Vaytsekhovskaya's interview with Davydov


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Elena Vaytsekhovskaya's interview with Sergey Davydov for

EV: In Novogorsk during a practice your pupil Sofia Samodelkina landed a wonderful 4S, yet she did not include that in her LP. Why?
SD: In order to integrate a hard element you need it to be at least 50% certain. Otherwise it's a lottery. I wanted to use the competitive adrenaline. When you learn all these elements - the 3A, the quads - there is always a moment when the athlete is ready to perform it but they need an additional push, not even a technical one, but an emotional. The views, the judges, the other coaches who are on the ice with you are encouraging it.

EV: At the time you attempted the quads and were trying to integrate it in your programme, but, as far as I remember, it didn't work. How is it teaching the little girls a quad?
SD: First of all I did land the quads. Just that we were not working so well, frankly. Second I don't see them as little girls. They are athletes. Besides we don't set a goal for everyone to land a quad, only those who have the right qualities. It's an injury prone thing after all.

EV: Some single skaters' coaches are sure the athlete should ignore the injures, and has to endure and overcome themselves every practice and never complain.
SD: If it's about the muscle pain - we all have to endure that - you can't be an athlete and avoid it. If it's about a serious injury - making the athlete work is unacceptable. First of all they will not be able to jump right. When the person is in pain they will give all they have to work even if they want to.

EV: Are the parents allowed to your practices?
SD: Right now everything is closed because of the раndemic. Last year we allowed the parents in. We wanted to show... not even to show, but teach them taking the training process correctly. Not to mend where they don't belong, so to say. They need to know how can they help their kid without mending the coach's work. We had the parents' meetings, we explained why it's important what the coach might not be happy with, how much the child invests in the work. In order to see that you don't need to be a professional. It's all done so the child learns to work correctly. So they want to skate themselves and it would be their will to come to the practice, to run, to stretch, to learn the quads etc.

EV: Does it happen the kid only skates because they are afraid to upset the parents who want them to be a skater?
SD: It does. But see, the kids, especially the little ones don't always realize what they do.

EV: Am trying to understand how much the hard physical work provokes the early mental growth? To put it differently, the 12-13y.o. skater is a kid or a professional athlete?
SD: The kids who know so much at their age are usually older than their age. I can't tell it's the adults and they have their thoughts in order. It's obvious the girls understand why do they come here and what do they have to do and why. I think htat's the reason they progress faster than the others.

EV: Tell me about Samodelkina. By the way, why her short name is Sofa and not Sonia?
SD: She introduced herself when she came to the group `My name is Sofa'

EV: Doing the quads - is it her idea or just a stage that you, as a coach, got her to?
SD: The athlete will never jump if they don't want to. A lot of kids think the same at first `I can't do it'. We, the coaches, teach them and get them ready for the hard elements and as if trick them with `you are ready, you can do it'. And they start understanding that it's a real reachable goal. They want to work then. Then it's the chain of the more complicated goals which we update all the time.

EV: Can any kid be taught a quad jump?
SD: No, it requires certain talents. The right coordination, well balanced body that is ready for such pressure. It's not only important to teach, but keep the element. The quad is about an absolute concentration. You have to come super ready to the practice and you can't slack. If you lost some of the feeling you have to go back and do all the preparation work again till you are set again.

EV: Samodelkina started landing the 3A quite early, yet it's believed it requires a much more exact technique than the quads. Is it so?
SD: The edge jumps are always harder than the toe jumps: the toe gives you a support, you can push it even if the entrance to the jump was not the best. The edge jump - sometimes you are flying to an unknown direction. Your feeling of a balance has to be really developed so you can catch that moment when you take off. If you watch the quads you'll notice there are more toe jumps than the edge jumps. Hence learning the 3A for the girls is indeed harder than any toe quad.

EV: How can you explain the quads killing the programmes for such skaters as Urmanov, Stojko, Kulik, Eldgedge? Why doesn't it happen to the girls?
SD: The figure skating was less demanding back then. The level, the demands were different. The athlete would do one run through a week and was used to that. Of course when you integrated the quad into the programme it ruined it all. Now the kids work differently. We have to integrate a new element? We'll do the run through for as long as it takes till that element is right and does not take as much energy as it did the first time.

EV: What is your next quad with Samodelkina?
SD: For now the goal is to skate with what she has: the toeloop and the Salchow. Of course I'd like to try a Lutz, but there is no hurry.

