The Athlete Centered Skating (ACS) pledges are for athletes, parents, coaches on the ACS team, as well as coaches and trainers who work with the ACS team. They convey the core behaviors nurtured by the ACS program. This blog series presents more information about the values conveyed in the pledges. In this second installment, we will present the parents’ behaviors, which are key ingredients that allow their child to achieve peak performance, and, most importantly, develop into a capable, resilient, and respectful human being. The pledges also share specific behaviors that are unacceptable and will not be tolerated by the ACS program.
ACS Parent Pledge
The ACS parent pledge conveys core behaviors parents are expected to respect and adopt when participating in the ACS program. The pledges define these behaviors and the ACS curriculum was designed to nurture these behaviors in our athletes as they develop their sport-specific skills. Below, we provide a brief explanation for each of the behaviors in the parent pledges, which you will notice are unique to parents. The following behavioral expectations are set forth for all parents in Athlete Centered Skating:
My top priority is the physical and psychological health and wellbeing of my child as they navigate this journey.
Remember that this is a sport, and your child will grow and develop both in the sport and beyond. Supporting their physical and psychological health will allow them to blossom into healthy, well-adjusted adults as they learn life lessons through sport. No level of competitive success is worth any amount of physical and/or psychological harm or abuse. It is the training experiences that will shape and impact an athlete the most as they continue their life journey beyond sport. In other words, when your athlete reaches the end of their skating career, the quality of the journey will matter much more than any medal or trophy.
I will respect the decisions of the ACS coaching team, knowing that the team has the best interests of my child in mind.
ACS coaches take great care in making coaching decisions for each athlete. These decisions take into account many factors, from developmental goals to score-related goals, and they do so with the athlete’s best interests in mind. We ask parents to support and respect these decisions, knowing that the ACS team has an intimate knowledge of appropriate development in sport as well as rules pertaining to scoring.
I will do my best to ensure my child can arrive at training in a timely fashion and stay committed to their schedule.
Traffic stinks. We understand. That said, we ask that you plan ahead as much as possible to ensure that your athlete be able to fulfill their pledges as well: this includes being on the ice on-time, being prepared through warm-ups, and adhering to their training schedule. While traffic can spoil plans sometimes, please get your child to the rink ahead of time so that they can be prepared for their sessions, avoid injury, and participate in the necessary classes that will build their skills, such as strength and dance.
I will not talk with my skater or other skaters while they are on the ice.
If your skater is on the ice, they are learning the invaluable concepts of self-regulation and self-direction. These skills are essential not only for successful athletes, but also for successful thinkers and workers beyond the realm of sport. While we understand it might be frustrating to see your child unsure of what to do (especially in the beginning), let them have that moment of decision-making for themselves. You will notice that, over time, your child will take more and more ownership over how they approach their training and be able to create goals for individual sessions more effectively. Self-regulation and self-direction are skills, just like any jump or spin, and they require time and opportunity to develop. Think of it this way: for your child to reach their fullest success in sport and beyond, they must have the space to learn, think, and act for themselves.
I am not a coach, and I will not confuse my child with my role in this journey, which is to be a parent.
This is why you hire us! Let us do the coaching so you can do the most important job in the world, which is to be their parent. Parents can adopt a positive, active role in ensuring that their athlete’s environment is safe and equitable for all participants. We suggest parents think of themselves as lighthouses who stand to the side as they shine the light on obstacles ahead, yet ultimately allow their child to navigate this journey out of their own volition. There are many technical, psychological, and physical skills that your child is learning from us, and we go to great lengths to remain unified in our approach as a coaching team. Mixing the roles of parent and coach becomes confusing; it undermines the unified message of the coaching team to the athlete, and it creates a compounded role that your child will have difficulty parsing.
The following three pledges ask parents to recognize that this is the coaching team’s time and livelihood. This is a competitive program, and it runs smoothly when known schedule changes happen in advance and administrative time is used effectively. We as coaches value our administrative time to plan for lessons, create visions for the season, and brainstorm ways of best serving your child. When schedule changes happen at the last minute, we find ourselves having to adjust in ways that prevent us from being fully prepared.
- I will notify via email to all coaches at least one week prior to known schedule changes and cancellations, or else I may be responsible to pay for missed lessons within that timeframe without proper notification. The coaching team will do its best to accommodate for last minute requests and cancellations, but this is their livelihood and their time is valuable. Text messages and in-person reminders are nice but are not sufficient.
- I will pay my coaches in a timely manner, which means within two weeks of receiving a bill.
- I respect my coaches’ need to use time in between sessions for administrative work and lesson planning.
I will not approach the coaching team while they are actively working with athletes, whether in practice or competition. This includes on- and off-ice.
It is tempting to approach a coach for a quick question. However, when a coach is actively engaging with an athlete or at a competition, their attention is on the task at hand. You most likely will not get a thoughtful response because their mind is elsewhere, so it is better to send an email for a larger question or a text for a quick update to the team. This ensures that everyone remains in the loop and that the coach can do their job to the best of their ability for each athlete.
