Thursday, July 2, 2015

Adult Friendly Coaches, Coach Friendly Adults

I take the kid classes for several reasons, but a big one is that I get more exposure to more coaches. One of my big mistakes early on was a myopic focus on one coach, thinking that by doing so I would have better technique. Wasn't true, and was actually really limiting when that one coach didn't give me much to do.

So now I get instruction from a wide array of coaches, ranging from a former World Champion to the Regional Superstarlet new to this whole Coaching thing.

Last week I had a Coach that I didn't think was very adult friendly, so I kinda braced myself. It wasn't necessary, and I got one of the best Toe Loop Lessons I'd ever had. I used to think that some coaches just didn't like to work with adults, but there are some things adults can do to make themselves easier to work with.

1. Do what the Coach tells you

Most experienced coaches will modify their approach for you. Either by slowing it down a little or being more specific with steps, they get it that you're not a kid. A Younger Coach will likely toss things at you wholesale, and it's up to you to put the brakes on. But in either case, give it your genuine best effort. My Young Coach didn't quite understand that I can't do a twizzle (yet) and I need a moment to get into a back pivot, so I will sometimes say, "I can't do X Skill, so I will do this similar thing instead." And after a class or two, she understood. My Older Coach would smile at me and tell me to try X Skill anyway, which had mixed results but he was only disappointed if I didn't try.

2. Don't make fun of yourself.

Adults have a bad habit of mocking their age and skillset. Stop it. Take yourself with some seriousness. A Jokey Attitude sets up the stage for that whole "Not Trying" thing. On my first lesson with the Former World Champion, he tasked me with a side toe from an inside 3 turn and I laughed at it. "You never know until you try," he smiled calmly. I had already broken the bad habit of downing myself with Coach Fab, but I also had to break it with everyone else, too. I save the Old jokes for lobby banter when I'm with other adults, and not my coaches.

3. Be respectful.

My Power Coach is young, and she has said she isn't comfortable teaching someone who could be her mom. Okay, point taken, so when I'm in class with her, she's the boss. I do what she says to the best of my ability. I don't talk back and I don't pull the "Old Card," since that's where she starts to feel uncomfortable.

4. Be an Example

I'm currently stuck at Freeskate 2 with Backspins. The Freeskate 2 class shares a warmup with the Basic kids, so I'm literally a giant. But I'm the best giant out there, so I do my best to exemplify good stroking technique, crossovers, and whatever. "I can't do lunges," a scared little girl whispered to me as she watched the warmup group do lunges. "It's okay, I'll do them on my bad side with you," I said. And I did.

5. Constructive criticism is valuable

Take critiques for what they are, critiques of your skating, not of you. Ask for feedback, tell them where you're stuck or confused. In some cases, the clarity of an adult saying, "I feel like I'm on the flat, and not an edge," might be a refreshing change from a kid who can't say what's holding them back.

6. But Take no Shit

There have been occasions when a coach has made mention of me, an Adult, in class with the kids. "What are you doing here, this isn't the adult class." I reply simply that I am in this class and skate strongly past them with my head held high.

It's true that there is some Adult Skater Hate out there, but Adults sometimes do things to set themselves up for the distaste. Don't cop an attitude, don't limit yourself, and try hard. Even if you know you can't do what the coach is telling you, as long as it's level appropriate, try it anyway. I think that's the best way to make headway with Coaches who might have some reservations about adult skaters. Failure is better than not doing it at all or admitting defeat before you got started. And you'll impress a coach more by trying things outside your comfort zone than by making a great crack about your age.