2011 Dallas PSA Conference a Winner

Coaches rally together in Lone Star state to build business and better teaching

By Liz Leamy

This yearís annual International Skating Institute and Professional Skaters Association conference and trade show was held at the Westin Galleria in Dallas, Texas May 24th-28th and drew more than 300 coaches from all over the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia.

During the week, attendees seemed excited to have decided to participate in this popular annual educational skating coaches forum, reputed to be the only one of its kind to exist in the sport.

"The conference is a really good investment for coaches," said Carol Rossignol, PSA Accreditation and Education Director. "Itís motivating for them and they get new energy and ideas."

According to Mitch Moyer, U.S. Figure Skating senior director of high performance, any opportunity to improve oneís education is a good one.

"It rejuvenates [coaches] and gives them new information and ways to look at things," said Moyer. "That translates over to how the kids feel."

This year, the total number of attendees was significantly smaller compared to prior years (there were more than 600 coaches at the 2008 Chicago conference), but not because of any lack in its popularity or quality.

Rather, coaches were probably being somewhat conservative with their spending and elected not to pay the nearly four hundred-dollar registration fee along with the additional travel and hotel expenses because of the uncertain state of the current economy.

At the same time, every June, coaches have to pony up nearly four hundred dollars in fees fo their annual PSA membership renewal, coaches liabililty insurance, coaches education requirement tests and U.S. Figure Skating membership and registration, which could have also affected their decision to travel to Dallas.

Still, coaches who were at this event seemed delighted that they had made the trip.

"This has been a fantastic conference," said Becky Stump, a PSA master-rated coach who is based in Topsfield, Massachusetts. "Everything about it has been first-rate."

Throughout the week, most of the off-ice seminars at the Westin Hotel were nearly filled to capacity and on-ice classes at the Galleria mall rink adjoining the hotel were consistently crowded. (All attendees were also given free ear pods by the PSA to better listen to the on-ice seminars.)

Coaches attended seminars on topics such as business management, successful leadership qualities, jump, spin and footwork technique, choreography, basic skills, equipment information, periodization and ethics.

This yearís list of seminar and forum speakers was impressive as always. It included Frank Carroll, the esteemed American World and Olympic coach; David Dore, Canadian World and Olympic judge and vice president of International Skating Union; Audrey Weisiger, who has taught U.S. and Olympic world and Olympic team members and Christine Brennan, columnist for USA Today and ABC News commentator.

"We are committed to providing coaches with as much information as possible so they can reach their full potential and increase their business," said Rossignol. "Coaching is a business."

Jonathan Geen, a partner at the Borton, Petrini LLC law firm in San Diego, California, conducted one of the most interesting business seminars of the week.

Geen, a former competitor, discussed coaching as a business and was informative, enlightening and intelligent. He discussed some of the things that would define a coach as a rink employee as opposed to an independent contractor. ("Who sets your rates? Are you told how many hours or days you have to work at a rink? Are you told you canít work at any other rink? These are some things to consider," he said.)

Geen said coaches ought to approach their work as a business in every respect. They need to know the various risks and considerations, read and understand all documents, realize that contract terms are negotiable and seek advice and assistance when necessary.

Coaches should also be active in utilizing outside sources such as certified public accountants, attorneys, financial planners and marketing and advertising personnel as a means to build and insure their business.

"This is your business and you want to increase your profitability," said Geen. "Find ways to make your business thrive."

Kathy Casey, former PSA president and U.S. World and Olympic coach, said it is mandatory that coaches to be willing to work at constantly improving themselves in order to achieve success.

"Everyday of my life I want to be a better coach," said Kathy Casey, former PSA president and a U.S. World and Olympic coach. "You have to want to do what it takes to be successful which involves a lot of time and effort."

Casey gave a great seminar on single, double and triple Lutz jumps, and said it is up to the coaches to educate themselves.

She also said that good jumps typically have similar characteristics that work.

"You can have different coaches but if their students all know how to do good jumps, they each understand the common denominators that make jumps work," said Casey.

A proper set up is everything in terms of a good Lutz, said Casey. The skater ought to reach their arm back behind the same hip, bring both feet (which should be completely down on the ice) together, tap and then close their arms.

"Also look for the head to make sure itís aligned properly," she said.

Kevin Cottam, an award-winning skating director and choreographer, gave a memorable keynote speech on those characteristics that define a great performance.

Performing, he explained, is when one carries out an action and that everyone is essentially on the stage all the time.

He encouraged coaches to help their skaters learn, grow and connect with their skating.

Cottam revealed that the seven required ingredients of a good performance include a vision, self-awareness, drive, relationships, talent, action and passion.

"[William] Shakespeare said that all the world is a stage and we are on stage all the time and we all have an audience," said Cottam.

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