least not what for they aimed at.
    That's what I feel is bad behavior from coaches.

    Encouraging skaters, telling them that with hard work they will improve, are one thing, and this is true. But making them believe in something that won't happen and pushing parents and skaters to make wrong decisions for their future is another thing, a step that ethic should prevent coaches from doing.

    Getting back to the topic I agree with "The magical combination is when you have someone with that natural physical ability, PLUS the mental attitude that will take them far in the sport."
    I think physic and mental are necessary, it can't work without one.
    But it looks like, from what I've seen, that coaches tend to look more at physical abilities than mental capacities. But the more successful skaters are those who use their brain to maximise their physical capacities. In competition mental strenght is extremely important.
    I see some skaters with good physical capacities but who are so dumb that they just can't get some important aspect of the sport.

    To summarize some criterias listed by you, it gives :
    knee bend, ankle flexion, posture, how they apply the blade to the ice (no toe pushing), flexibility and how quickly they pick things up, body awareness and coordination, mental attitude, musicality.
    I would add being fearless helps a lot.

    I personnaly kind of admire coaches (well, it's their jib but still) who see two skaters at a pretty average level and say this one is going to have triples in 4 years and this one will struggles for doubles. Even looking at all criterias it's not that easy IMO to make the assessement. It's also because criterias are not so easy to assess neither.
  13. backspin

    backspin Active Member

    Thanks for the explanation! I'm very glad I misunderstood. I think of skating as a lifetime sport, and which (like any sport) can teach very valuable life lessons to kids of all abilities. None of my parents is thinking their child is the next Olympian, and we're all just working to make them the best skater they are capable of being, whatever that is.

    Seeing as I started skating as an adult, I'm extra-grateful that my coaches were willing to take on someone who wasn't going to add anything to their coaching resume!
  14. Doubletoe

    Doubletoe Well-Known Member

    Exactly. And when I jokingly said the main criterion was the parents' ability to pay for lots of lessons, it's because I understand how hard it is to make a good living as a coach, especially when students don't show up, cancel, quit, etc. Whenever I see that either of my coaches has a new student who is dedicated and whose parents are willing and able to pay for lots of lessons, I am happy and relieved for them. It's not financial security, but it sure helps.
  15. hanca

    hanca Well-Known Member

    :shuffle: (me too!!!) :shuffle:
  16. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Hates both vegemite and peanut butter

    (((Group Hug!!))))
  17. Artifice

    Artifice Guest

    Hug to ! :cheer:

    It's good for skaters to have good coaches even if they can't reach heights.

    For a coach is the result actually the only motivation's criteria for them ? Given that work makes people improve regardless of their potential, the fact that a skater works hard and is a motivated student can probably gives enough satisfaction for a coach to teach skating to motivated yet not talented students (?).

    Skaters who will reach elite top level are very few, so even talented students won't reach this level since it needs a lot lot of talent, a little talent is not enough. Therefore some coaches may not appreciate working with talented skaters who are difficult students, knowing that eventhough they have potential to reach a good level it's not like they will be world champions or olympians. So, coaches may think the student doesn't deserve the big effort from the coach for results that anyway won't be so glorious.

    But still there are some coaches who seem to only give attention to students who show potential compared to skaters of the same group. And this eventhough the given skaters has a limited potential, as long as it looks higher than others some coaches focus on them. Regardless of the skater's motivation or mental quality.
    Actually these coaches seem to be the opposite of what you described Doubletoe and Hanca.

    But what's the point of focusing on relatively talented but difficult skaters who will anyway not reach top level vs average skaters who are nice students and hard workers who will get to improve because of good work ethic ?
  18. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

  19. FigureSpins

    FigureSpins Well-Known Member

    Coaches look for balance, carriage, strength, speed and fearlessness as indicators of potential. A skater who can think ahead and control their body parts are ideal. I also find that skaters who show enthusiasm and interest inspire their coaches as well.
  20. backspin

    backspin Active Member

    ^^ This. I'd far prefer a student who works hard, even if they're less talented. In fact, often the ones with more talent are more difficult to deal with. I do have one fairly naturally talented student right now, and she's such a drama queen, you wouldn't even believe..... :rolleyes:
  21. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Hates both vegemite and peanut butter


    Ever skater needs to be treated with respect as they pay their hard earned money to the coach. However many skaters are not doing it for competition but just to learn a new skill or do something they enjoy.

    But sometimes it isn't even about skating.

    If you have been with a coach for many years, they can become more of a friend than a coach. Sometimes when people are going through rough periods in their life, they look to the lesson to help them work their personal issues and the coach is someone they can talk to.

