Alex Chang

By: Terri Milner Tarquini

Alex Chang

December 1, 2015
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Strung throughout almost any conversation with Alex Chang is evidence that he is an evaluator, a planner, and a goal setter.

These traits undoubtedly aid him in being a successful coach, and will also come in handy in his new path as the 3rd Vice President of PSA, a job that calls for him to oversee ratings and rankings.

“My role as 3rd vice president is to assess and see what needs to be shaped and tweaked to bring the most value to the ratings and rankings process,” Chang said. “I want to figure out what’s working and discover what we can do better. I’d like to give the ratings process more shape and make the benefits to coaches more clear.”

And Chang has some ideas about what those benefits are.

“I feel like PSA is transitioning in what we offer coaches,” Chang said. “We are really breaking it open, exploring new ways to think about technique, how to run your business, etc. It’s important to stay relevant and maintain a progressive tone. The speakers at seminars and at conference are all focused on providing tools that speak directly to our teaching and where we are now as a sport.”

It’s a message he’d like to get out to those who haven’t yet heard.

“Ratings are very successful in certain regions of the country,” Chang said. “It is our goal to expand ratings to all areas so coaches everywhere understand the importance. The process provides confirmation for what they are doing, while continuing their education and making them a better coach.”

Chang is a Team USA coach with his student, international and national competitor Courtney Hicks, and is also master rated in free skate.

“The ratings process definitely clarified my work on the ice,” he said. “Thinking about why you do things  a certain way and being prepared to answer questions can be so beneficial all-around. We have such a great group of examiners who want to hear a coach’s thoughts and insights and the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of their teaching method.”

In this technologically-driven society, it is easier than ever for coaches, no matter where they live, to connect with other professionals in order to learn, to grow and, yes, maybe even to help with the ratings journey.

“There are plenty of coaches who are rated around the country that are just a phone call or an email away,” Chang said. “A beautiful thing about technology is that it is so easy to reach out and find someone to talk to and to bounce ideas off of and to sit in on lessons with. The tools are out there and any coach anywhere can take advantage of them.”
Chang mentored one of the PSA’s Don Laws Scholarship winners, Jacques Gilson, last summer and sees mentoring as a valuable part of the learning process - not just for the mentee, but for the mentor.

“Jacques is an excellent coach and very accomplished,” said Chang, who worked with Gilson for a week at Shattuck-St. Mary’s. “It was a great feeling to share, ‘This is what I do.’ At the same time, it helped to reconfirm my thoughts and my approach toward teaching and gave me a better perspective as a coach. In some ways it’s similar to a ratings exam, but from the flip side. You’re still being asked a lot of difficult questions, but your answers may influence their answers and methodology. It’s important to have well thought-out explanations, but it’s also about encouraging other coaches to trust their instincts. When you help other coaches, it ripples through the community and fosters more cooperation and more trust.”

The community of coaches is one that Chang hopes can be an important haven for all professionals of the sport.
“It’s really an extraordinary gift to be a part of what we do and have an impact on young people,” he said. “It’s so important for coaches to keep a healthy perspective and continually tap into why they teach. Choose on a daily basis to be happy and positive.”

Regarded as a specialist in preparing skaters for competition, the mental aspect of the sport is something Chang holds in high regard in his career.

“Look, most skaters will not go on to be international competitors,” he said, “but many will go on to be great doctors, writers, scientists and who-knows-what. The life lessons they learn from us will get them through adversities in the future.”

While Chang has been a PSA board member for five years and was the Coach’s Committee Chair for U.S. Figure Skating for four years, he knows that every coach can - and should - have an impact on the sport.

“It’s not about having a formal role per se; it’s about being involved and being part of the progression of our sport,” Chang said. “Giving back to the sport is such an important and valuable thing to do - not just for those learning, but for those who are doing the giving back too.”