Athlete Centered Skating

In part 1 of this series, we discussed general principles from the recently published consensus statement from the International Olympic Committee on youth athletic development.  In part 2, we discuss coaching principles below.

Coaching Principles

The coaching principles are important to discuss.  These principles can inform both coaches (us!) and students (you!) on what the IOC suggests as effective contemporary coaching.  They are all provided in full below with some commentary from us.

But first, we will provide the IOC’s definition of effective contemporary coaching theory:

“The consistent application of integrated professional, interpersonal and intrapersonal knowledge to improve athletes’ competence, confidence, connection and character in specific coaching contexts (pg 07).”

Next we will tackle the IOC’s coaching principles one by one:

  1. Provide a challenging and enjoyable sporting climate that focuses on each athlete’s personal assets and mastery orientation.

What we have here is mention on the importance of nurturing each athlete’s personal growth (a mastery- or task-orientation) through a challenging, but enjoyable, training environment.  This suggests that sport participation should be fueled and nurtured through an individual’s personal developmental goals and growth (rather than a performance- or ego-centered orientation which centers on winning medals and beating others).  A mastery climate also goes hand-in-hand with intrinsic motivation, which refers to partaking in an activity for the pure joy of participation alone which, according to motivation research (Treasure et al. 2007, Pelletier et al. 1995), is the most important form of motivation to fuel individuals’ hard work.

  1. Coaching practices should be informed by research-based developmental guidelines that promote flexibility and innovation, while accommodating individual skills and athletic development trajectories.

This principle is particularly noteworthy to figure skating because this sport is bound to tradition.  As far as coaching methods and athlete development in figure skating are concerned, research and innovation take a backseat to the hand-me-down strategies and practices generally employed in the sport without much reflection.  Bruner (1996)refers to the use of hand-me-down conceptions of teaching (in education) that may be inaccurate and ineffective as ‘folk pedagogies’ and this term suits many traditional practices in figure skating.  On the one hand, the research literature specific to figure skating to inform so-called best practices is lacking at best.  There isn’t much sport specific research to inform us coaches on effective practices.  However, there is plenty of research in other sports and for sports in general that has valid application to figure skating and we rely on this research to guide and inform our own practices within Athlete Centered Skating.

  1. Coaching should be context-specific (eg, participation vs performance focus) and aligned with individual athletic readiness.

This principle refers to the need to reflect the many different reasons children engage in sport and that coaching practices should be adapted to both accommodate the many reasons for participation but also to the individual progressions of each developing athlete.  We feel this principle reflects the need to identify, at an individual level, which phases of an athlete’s development should be learning-focused and which phases should be performance- (competition-) focused. Traditionally in figure skating, children seem to be moved into a performance-focused phase for the entirety of their skating careers and there are consequences to such an emphasis in that learning goals cannot be prioritized at the same time performance goals are prioritized.  Motor learning textbooks refer to this predicament as the learning versus performance distinction (Schmidt and Lee 2013).

  1. Coaching education programmes should assist coaches in establishing meaningful relationships that enrich the personal assets of their athletes and foster their own intrapersonal and interpersonal skills (eg, reflection and communicative skills).

Our take on this principle is that sport is more than an avenue to teach children athletic skills.  Sport can and should be a platform to mentor children and act as lighthouses to illuminate the way as children navigate the unknown waters ahead of them.  Programs that educate coaches need to go further then teaching them biomechanics and tactics.  Coaches must also learn to develop meaningful communication skills with their athletes and should grow and develop alongside their athletes and this is another key to our teaching.  We are always learning from our students and, without them, we would not be the coaches we are today.

  1. Coaches should seek interdisciplinary support and guidance in managing a youth athlete’s athletic development, fitness and health, and mental and social challenges and needs.

The core values that underpin our own teaching are drawn from a broad range of research domains including psychology, adaptology, motor learning and control, genetics, and of course systems thinking.  All of these components are integrated and, without such an interdisciplinary approach, the effectiveness of our teaching would not be the same.