    My coach has always been great for that. She had one student who was going through a really stressful time in his life. The lesson ended up being more a therapy session for him than an actual lesson. But because she has known him for many many years she was quite happy take him for the lesson with it probably being about a 1/4 of the time actual skating.

    He still paid for her time, but she understood that is what he needed to help him with his problems. And maybe the result was he got that ear who listened to him when he had no-one else to talk to.

    On the other hand, I would probably be concerned with getting a student who from the get go is using the lesson for reasons other than skating and I would feel uncomfortable with that. She had another student who was trying to use skating as a match making service, to the point of asking my coach really personal questions. And then asking her for other people's phone numbers (including myself). It was really creepy.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2011
  22. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Hates both vegemite and peanut butter

    double post - sorry
  23. Teresadee

    Teresadee New Member

    I'm not sure what a coach "looks" for but I most likely don't have it! I do try, so maybe this counts for something.

    I think the kids who are fearless and hard workers seem to move along quick. This is an adult skater observation.

  24. jjane45

    jjane45 Active Member

    I thought the student was trying to solicit a pairs / dance partner when I first read it, LOL.

    Guess experienced could generally tell if a skater will be big, the hard part is how big? World champion big or sectionals big?
  25. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Hates both vegemite and peanut butter

    Well when I first met the guy he bragged about how he could do all these senior dances. And then when he got on the ice he could barely skate.
  26. Artifice

    Artifice Guest

    It's a point, because yes, a potential is an interesting concept but a potential for what ? Very few skaters will reach a level that will bring glory to a coach. The rest of his students will not bring anything in term of fame or international recognition, so, I do believe that for the daily work, it is more important to have good training conditions, serious students than said "potentials", hard to deal with, who will anyway never reach the top level.

    And by the way, high "potentials" are just raw material. This is what a coach/skater do with it that is interesting. And often I got to see less talented people succeed more than so called "potentials".

    I still wonder why some coaches seem to focus only their attention on "potentials" rather than motivated, hard worker skaters. Since results may come more from hard workers than "potentials" who don't work well.
  27. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

    Well, sometimes that ends up being a matter of luck and perseverance as much as talent.

    Getting to sectionals at junior or senior level generally means being to land some triples and having decent skating skills and presentation.

    Winning Worlds would require being able to land most or all of the triples (and maybe a quad for men) and doing it when it counts, along with good, very good, or excellent basics and presentation.

    The potential to master all the triples or to achieve very good skating skills is a matter of talent, but it's not always obvious at beginner or even juvenile levels who actually has that talent. And some who do have the physical capability won't achieve it because of injuries or laziness or quitting because they lose interest or can't afford the training.

    So at the lower levels, a coach may be able to see that the better skaters probably have the ability to achieve sectional-level success and maybe better if everything works out right for them, but until they actually get to the point of landing double axels and getting close on triples, it's hard to say whether they actually will get what it takes to achieve that much, let alone more.

    I'm not a coach, but what gets my attention at lower levels as skaters who might have the potential to succeed at the higher levels would be
    -ability to generate power/speed with ease -- even better if it looks effortless
    -secure edges
    -agility to turn both directions and to transition among steps, turns, and jumps at speed
    -enough height in jumps to complete the rotations in the air -- if they have clean doubles with room to spare at juvenile level or below, or big clean singles at the lowest levels, then there's a decent chance they'll get enough height for triples as they get bigger and stronger
    -efficient and controlled jump mechanics

    If the skater shows those talents at lower levels, then I think they have the potential to make it to the elite levels. Presentation can be learned if the basics and the motivation are there.
  28. FigureSpins

    FigureSpins Well-Known Member

    If you were a coach with two competitive skaters and six recreational ones, the rec skaters would be left behind everytime you needed to go out of town for a competition, which means a loss of revenue. Some coaches charge their competitive skaters for that lost income. The travel expenses would only be split between the two competitive skaters, so it makes it more expensive for them to compete.

    That's why coaches choose to focus on competitive skaters and would be looking for talented skaters to join their roster.

    I prefer skaters who aren't *that* competitive because I really want to limit my travel and focus on good, recreational skating. My students all do very well in school and have other interests in addition to skating, so they really can't commit the time to train year-round.

    I love the fact that my current parents and skaters all get along and support each other; an unexpected bonus is that they carpool, so I have very few cancelled lessons due to other committments.
  29. Purple Sparkles

    Purple Sparkles New Member

    Last edited: Aug 29, 2014
  30. misskarne

    misskarne #AustraliaForTheTeamEvent

    This thread is making me curious...gives me a little insight as to why my coach so readily took me on and was so ready to push me...certainly not complaining though!