Skating Moms Part Two: The Bad

In Skating Moms Part One: The Good, I delved into the positive traits I hope to see in parents at the rink.  A parent's level of involvement depends greatly on their ability to be at the rink and the flexibility of their job.  Some parents can spend all day sitting in the oval refrigerator while others must attend a daily 9-5 job that renders the previous option impossible.  Thus, some aspects are out of a parent's control.  Nevertheless, they do have responsibility for their actions at the rink.  Being overly enthusiastic about their child's skating comes with some unfortunate consequences.

When it comes to behavior at the rink there are a few definite no's. These are not particularly terrible things, but rather they are pieces of a pattern that leads to a bad place.  Once again, giving advice is not forbidden.  The manner in which the advice is given is the important part.

  1. Standing by the door of the rink is a huge no at almost any time.  There are a few exceptions here.  If a child has forgotten his or her music or a water bottle, then a parent at the rink door is perfectly acceptable.  If the main purpose of the parent's choice of location is to be able to communicate with their child at all times, then there's a problem.  Skaters make mistakes while on the ice and usually they know it.  They don't need a parent pointing out their flaws, that's what the professional coach is hired to do.

  2. Yelling advice from the stands is bad form and distracting to other skaters.  The yelling is not helpful on a number of counts.  First, skaters need to be paying attention to what is happening ON THE ICE.  This awareness prevents dangerous collisions and keeps skaters focused on the environment in which they are operating.  Second, other skaters will be equally distracted by a gesturing and vocal parent.  While a parent may be talking directly to their child, everyone else is aware of the interaction.  Third, while the skater is on the ice advice is to be given by the coaches on the ice. Undermining the coach's authority is confusing to the skater and does not help develop a positive coach-student relationship.

  3. Being constantly present at the side of the rink also inhibits a skater's ability to learn to work on their own. If a parent is constantly giving a child advice and telling them what to do, the skater never learns to work hard alone. If a skater does not always know what to work on, a checklist created in a notebook before each session is a good way to give him or her a practice outline. Coaches are usually quite willing to help skaters develop these practice lists.

  4. Taking over the coaching role at test sessions and competitions is never a good idea. If the skater wants a parent there, it is usually as a moral support figure, not another coach. Occasionally, a coach can not attend an important event and the parent is thrust into the “coaching” position. Even at that point, it is much better to simply give support rather than trying to control the situation like a professional coach would. If the coach feels the skater is okay alone, the skater doesn't need a controlling parent on top of the competition stresses.

  5. Don't give your skater the tenth degree when they get off the ice. If the session was a good one, they will probably share the highlights. If it was a bad one, they might share some things they need to work on. In either case, it is up to the skater to decide how much to share and when. A parent pushing for the blow by blow account will only frustrate a skater no matter how the session went. If you want an accurate overview of the session, take a minute with the coach and ask a few questions.

Skaters value their parents' support and advice, so be careful not to abuse this fact. They will listen to their parent before their coach many times, so it is important to leave the technique and mental strength coaching to the professionals who know the details of the business. The more a parent coaches, the harder it is for a skater to learn a good individual work ethic. The best skaters are motivated from within and don't need to be watched every second to make sure they are practicing correctly.