Look for an upcoming blog series on the Routledge Handbook of Talent Identification and Development in Sport (Baker, Cobley, and Schorer 2017)that brings together the most passionate researchers from around the world and addresses much of the discussion from the IOC consensus statement. In that series we will provide an overview of the extensive text and target key topics and chapters.


Baker, Joseph, Stephen Cobley, and Jorg Schorer. 2017. Routledge Handbook of Talent Identification and Development in Sport: Taylor & Francis.

Baker, Joseph, Steve Cobley, and Jörg Schorer. 2013. Talent identification and development in sport: international perspectives: Routledge.

Bergeron, Michael F, Margo Mountjoy, Neil Armstrong, Michael Chia, Jean Côté, Carolyn A Emery, Avery Faigenbaum, Gary Hall, Susi Kriemler, and Michel Léglise. 2015. “International Olympic Committee consensus statement on youth athletic development.”  Br J Sports Med49 (13):843-851.

Bruner, Jerome S. 1996. The culture of education: Harvard University Press.

Cobley, Stephen, and Kevin Till. 2017. “Longitudinal Studies of Athlete Development: Their importance, methods and future considerations ” In Routledge Handbook of Talent Identification and Development in Sport, edited by Joseph Baker, Stephen Cobley, Jorg Schorer and Nick Wattie. New York, NY: Routledge.

Davids, Keith, Duarte Araújo, Luis Vilar, Ian Renshaw, and Ross Pinder. 2013. “An ecological dynamics approach to skill acquisition: Implications for development of talent in sport.”  Talent Development & Excellence5 (1):21-34.

Gulbin, J., and J. Weissensteiner. 2013. “Functional Sport Expertise Systems.” In Developing Sport Expertise, edited by D. Farrow, J. Baker and C. MacMahon. London, UK: Routledge.

Gulbin, Jason P, Morag J Croser, Elissa J Morley, and Juanita r Weissensteiner. 2013. “An integrated framework for the optimisation of sport and athlete development: A practitioner approach.”  Journal of Sports Sciences31 (12):1319-1331.

Gullich, Arne, and Stephen Cobley. 2017. “On the efficacy of talent identification and talent development programmes.” In Routledge Handbook of Talent Identification and Development in Sport, edited by Joseph Baker, Stephen Cobley, Jorg Schorer and Nick Wattie. New York, NY: Routledge.

MacNamara, A, and D Collins. 2012. “Building talent development systems on mechanistic principles: Making them better at what makes them good.”

Pelletier, Luc G, Kim M Tuson, Michelle S Fortier, Robert J Vallerand, Nathalie M Briere, and Marc R Blais. 1995. “Toward a new measure of intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, and amotivation in sports: The Sport Motivation Scale (SMS).”  Journal of sport and Exercise Psychology17 (1):35-53.

Phillips, Elissa, Keith Davids, Ian Renshaw, and Marc Portus. 2010. “Expert performance in sport and the dynamics of talent development.”  Sports Medicine40 (4):271-283.

Renshaw, Ian, Keith Davids, Elissa Phillips, and Hugo Kerhervé. 2012. “Developing talent in athletes as complex neurobiological systems.”

Schmidt, Richard, and Tim Lee. 2013. Motor Learning and performance, 5E with web study guide: from principles to application: Human Kinetics.

Smolianov, Peter, Dwight Zakus, and Joseph Gallo. 2014. Sport Development in the United States: High Performance and Mass Participation. Vol. 32: Routledge.

Treasure, Darren C, N Lemyre, Kendy K Kuczka, and Martyn Standage. 2007. “Motivation in elite sport: A self-determination perspective.”

Wormhoudt, R, GJP Savelsbergh, J Teunissen, and K Davids. in preparation. Athletic Skills Model for optimizing talent development: No specialists, but athletes with a specialization: A new avenue to think about movement.