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Olympic Figure Skater Johnny Weir Left Longtime Coach Priscilla Hill in 2007

Years ago, shortly after New Year's Day, I returned from a wonderful two week vacation. When I returned home, I called all my skating students to remind them I was back and planned to resume their lessons. I will never forget one particular call that left an empty feeling inside of me.

I taught a beautiful little girl who lived with her grandparents. Her grandparents loved her so much! They wanted more than anything to give her the gift of skating. They had told me once that they considered me special and part of their family. I thought I would be the child's private skating teacher for many years and it never occurred to me that the family would consider another coach. That day, my routine phone call turned out not to be routine since the little girl's grandmother said the folllowing to me: "Jo Ann, we are no longer going to use you for skating lessons; we've found someone else." I was stunned!

One of the hardest things anyone who coaches figure skating goes through is "losing a student." Most figure skating coaches put in long hours and do care about the people they give lessons to. Some skaters grow up with a certain coach and leaving that special teacher and mentor can be traumatic for both parties involved.

Olympic Figure Skater Johnny Weir Left Longtime Coach Priscilla Hill in 2007 - Photo by Matthew Stockman /Getty Images

Comments

January 8, 2008 at 3:30 pm
(1) Carlesa Williams says:

Your story and the support articles really hit home. I recently lost a new skater to one of the other coaches in my facility while I was away at the National Championship. The little girl showed a lot of promise, was very bright and was a quick study. She would have done very well in the new season. I don’t like to lose a skater, but when I do, it’s nice to see them reach their potential… even if it’s with another coach. Unfortunately the new situation did not gel, she ended up back in the group lessons for a while and then disappeared. Such a loss to the little skater, the sport and (selfishly)to me.

January 15, 2008 at 3:43 pm
(2) Alan J. Zell says:

Joann, As the expression goes, “I feel your pain” but that is as far as it goes.

One of the biggest drawbacks to the real growth of figure skating is that the professional staff is made up of independant contractors vs being employees or a skating program. Students change schools, customers go to other vendors or resources — change is constant for both parties. No business relationship is set in stone.

No coach “owns” a student. Actually, since the student and/or partent is paying, they are the boss and it is the boss that owns the coach. That is no different from any business and not just skating.

All businesses lose customers for a lot of reasons. Is it money, time, communcations, skills or lack of same, is it due to being told by others that a change is needed . . . there are hundreds of ideas of why customers (nee employers) find others to fill the same need or needs not offered by the former business.

Is there a nice way to change from one resource to another? If you are using Harlick’s, would you tell them you are changing to Reidel’s before you made the change? I doubt it. Maybe the difference is that Harlick is a company and unless Mr. Harlick kneaded your feet personally when measuring for your boots, Harlicks are only a company where, with a skating coach, it is personal so while Harlick may win some, loose some, it is thought he has enough business to make up for a loss customer and you, maybe do not . . . at least from your point of view. But, from the Grandparents’ point of view, they believe that you have a big field to pick from and it will be easy for you to replace their grandaughter with someone else.

One of the reasons the grandparents of the skater did not tell you until the change had been made is that they did not want to tell you why as this would/could cause even a bigger rift than if done the way it was done.

You brought up a very good point that anyone in business faces. It is something for both sides of the business relationship need to think about.

Alan

August 29, 2010 at 7:51 pm
(3) JJ says:

Here is another article on Aug 28 from Japan Times titled “ORSER SAYS HE WAS ASKED TO COACH MAO”

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/sp20100428f1.html

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