Reader Kristen brought up an interesting point in the "Who's That Skater?" post, regarding Coaches who skate in shows. It was mentioned that the shows might be a way for Coaches to promote themselves, but Kristen noted quite wisely that if ALL the coaches did that, there would be no room for the kids.
Again, I already assume a coach can skate fairly competently. But this is going to be a shocker; I'm not really paying for skating ability. I'm paying for a Coach's ability to teach my child. And my child is different from other children, so I have to make sure I have a good teaching method match compared to other Coaches teaching methods. Not only that, but I have to make sure that these two get along.
There's a Coach who I watch do some pretty great skating moves, but I wouldn't want this Coach for Stitch. This Coach doesn't teach in a way that kids learn well from, in my opinion. There's another Coach who I consider to be too stand-offish, another I think secretly hates children, one is too soft for a hard case like Stitch, another is hard to understand and Stitch has trouble with accents sometimes. And there's a lot of Coaches I'd love to toss Stitch to just to see what happens, but for that I have to rely on Luck of the Draw in Group Classes. (Another reason I value Group Classes.)
But how can Coaches promote themselves? I've never seen a Coach's business card, was never approached by a Coach back in the early days, and even now I think some Coaches talk to me only because I've established myself as relatively harmless. We've been with Coach Y for a year, and I've never seen her have a card, or even any semblance of paperwork with her name or contact information on it. My invoices are scraps of paper and my memory. It seems less of a business and more of a Mob operation. Mister Miyagi from Karate Kid was more organized. (Did that kid's mom ever get a bill?)
If this is these people's livelihood, how are they advertising themselves? How are they getting more kids to their stable?
Back when I "hired" Coach Y, I asked her on the phone, "Which one are you?"
"I'm the one in the yellow coat. You've seen me."
I had to think back. Stitch was in Pre-Alpha, and yes, I'd seen a woman in a yellow coat with the PA2 kids, and I liked the way she kept them off the wall and used cones. Cones are cool. Okay, this seems fine. (Again, no one had talked to me beyond, "Fill out the form and wait for a call." I had no clue how this process worked.)
The way I understand it, Coaches get visibility in the Group Classes. They can see the kids and parents, so when the kids want a private coach, the parent has some idea of who to talk to. (Provided the parents know that, yes, you can talk to Coaches you have a fondness for.) This relies on Coaches actually being in Group Classes, being on their best behavior in Group Classes, and maybe stopping to chat with Parents in a friendly way before rushing off. This is a fine way to get yourself seen.
But I don't see this happening that often. That scenario is really rare. I've had some Group Class coaches I've wanted to hit with a blow dart from the stands, and some Coaches I hardly ever see in Group Classes at the PreStyle level. When they do deign to show up, they act kinda nonchalant or distant. Again, give me my blow dart because I know swizzles are boring but they are important! Some of these PreStyle Group Classes wound up as glorified public skate sessions, because none of the Coaches took the warmups seriously. (Blow darts for all the parents in the stands that day, 50% of whom were bitching about the wasted time and lesson.)
And then there are the Secret Coaches, the ones you only learn about from hanging around the Rink long enough and asking enough questions. The Coach who only works with adults but is really cool, the Coach who is renown for his choreography, the Dance Coach, and the Jump Coach who may as well be on a gilded litter, pushed around the ice by a pack of Pre-Alpha Servant Kids. How do they promote themselves?
Working in Sales, I know Word of Mouth Advertising is great. But how do these people get the mouths going? If anyone asks me about Coaching, and how I feel about Coach Y, I say she's tough but she gets the job done in a caring way. If they feel their kid can handle it, go for it. So yes, I will freely promote Coach Y. But I also promote other coaches, too. "This Coach is great, that one works well with the littler ones, this one might be a good fit for your kid, that junior Coach is fantastic, avoid that one because she seems to be a changeling of some kind, stay away from that bunch," and so on. But I can't imagine running a business based on Other Parents talking about me. I know how I can talk about people sometimes.