Mary Sheasley Lin
Coaching since 1988
Currently coaching at Skate Frederick in Frederick, MD
Ratings: MG, RM, RD
Most coaches, when asked who inspired them most on their skating journey, reach back many years to their childhood days on the ice.
But not Mary Lin. The coach she most admires, Christine Binder, worked with her as an adult. Binder made sure every moment of Lin’s lessons were focused on just her as a student.
“Christine always made me feel like her most important skater during our lesson time,” Lin said. “She was always encouraging, and she inspired me to be the coach I am.
Binder brought lots of spirit, cheerfulness, and personality to her lessons with Lin, and Lin tries to pass that along to her students, as well.
“I try to make each of my students feel special during the time we spend together,” Lin said.
That close focus on her students during lessons has allowed Lin to learn important lessons from them, as well. She says it’s important to be happy with your accomplishments each day, no matter how large or small. Coaches must also have patience with and compassion for their skaters, and that sometimes a coach has to have tough conversations with skating families.
“I have learned to be a better team player and ask for help from others if it’s in the best interest of the skater,” Lin said. “I have learned to say no – ‘No, your skater is not ready for that skill or test.’”
And, just like Binder before her, Lin makes time in her schedule for working with adults.
“I have learned that skating can be a life-long sport,” she said. “I have learned that coaching is not always about skating skills, but it’s about life skills, too.
Lin’s focus on her students and their families has also allowed her to learn from their successes and struggles. She has taken these examples beyond the ice, and incorporated them into her personal life.
“I have learned from the parents of my skaters (and from other coaches’ parents) as to the type of parent I want to be for my daughter.”
Coaching since 1993
Currently coaching in southwestern Michigan
Ratings/Rankings: MFS, MM
Patrick O’Neil is inspired by the skaters he works with, but that inspiration is not limited to their accomplishments on the ice. He believes skating helps his athletes prepare for challenges they will face throughout their lives, and he enjoys watching kids develop into young people
“Skating teaches us so much about life in general,” O’Neil said. “It teaches problem-solving, troubleshooting, and making decisions on the fly. Coaches have to help their students learn how to understand the decision-making process and how it applies to all aspects of their lives, not just that one particular jump they’re trying to land.”
O’Neil said young skaters today are pulled in many different directions, and part of the decision-making process is learning to choose where to devote their time, energy, and passion. He said it’s not that any of these choices are right or wrong, but that it’s up to the skaters and their families to determine what works for them.
“If you try to do it all, you’ll wind up being a jack-of-all-trades and master of none,” he said. “There’s just not enough time in the day. Part of our job is to teach kids how to assess and evaluate, make choices, then move on in their lives.”
O’Neil admits he loves it when his students choose to devote their passion and energy to the ice. And, he admits to occasional frustration with students who don’t want to put in the effort to get better.
“When an athlete comes into a rink day in and day out and puts themselves through their paces, I’m inspired by that. I’m inspired by people who want to be better at what they do and want to learn and grow,” he said. “I hope all teachers are inspired when they recognize they’ve taught someone something, or been there when child reaches a ‘moment.’ It’s rewarding to be involved with young people’s growth, whether it’s on the ice or in their personal lives.
“Coaches work with athletes of differing abilities and levels. The struggles that athletes bring to the rink also vary. The coach’s challenge is to determine how best to ‘reach’ their athlete on a day-to-day basis and how best to motivate them to progress. I would like to think that, as coaches, we are teaching our athletes how to handle life’s ups and downs by teaching them how to problem-solve, set goals, and achieve their potential.”