Team Teaching
Nowadays, some skaters have several coaches working with them on everything from jumps and choreography to Stroking, spins, Skills, Dance and Interpretive- not to mention off-ice personnel for dry-land, mental training, ballet etc. But even among excellent coaches curricula and teaching styles may not be compatible. Not all coaches follow the same teaching and learning models; they have their own philosophies, interpretations of the rules and their own choices, timing and emphasis of skills in their curricula. They do not even use the same technique; in fact, technique varies greatly. If one or more of the team's proffered instructions contain errors the skater's performance can be diminished rather than enhanced.     

Team teaching happens when more than one person has input into a skaterís development. All coaches if they have ever posed a question have used some form of team teaching but it is important to understand what differentiates them so the most suitable can be chosen. That will be the one that will have the greatest chance of success. Coaches considering working together must:

   * Value the other coaches on the team
   * Be willing to be a part of the team
   * Be capable of working with others
   * Have an expertise important to the success of the team
   * Be available
   * Be enthusiastic about their participation

Even when all these qualities are present success is not guaranteed. Team members must be able to transfer their expertise to the skater and this can only be accomplished if conditions are conducive.

Good coaches have an operative philosophy. They know what skills and qualities are necessary at each stage of a skaterís development and they know the type of environment in which this learning can take place. If a coachís teaching model is disrupted by other team members due to conflicts in daily or weekly schedules, lesson content or personality, the potential for transfer will be diminished. Adding new expertise, no matter how necessary, is not useful if it cannot be transferred to the skater. Attempts to add team members in spite of the knowledge that conditions are not favourable or to drastically modify the model to accommodate them are a waste of time.

A teamís success is often not known for a long time. As it evolves its memberís strengths, interests and availability are revealed. Arbitrary or reluctant teams may not include the harmony that is the essence of most successful team teaching. The support, dedication and energy that come from being part of a team are, in many cases, its most productive aspect.

Coaches are brought onto teams so their influence can be felt. But there is a fine line between influence and interference. The schedules and attitudes of the other coaches on the team, the mental and physical stamina of the skater and the financial and other resources of the parents govern a coach's influence. Each coach needs to feel she is an effective and necessary influence; otherwise, it is unrealistic to believe she will maintain interest in the project. Interference occurs when differing opinions cannot or are not resolved. Disagreements on technique or philosophy can become power struggles sometimes without coaches even being aware of it. This can happen either when coaches push their own message without sufficient communication with the rest of the team or when parties outside the coaching staff select team members. When coaches believe their influence is not felt or is futile either because of scheduling or interference they become less enthusiastic.

Team teaching is far more complicated than brainstorming. Teaching has to be organized to provide feedback that supports optimal learning. Feedback comes in two forms- internal and external. Internal feedback is the information skaters receive from their own bodies and minds as they execute skills. External feedback is the information skaters receive from outside themselves through coaches, judges, parents, the audience etc. Coaches' feedback should always strive to be consistent, correct and appropriately timed.

Any team teaching format can be effective but some teams are justified while others are not. Justified teams comprise members who are dedicated primarily to the advancement of the skater. Coaching teams ought to include competent, appropriate, willing and available members with an expertise that fulfills an identified need, otherwise, skaters may find themselves the recipients of chaotic feedback. Unjustified teams may not necessarily select their members according to skill or need but for other reasons like availability. Skaters my then receive the requisite number of lessons but possibly without consideration for quality, relevance or consistency.

Parents may indeed have their child's best interest at heart when they decide an additional member should be added to the coaching staff but parentally composed teams often do not work optimally because the lack of communication and cohesive planning sabotages even the best coach's efforts. Because extra time and effort must be permanently allocated to all team situations for effective, timely and frequent communication to take place, it is usually quite impractical for coaches to participate on several teams at once. If these factors are not taken into consideration when selecting teams the feedback is unlikely to be consistent, accurate and appropriately timed. Therefore, parents should not take personally a coach's decision to decline to participate on a team on which she feels she cannot contribute.

An examination of six team teaching formats follows.

Overt Forms of Team Teaching
To the general public, overt team teaching is evident on a daily basis. Who teaches the skater when and what skills he is taught are known at most times but not necessarily the instructional content. Lessons are given; their propriety is unknown.

In compartmental team teaching the skaterís skills are divided among the various coaches on the team. For example, one coach teaches jumps exclusively, another, choreography, yet another, spins etc. Either the skater, parent or head coach incorporates the various skills into the overall plan. Usually the coach in charge of the skaterís jumps assumes the role of head coach. She may or may not teach the skater other skills as well but is expected to assume responsibility for the skaterís overall development even though it may be largely out of her control.

