Advice to Skating Parents (Michelle Leigh)

World and Olympic coach Michelle Leigh offers insights and advice to skating parents. Many coaches wish that skating parents would have minimal involvement in the development of a skater, but as you’ll learn in this video, Michelle wants knowledgeable parents to be actively involved. But she also offers some critical advice, particularly to parents who are not happy with specific results or overall rates of progress.

Above all else, Michelle says skating parents should “be supportive and expect great effort.” In particular, Michelle cautions against providing too much negative feedback after a skater has provided a great effort but did not get a good result. The reason is relatively simple: the skater is going to stop taking risks. Michelle says, “That’s a big danger if they don’t get the parent’s support when they’re taking risk, then they’re not going to keep excelling as much.” Risk taking is a critical part of the development process and maximum progress is likely when a skater feel comfortable taking risks. Perhaps one of Michelle’s most important comments is said in passing. She says, “We don’t need you to talk about results. The skater knows.” Michelle also touches briefly on how figure skating is a “lonely” sport and skaters really need the support of their entire team (including their parents).

Next, Michelle talks about the frustrations some coaches and parents (and skaters) feel when a skater does not get new skills as fast as other skaters. She suggests staying positive and trusting that these skaters who have to try a little harder and put more time in to learn skills may ultimately have a better understanding of their skills and better long-term consistency and competitive success. She says, “If you keep a long term perspective on it, it really doesn’t matter.” She also says, “Know that at any time, any kid can kind of jump ahead. You just have to stick with it and believe in the people that you surround yourself with.”

Michelle closes with a discussion about how figure skating is great for developing important life skills. Skating teaches skaters how to overcome obstacles, set goals and go after them, how to multi-task, and how to handle mistakes and failure (as well as success). Michelle notes, “Almost every single day a skater is at the rink and they’re out there giving effort they’re definitely becoming better people.”


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