The best way for me to ask questions is to email the entire coaching team. This ensures that the coaching team sees the question, discusses, and is able to present a best-informed answer.
We know there will be questions along the way as you navigate this journey with your child. To get the best answer from the coaching team, we ask that you write an email (not a text) to the entire team. This allows the whole team to see it, mark it as unread so it does not get lost in the shuffle, and discuss as a team. Text messages are fine for quick “running late”-type messages, but if you have a more important question, it could be missed when more thought is involved. We desire to deliver a thoughtful response, and this has been our best practice as a team.
I understand that figure skating is a judged sport, and I will respect the outcomes and results of competitions and tests.
Being a good parent in this sport can be difficult when results seem confusing or not what you expect. Many factors go into scoring, some of which are reviewed in slow motion and others which are evaluated holistically by officials. Judges, Referees, and Technical Officials are volunteers on behalf of US Figure Skating and they serve on panels for the betterment of the sport. It is important to respect the expertise and experience of these officials, whether or not it is what you thought the outcome would be. It certainly is acceptable to have private discussions with the coaching team regarding scoring and outcomes. This type of discussion is best to have a few days after an event so that emotions can settle and it is easier to gain perspective rather than in the heat of the moment.
I have every right to promote ACS when engaging with those around me. I can share my experience with ACS and how it might contrast other programs, and I pledge to do so in a professional manner.
You are an ambassador for our program, just as our athletes are! We very much appreciate you promoting and sharing your experiences of ACS with those around you, and we ask that you do so with the utmost professionalism. A sign of professionalism is maintaining a positive or neutral outlook while contrasting programs. Putting others down is not how we choose to build ourselves up; rather, we look to cultivate positivity in our own program that emanates from our athletes, coaching team, and parents.
I can be a positive, supportive parent at competitions by:
Cheering my skater and other skaters on, including direct competitors;
Being supportive of my child’s efforts regardless of outcomes;
Being there and being supportive, but not drawing attention or distracting;
Not discussing scores or results with my child or other skaters, but rather focusing on their overall experience;
Being at an event can be daunting as a parent. Your athlete will likely feel a wide array of emotions, and you might feel somewhat unsure of how to react or guide your athlete. This only becomes more acute as the jumps become harder and the stakes increase with qualifying competitions and beyond. The best thing to do is to be a quiet support for your athlete, the ACS team, and all the skaters at the event. Your athlete’s experience will be greatly enhanced if you allow them the space to be excited, nervous, disappointed, upset, and triumphant, and sometimes many of these simultaneously. Drawing too much attention to yourself in the stands, lingering while they are warming up, or talking to them while they are trying to get into the “zone” tends to add to the negative emotions rather than the positive ones. Think about how you might be feeling in a similar scenario where you’ve had to perform under pressure.
Scores are scores. They matter to your child, but they are not the focus of the journey, nor should they be the center of the conversation (to your child or anyone else’s child). Try to keep your focus on the big picture and look at these events as mile-markers along the way for your athlete. Score improvements will vary and will not always be linear. It’s great to remind athletes of this point, but getting into the weeds of scores undermines the countless hours of your child’s hard work and efforts that have gone into each of these moments.
I recognize that there is no one in the world quite like my child, and I understand that they will progress in their own unique, nonlinear, and developmentally appropriate manner.
Your child is wholly unique and will develop skills at varying speeds. Some skills come more naturally and others less, and this changes from athlete to athlete. We ask that you please refrain from comparing your child to other athletes because their journeys will be different, and this is entirely normal. In fact, comparison presents a barrier to your child’s success because it subconsciously places a condition on your child’s performance rather than providing them with unconditional positive regard. Similarly, there will come periods of rapid skill acquisition as well as plateaus, in which the athlete will struggle. During these periods of struggle, your child will need you the most as a calm, reassuring, parental figure who believes in them.
Behaviors Not Tolerated
The ACS parent pledges also list behaviors that are not tolerated and could result in suspension or expulsion from the program. We want the ACS program to be recognized for the positive behaviors it promotes. However, we also understand that the quality of a program is represented not only through the behaviors that are promoted, but also those that are tolerated. It is important for the parents to understand and recognize when their own behaviors have strayed away from being effective and acceptable for their child’s training. In some cases, these behaviors could result in a verbal warning from the ACS coaching team. In other cases, such as repeat or severe offenses, the parent could be suspended or expelled from the ACS program. These decisions are made solely at the discretion of the ACS coaching team. Below is a list of behaviors not tolerated by ACS:
- Coaching my child
- Yelling at my child or treating them harshly if they have a poor practice or performance. What they really could use in these types of situations are hugs and support. They are their own harshest critic already.
- Gossiping about other skaters, parents, or coaches
- Prioritizing competitive results above my child’s physical and psychological health and wellbeing
- Chronic failure to adhere to my child’s training plan as outlined by the coaches. This includes on- and off-ice training schedules.