This is the most common form of overt team teaching. At best it allows skaters to draw on specific expertise in many fields. At worst the arbitrary selection of 'best of all worlds' or 'just in case' coaching teams subjects skaters to overwhelming, unorganized and/or superfluous recommendations. This happens when the skaterís unique needs are either not evaluated, are evaluated improperly or the evaluations and recommendations that flow from them are not trusted. In such cases everyoneís time and resources are wasted through inappropriate, unnecessary or redundant instruction.

Successful compartmental teams are most common in coach-run schools because the team members are hired by the head coach and in many cases were themselves taught by the head coach. Compartmental team teaching is common in recreational clubs but rarely in its purest, most successful form as the coaches on these teams almost always have their own parallel clientele subscribing to one or more other forms of team teaching which can spread the coachís resources very thinly.

Teams assembled by parents often mean a different team is chosen for each of the various coaches' students making sufficient and regular team meetings completely impractical. This leaves the student to integrate the various instructions himself. In recreational clubs parents sometimes erroneously assume that the team of coaches hired to provide services for the club are hired to function as a compartmental team. In fact, these coaches are free to develop skaters in the manner they believe best serves their own as well as their skaters' interests just as parents are free to choose the coaching format they believe best suits their child. Most coaches who choose to work in recreational clubs do so specifically because of the opportunity to pursue their profession autonomously. They are not obliged to practice compartmental team teaching but are free to do so and/or use other team teaching formats as they see fit.

In concurrent team teaching two or more coaches separately provide input into the skaterís entire repertoire; for example, jumps, spins, choreography, etc. Sometimes coaches confer between sessions although occasionally they will do so during the skaterís lesson. It is assumed that a general consensus on technique exists and the choice to use more than one coach is either to provide a different style of delivery or to satisfy scheduling concerns. However, when technique differs, as it often does, it can become very confusing for the skater who tries to satisfy, in turn, the opposing instructions he receives. It confers a lot of responsibility on a novice who likely does not have the education or maturity to correctly relay information between coaches or assimilate the various techniques appropriately. 

This form of team teaching works best in coach-run skating schools where a head coach can ensure that the coaches she hires are compatible and can oversee the daily work to ensure that technique does indeed remain consistent or at least compatible and is utilized appropriately.

Concurrent team teaching occurs in recreational clubs, most frequently and understandably between married couples.

In this case, skaters pass through a conveyor belt course of instruction in which they are taught certain skills by one coach and are then passed on to the next for, say, choreography, followed by other coaches or the original coach to be taught the skills contained in the choreography etc. In this way, the skaterís performance is perpetually revised.

Although advanced skaters may benefit from the services of a good choreographer this format is not advisable for skaters in the Initiation phase while they are trying to acquire good technique and consistency unless the coaches involved have a well developed understanding of each other's needs and a good rapport.

Covert Forms of Team Teaching
To the general public covert team teaching is not evident on a daily basis. Who teaches the skater when and what skills he is taught are not necessarily known at all times nor is the instructional content. Lessons are given; their propriety is unknown.

In this form, opinions on topics useful to a skaterís performance are solicited from experts in relevant fields. The coach takes this information, couples it with her own experience and knowledge of both skating and the skater and devises strategies for the individual. This form of team teaching is not readily visible as the rest of the team is not directly involved in the hands-on coaching process. Nevertheless, their input is valuable and often substantial even though they may not even be involved in skating. Examples of such experts are:

  * Other figure skating coaches (either one-on-one or through seminars, etc.)
  * Experts in any of the educational topics appearing on the
Free Skating Coaching chart
  * Dress designers
  * Music editors
  * Fitness consultants
  * Coaching science experts
  * Trusted friends and family
  * Educators
  * Judges

Because the input is funneled through one source the instruction flowing from referenced team teaching is consistent and unified. Coaches who participate in this form of team teaching become themselves better educated because of the necessity to understand the information firsthand. However, these coaches must also be self-disciplined and objective. This form of team teaching is not advisable for uneducated or uncommitted coaches or for parents who do not trust their coach.

This form of team teaching becomes evident in the long term and may not always be an intentional teaching strategy. It evolves when the coaching staff changes over time. A skater is coached for a period of time according to any form of teaching and then moves on to another club or head coach and follows instruction according to a new set of circumstances. It is incumbent upon the skater and parents to assimilate and integrate the accumulated information.

Phased team teaching can be a necessary step or a symptom of a skater, parent or coach who refuses to face a difficult reality. When coaching changes are legitimate then phased team teaching can be far more beneficial than continuing with a coach who does not provide sufficient or appropriate instruction. However, a series of coaching changes in search of a miracle can be very disruptive and confusing for the developing skater.
Sometimes skaters are sent away for a period of time to another coach. Because this type of teaching is usually short term and there is a commitment to return to the original coach at its conclusion the type of training the skater receives is rarely deep enough to effect a permanent change. However, in certain cases, exposure to new ideas can be temporarily inspirational or may presage a move into another form of team teaching.