EV: What do you think about the talks of the age limit being raised after the 2022 Olympics?
SD: It has two sides. After all the ladies figure skating is on a very high technical level right now. It's what everyone is watching, talking and writing about - and it's because of the quad jumps.

EV: I disagree. Think the main reason is the competition between two personalities: Pluschenko vs Yagudin, Kim vs Asada, Medvedeva vs Zagitova...
SD: Frankly, I don't know which is right but I think all that ammunition raise, all these ultra C elements are attracting the attention to our sport. If the age will be risen there will be no point complicating the programmes more.

EV: I heard a lot of similar discussions in gymnastics, yet sometimes there were athletes who went against all rules. For example Boris Pilkin, who came up with an idea how to use Svetlana Khorkina's long arms and legs in her favour so she would not miss points in the difficulty.
SD: I think it's mostly about Khorkina's personality. If Pilkin took 4 different athletes who are built the same and got them all to the top level we could discuss a special method. But if he didn't have that outstanding personality in his pupil he wouldn't be able to do a thing, unfortunately. It's like Tuktamysheva in figure skating. Not only she is in a great shape, but sows that even at the older age you can land the ultra C elements.

EV: The known specialist Leonid Raitsin always claimed the key to success is the right physical preparation of the athlete. And that any person can be prepared so they are as strong as they can be. I.e. for him it's not a given only the thin girls such as Trusova or Scherbakova can land the quads.
SD: You can work you a lot, yet once the girl hits the puberty all her shape is gone. No matter how well she is prepared.

EV: Getting your athlete through the puberty is interesting or tough for the coach?
SD: Unavoidable, I'd say. You have to go through it and there is nothing to do about. What is worse is that there are no right methods.

EV: What do you mean?
SD: I mean every coach has a way teaching a kid landing a quad, but there are no known techniques or trademarks how to get the kid through the puberty into the adulthood.

EV: You got to work with such coaches as Ruchkina, Arutyunian, Tchaikovskaya. Which one gave you the basics you are using today?
SD: Hard to tell. Am really grateful to Tchaikovskaya and Kotin who I got to work with not only as an athlete but as a coach. I worked the longest with Ruchkina. I switched from her to Arutyunian and then came back. And of course the understanding that figure skating is not just the ice, but the balanced work you have to be able to perform well and at the right time is from her. Frankly, I can't even remember now why did I leave her group. We didn't have a disagreement, but I really wanted to go to Moscow. There was no one to help me with it - even my mom lived in Rostov and not in Vitebsk. So it was my decision - a young one, perhaps...

EV: Every young coach goes through the period when their more experienced colleagues use them as a source for their school. I know you are not an exception.
SD: Many had left and not just my group - we all live with that. Now Khrustalny got into that position...

EV: Should there be contracts signed?
SD: I think so. As long as there are no legal agreements the coaches have no way keeping their pupils. It's the system in football and hokey. The coach needs to know whether they are to be working with the athlete for 3 months or 3 years. If the pupil should break the contract before it ends there should be some kind of a compensation. I.e. the person needs to know they can't just walk out. Perhaps then they will think more thoroughly before making the decision.

EV: Are you making any attempts to keep the athletes in the group or at least minimize the chance they will be smitten, bought, overtaken?
SD: It's useless. Taking how many people have left and what happens with all these switches you can come to a conclusion: if they decide to leave they will do it no matter what you do. You can get them back for a while, but such people will always look for better options. Left here, spent some time there, some other place, that place. I don't mean the level of the Worlds competitions, but the teenagers always hit a point when they think all goes wrong. Hence I always teach the kids, well myself as well: the competition is over, there were mistakes - we all have to find the mistake in ourselves. I sat down, analysed, you sat down, analysed, we came to a conclusion together and only then something can work out. If you look for someone to blame all the time and blame the circumstances on your lack of work nothing will work.

EV: What can cause you to kick the athlete from the practice?
SD: The lack of working. I will never kick someone out if I see the kid is working hard, doing his best and it just doesn't work.

EV: Did you ever had to expel someone for good?
SD: No, but I set the conditions: either you go by my rules or you need to find another specialist.

Tinami Amori

Well-Known Member
EV: Did you ever had to expel someone for good?
SD: No, but I set the conditions: either you go by my rules or you need to find another specialist.
I love Davydov's approach to teaching (since last two interviews as of 2 years ago).

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