Poaching Skaters

As a judge I could not care less what club a skater represents, who their coach is, or who choreographed their program.  I hope I am not living in a dream world when I say that my observation is that nearly all judges I know feel the same.

And yet there are many a skater and parent who has the idea in their head that it does matter.  They seem to think that the choice of club they join does affect their marks and their competition results.  Where do they get this idea?  Sad to say, it is because some clubs, officials and coaches promote this point of view either actively or subliminally to get skaters to join a specific club.

Recently I received an e-mail from a club member letting me know they were changing home club.  The message included the following, "It's not really in my control, but I have to switch to the XXX Figure Skating Club."  The skater did not go on to explain why, and did not have to.  I know exactly where the pressure to change clubs came from.

This is not the first skater poached from my club.  There is, sadly, a long history in skating of some coaches acting as recruiters for specific clubs, and who force skaters to join the club of the coach's choice.  There is also a long history of some officials actively recruiting skaters for their club, enticing them with the dream of better scores and greater success if only the skater was a member of the "right" club.

Then we have coaches competing for other coaches' students.  Is there anyone who has spent time in a skating rink who does not have a story of a coach luring a skater away from another coach, or at least trying?

Why has this been allowed to go on for so long?  Why was it ever tolerated at all?

GR 1.01 includes the following statement of U.S. Figure Skating's code of ethics.

"A. It shall be the responsibility of all officials in sanctioned figure skating events, registered members of member clubs, or collegiate clubs and individual members to be thoroughly familiar with the rules of U.S. Figure Skating, to comply with them in full and to exemplify the highest standards of fairness, ethical behavior and genuine good sportsmanship in any of their relations with others. Those who serve U.S. Figure Skating must do so without personal gain, must avoid any institutional loss or embarrassment, and must behave in a way that U.S. Figure Skating’s trust and public confidence are enhanced."

This rules states that ALL members of U.S. Figure skating, and that includes officials and coaches, must "exemplify the highest standards of fairness, ethical behavior and genuine good sportsmanship in any of their relations with others."

Perhaps I am being old fashioned and too much of a Pollyanna, but it seems to me that poaching skaters does not exemplify the highest standards of fairness, ethical behavior and genuine good sportsmanship in relations with others.  On the contrary, It seem to me poaching skaters is the epitome of a LACK of fairness, ethical behavior and genuine good sportsmanship in relations with others.

GR 1.02 goes on to say:

"A. I will exhibit the highest standards of fairness, ethical behavior, and genuine good sportsmanship in all of my relations with others."

and also:

"F. I understand that the penalties that may be imposed may include, but are not limited to, loss of future international selections, loss of financial support from U.S. Figure Skating and Memorial Fund, and loss of participation in activities hosted, supported, sponsored, or engaged in by U.S. Figure Skating."

In addition, judges have a further code of conduct they must adhere to under JR 1.00.

Yet none of this stifles the activities of some officials or coaches to poach skaters.

Now that coaches have been fully integrated into U.S. Figure Skating, are required to be members of USFSA to be credentialed at events, required to pass background checks, and required to participate in a continuing education program, maybe it is time to add a specific code of ethics for coaches to U.S. Figure Skating rules, and to give some teeth to the ethics rules for officials, coaches and clubs in general.

Specifically, we would like to see explicitly written into the rules that no official or coach can approach a skater or parent to solicit them to join a specific club, that no official or coach can direct or coerce a skater to join a specific club, that no representation can ever be made by an official or coach that a skater will obtain better marks or competition results if they join a specific club, that soliciting or inducing a skater to leave a club or coach in favor of another will be considered a violation of the Code of Ethics, and that violations of these rules will be grounds for the loss appointments and/or membership in U.S. Figure Skating.

Return to title page

Copyright 2008 by George S. Rossano