Friday, December 19, 2014

Freebies - or - Skating with the Enemy

Every so often you'll see a coach who offers Freebies, for any number of reasons. A Freebie can be a free lesson, a discounted lesson, an invitation to a class for which you did not pay, or an off-ice session at some ridiculous barter rate. It's basically any service falling outside of the standard Coach Responsibilities (education on tests and competitions, equipment assistance) that you don't fork over legal tender for.

Given the expense of this sport, it's easy to get excited about Freebies. Wow! Coach really wants to help me! He must really like me!

Hold on. Not so fast.

On the surface, a Freebie seems like a nice gesture. And maybe Coach really does want to help you in some way with some skill without added expense. But here's the catch: You're now beholden to Coach.

A Freebie serves as a way for that Coach to get their little claws in you, to the point where it's difficult to escape. If you've been taking Freebies for awhile, and then become unhappy with the Coaching relationship, it's no stretch for an unethical Coach to say, "Well, I did these nice favors for you, how dare you talk back to me and complain! After everything I've done for you?" Suddenly it's Martyr City and you're Pilate.

A bad scenario for you as a member of your Rink Community is a Coach sneaking you into a class for which you didn't pay. Rink Management likely wouldn't appreciate that, and other families who did pay won’t see it as a nice gesture like you did. Two skaters can keep a secret only if one of them has a blade in her back.

Sharing Lessons is another nice gesture that can go horribly awry. Again, on the surface it is a nice way to defray costs between students of a similar level. But, as everyone knows, all skaters learn at different rates. When one skater picks up skills faster than the other, moving up before the other skater can, that faster learning skater is more likely to get the bulk of Coach's attention. It rips off lower level skaters in that shared lesson group. Worse is when a "Shared Lesson" exists to subsidize one particularly gifted skater at the expense of others who bankroll a hefty percentage of her skating lessons. (Big clues here are when Coach comments on the family’s finances.) Watch a Shared lesson between skaters of disparate levels and you can usually pick out whose lesson this really is.

What happens when one skater suddenly decides to leave the little group? It throws every other skater in a sudden lurch. Do you cut short the lesson time? Or do you continue on because the Coach "needs the income?"

Tread carefully in "Shared Lessons" and be sure they are, in fact, truly and equitably shared.

Not all Freebies are bad. But be careful. Keep track. Don't put yourself in a situation where you've accepted so many Freebies and Favors that it's hard to back out of an abusive coaching relationship, and you simply have to take the Coach's abuse due to all the "nice things" he did before. Remember, an abuser's pattern is one of cruelty followed by "let me make it up to you" niceness.

Bottom line, Coaching is a business. Be wary of any Pro who doesn’t treat it that way. And there’s no such thing as a Free Skating Lunch. Ever. Don't get burned out there.  

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