As I was leaving the rink yesterday, I found myself in a very inquisitive state. I was thinking about the difference between working with elite athletes as compared to working with our local Novice, Junior, or Senior skaters? Besides the obvious that they are elite international competitors with stellar skating skills and amazing jumps and spins in their arsenal of tricks, there is another commonality between elite skaters such as Misha Ge, Max Aaron, and Tatsuki Machida. That common thread is their approach to learning and applying what they are learning.
How can we, as coaches, best guide our young up and coming stable of skaters? Misha calls me “Sen sei” which is Japanese for teacher. He takes that very seriously because he wants to tap into all the knowledge and wisdom I can bestow upon him to help make him as successful as possible. Max Aaron looks me square in the eye at the beginning and end of every lesson and says, “Thank you”, with sincerity. Tatsuki Machida faces me and we each put our hand over our hearts and bow graciously to each other. This type of respect for their teacher is always present.
It has been my pleasure to have worked with Misha since he was a wide-eyed excited teenager and now as a man who finds himself sitting sixth in the World. His dedication to wanting to be the best he can be is impressive.
The words that best describe Misha, Max, and Tatsuki and their deep relationship with their coaches are that they are always respectful, trusting and compliant.
Recently I was working with Misha trying to get a difficult turn at the beginning of his short step sequence before the big highlight in the music. We were tight for time trying to hit the crescendo and I knew he was uncomfortable. He said, "If you tell me, Sen sei, I need it, I will do it."
This is the truest form of respect and compliancy. Misha then reminded me of something important saying, "Last year you told me if I did all that you asked of me the judges could not deny me even though I represent the small country of Uzbekistan." He said, "You were right. I jumped over many others to become sixth in the world." Then he added, "Thank you Sen sei." This is true trust.
Whether we are teaching Pre-Preliminary or Senior skaters, we can help all athletes if they are compliant and have respect and trust for their coach. Perhaps the parents of this generation could help not only the coaches, but more so their children, to become more successful if they would teach their children three very important traits.
Be compliant with your coaches.
Have respect for your parents, coaches, teachers, yourself and your sport.
Trust the people we are paying to guide you.
The session is over & the Zamboni is coming out.