The Role of a Figure Skating Coach
Coaches play a great role in a young athlete's character development. According to USFS, "Coaches are responsible for teaching and inspiring competitive and recreational skaters, sharing the joy of figure skating and creating a lifelong love of the sport. A coach is an instructor, a role model and a support system, and U.S. Figure Skating adheres to high standards of excellence for its coaching community."
What is the role of a figure skating coach?
To help skaters set and achieve their goals
To teach proper and safe technique
To inspire recreational and competitive skaters
To share the joy and love of figure skating
To show respect for all other skaters, parents and officials
To create a positive and constructive training environment
To encourage ample nourishment and rest
To answer developmental questions from skaters and parents
Articulate that skating is just one aspect of someone’s life
To attend seminars and coaching clinics to continue learning in order to develop teaching methods
What isn’t included? Giving medical advice or nutrition/dieting advice, weigh-ins, or make comments on a skater’s body. All of these things can be detrimental to the skater's mental and physical health and well being. Why? Because coaches play a huge role in the development of body ideals, importance of body function and appearance, and weight-related pressures. What does this mean? This means that body shape, weight and physique comments and comparisons from coaches are associated with heightened negative body image emotions. In other words, making comments on an athlete's body can be incredibly damaging.
"So, as a coach, how do you encourage athletes to nourish their bodies well without telling them what to eat?"
Recommend a consultation with a registered dietician or doctor to "learn how to fuel their body in a way that helps them become the best skater they can be.”
Explain to skaters that food is fuel.
Encourage your skaters to tune into their body and follow their hunger/fullness cues
Encourage eating a snack during the ice cut or breaks.
Model a positive relationship with food/body image.
Educate athletes on how nourishing their bodies is preventing injuries.
Do not share food preferences. Some athletes may mimic behaviors (i.e., athletes becoming vegetarian because the coach says they’re vegetarian).
It's important to recognize that at the exact same time, coaches can positively influence an athlete's development of body ideals, importance of body function and appearance, and weight-related issues by fostering a culture that focuses less on appearance and more on body functionality!
How can coaches foster a culture that focuses less on appearance and more on functionality?
Emphasize the importance of effort, improvement, and working cooperatively to help build autonomous forms of motivation.
Understand and articulate that the skater’s body is not “wrong” or “at fault” when they perform poorly.
There are usually many factors responsible (i.e., lack of sleep, high stress, overtraining, difficulty managing emotions, inadequate nutrition, trouble at home).
Encourage skaters to reassess skating goals and intentions on a regular basis.
Focus on proper technique and welcome safe falls.
Articulate and understand that skaters come in all shapes and sizes.
When a skater has obviously entered a negative head space (popping, circling, visibly upset), help guide skater into healthy trains of thought.
Benish, D. (2020). An investigation of the competitive experiences of adolescent figure skaters. Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 2049.
Cumming, S. P. & Ewing, M. E. (2002 Spring). Parental involvement in youth sports: The good, the bad and the ugly! Spotlight on Youth Sports, 26(1), 1-5.
Gouttebarge, V., Castaldelli-Maia, J. M., Gotcxynski, P., Hainline, B., Hitcock, M. E., Kerkhoffs, G. M., et al. (2019). Occurance of mental health symptoms and disroders in current and former elite atheltes with systemic review and meta-analysis. Br. J Sports Med: 53, 700-706. doc:10.1136/bjsports-2019-100671