Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

I've had a number of coaches, and I've left some with no harm no foul separation. The usual reasons; the rink closed, the coach retired, long term injury, I moved to another rink.  Once I left a coach, shall we call it 'for cause'. This is awkward, but few people think about how to do this. I'm going to talk about my approach.

Some people aren't confrontational.  Believe it or not, I'm not confrontational. But when I make a decision, I don't dither around; I execute....and move on.

So in my case when I was thinking about leaving the coach, I had tried a negotiation first, which did not work. I then thought things out for a couple of weeks while making my decision.  The day I decide to announce my decision, I waited until the coach and I were on the ice at the beginning of the lesson. I paid my lesson fee first thing, then I said, "I'm not happy with XXX. I've decided to get another coach." I identified my reason in a tactful manner, "I'm giving two months notice, so the end date would be XXXX." After that point, the lesson fee was going not to my feet, but to discussion. I considered that a price to pay.

Some things I thought out before hand.

1. I made sure I had all my  bills paid before I make the announcement.  I had cash in my hand and paid the coach at the beginning of the lesson, so there would be no need to speak to each other afterwards if  tempers were high.

2. Know beforehand if you will agree to a negotiation with the coach over issues that concern you. Me, I was done.  But another skater with the same problem with the same coach decided to negotiate. The skater used the following formula,  "XXX is bothering me. If we can't resolve this issue, then I'll leave on XXX date."  This worked successfully for that skater.

3. I would never quit a coach 'for cause' with a phone call or an email. If I'm going to fire someone, I do it face to face if at all possible.  Yeah, I know it seems I sandbagged this poor coach, but my negotiation attempt had failed.  And remember I was giving TWO MONTHS notice. (On the other hand, when I left coaches because of injuries, I did it by email. Thanked them profusely, wrote glowingly of their thoughtfulness and skill, and hoped that sometime in the future we could skate again. When I'm injured, I figure coaches don't expect a personal visit under those circumstances, because if I'm not skating, I'm pretty much immobile. YMMV)

A professional shouldn't publicly hold a grudge.  The next time I saw the coach, my departure was water under the bridge.  We spoke casually and made polite inquiries to each other, and I complimented the coach's students. What was said about me in the pros room, no idea.

Don't feel bad for the coach. A new student was filling my slot within a half hour.
I know this kind of situation can be emotionally draining, but if you have the urge to vent about your coach on Facebook, show some class. Don't. Vent. Just say you're leaving your coach, and leave it like that.

Yeah, don't do this.


  1. I adore my former coach. But she went and got herself a day job. I skate weekday mornings and Sundays. She has church on Sundays. So the only freestyles she could coach me were weekday afternoons (ick) and the hella early Saturday mornings. I don't DO mornings. She was fine about me finding a new one.

    Years ago, in another state, my coach was started to get ornery and rude with my skating. I was starting to dread lessons. So I switched, just like that, to someone new. I gave no notice. I figure I'm not an elite skater. I can switch coaches whenever I want. But this was back before internets.

    1. I would prefer to give notice, as it gives the coach less reason to complain, but if the coach is being verbally abusive, I would leave too.

      The rules for elite skaters seems to have loosened up in the last decade. Skaters leave all the time, sometimes quite abruptly. Didn't Frank Carroll have a skater who left and he only found out through the news?

  2. It's a business arrangement and not a marriage (as I always tell people) just be polite and like Babette mentioned, make sure you are paid up. Many coaches share this type of info amongst themselves, it's a bit like maintaining a good credit rating by paying your bills on time. I also prefer not to burn bridges if possible.