I wanted to pass along a bit of advice that coach Gary Shortland shared with me. Gary is a former British competitive ice dancer (with partner Charlotte Clements, they were two-time senior British National Dance Champions, see right) who currently teaches at the Extreme Ice Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. I asked him, from a student's perspective, what qualities should a skater look for in a teacher/coach?
Gary named three that he felt were at the top of the list. First, professionalism. It goes without saying, right? Time is money for both sides so respecting the role of coach and student is very important for a productive relationship. The second aspect that Gary felt the student should focus on was the level of the coach. Granted, not everyone needs an Olympic-caliber coach to be a good skater and get great basics and foundation under their belt. I personally choose instructors based on a combination of my own observations of how they teach, how they skate, word-of-mouth from fellow skaters and in some stances, without knowing anything and just wanting to experience a different teacher.
And the third quality that Gary wanted to emphasize was something I had never thought of, but of course, it makes the most sense. And that is: Choose a coach who looks like he/she enjoys being at the rink. I just thought that was the most profound statement I had heard in a while! So simple and yet so much in the statement about being happy with your work environment, which comes across to your students, which makes them appreciate their surroundings, makes them more receptive to learning, and I can go on and on. Am I reading too much into Gary's third quality? Who know but it's something to keep in mind if we're ever searching for an instructor!