The Problems of Talent
Talent, even when the designation is valid, does not imply easy, consistent, infinite progress. In fact talented skaters experience great emotional and physical challenges simply because they can and are willing to test themselves. That quality is itself a component of talent.

Because measures of talent must include heredity, personality and training, assessments of it are highly inaccurate in the early years. Genuinely talented, young skaters may fall through the cracks if not sufficiently or properly encouraged. They may become bored with the rate of progress of the group with which they are associated or they may be pushed improperly or too early for their emotional readiness.

Naturally athletic children who are talented figure skaters are usually talented, do well and enjoy participating in other sports. At some point though extensive participation in a variety of other sports will hinder free skating progress if insufficient resources are left to train the primary activity. Still, some skaters may be reluctant to give them up. This conflict can be difficult to resolve.

Talented skaters are usually able to execute the required skills successfully but not necessarily efficiently. Bad habits are difficult for any skater to correct- talented or otherwise, especially when the skill is perceived to already be satisfactorily executed. It can be very difficult for coaches to pursue correct technique with their skaters if there is excessive pressure by parents, associations or the skater himself to acquire skills quickly regardless of quality. However, it must be understood that the long-term consequences of poorly learned skills will far outweigh the short-term perception of slow progress. A change of coach or club to one thought to 'push' the skater more can backfire if the new training regime does not include a commitment to excellent technique.

Everyone has advice for the talented skater. However, it would be impossible and generally unwise to implement all of it or even part of it without considering the overall training plan. Some will attempt to involve talented skaters in enrichment or training programmes that have little or no regard for the generally accepted principles of training. Well-intentioned but uninformed critics outside the skater's development team do not have the necessary knowledge of each skaterís unique needs to make useful recommendations. All such advice must be considered within the context of each individual situation.

Simple skills especially may come easily and quickly to talented skaters. They may think they do not need to work very hard to be successful. But no skater can afford not to work hard for very long. Eventually the level of skill required to be successful will become so high that skaters with poor work habits will fall behind regardless of talent. Hard work beats talent unless talent works.

There may be greater physical and emotional stress on the talented skater. Physically, skaters will suffer injury and fatigue from time to time- sometimes in great measure. Emotionally, unrealistic expectations can put unnecessary strain on the skater and his relationships. Sometimes it is difficult for adults- coaches and parents alike- and children to separate the skater from the person. It can be devastating for a child to believe he is less of a person should his skating performance falter.

The families of talented skaters may feel pressure to continue to support their skater even when financially or otherwise it is not practical. This can lead to emotional problems if the skater is frequently chastised for not trying hard enough or not succeeding enough to warrant all the sacrifices the family has made. In this way much of the joy can be squeezed out of skating.

Parents who use their talented child to participate or succeed in sports vicariously can inadvertently cause him to express an intense dislike of skating even if he has a deep underlying enthusiasm or to be a difficult student if he does not enjoy skating but also does not want to disappoint his parents who so clearly do.

Free skating is extremely complex no matter what degree of talent a skater has. Talent does not make it simpler- it makes it different. All skaters who choose to explore their potential will need to make deep personal investments. And as with all investments there are great risks but also potentially great rewards.