Figure Skating Coach  What They Do

Just the Facts


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dotFigure skating coaches do more than just teach skating. They motivate athletes to perform at the highest possible level. Successful coaches need strong teaching skills, motivation and excellent communication skills.

"I assess who the skater is and where he's going," says Doug Leigh, coach of Olympic skating champions. "I go over his goals, his dreams, his objectives. I'm a technical coach. I assess talents, whether it's recreational or competitive skating. I'm not a choreographer. The skater and I will lay out a plan, have a challenge or obstacle and shoot for success."

Leigh also spends much of his time running his popular skating school. He's a coach and a businessman.

dotCharles Fetter teaches at a family recreational club with no testing levels -- unlike competitive skating clubs. "I teach all forms of skating, including some hockey skills. I have students who are four years old, some who are in their 30s and others who are over 65 years old," he says.

"We teach whatever area of interest our skater has," Fetter says. "Free skating, movement, dance, pairs -- once you're beyond the basic skills level. We do have standard achievement tests, too. Gold medals are available to skaters at each level if they want to try."

dotJoanne McLeod is the figure skating director of a skating academy. She's certified to teach at the Olympic level, and she also teaches choreography.

"I'm responsible for the management of my students' careers," says McLeod. "We plan and set goals and schedule timetables for examinations and competitions. I devise a building block system to teach them skills. It has to be a solid foundation -- a step structure -- for them to acquire good, solid, consistent skills."

dotIt's not surprising that most figure skating coaches spend most of their time on the ice. "I'm on skates all day," says McLeod. "There are some top coaches who don't, but I do. Some of my time is off the rink, too. I'll talk to my students, give pep talks and go over theories in the dressing room. I also offer biomechanical lessons and ballet in studios. Ninety percent of development, though, is done on the ice."

dotSo being on skates isn't necessary to teach figure skating -- but it helps. "You could teach in a wheelchair," says Fetter. "But I like to skate when I coach. Skating equipment is uncomfortable, though. Sometimes I'll teach in hockey skates."

At a Glance

Teach technical and athletic skills -- and manage careers

  • Coaches spend 90 percent of their time on the ice
  • Experience is the key to launching a coaching career
  • Nurturing top skaters raises your coaching profile