The PSA Apprentice Program

By: Debi Leeming and Lindsay Gillis

February 1, 2017
   In The Loop Extended Articles

The Apprentice's Perspective:

My apprentice journey began at a PSA Seminar at the Skating Club of Boston last fall. One of the speakers was Kori Ade. She talked about learning how to teach higher level skills as her skaters progressed to the elite level by seeking out mentors who were accomplished in teaching those levels. This reinforced two basic educational principles for me: the smartest person in the room is often the one who says “I don’t know. Please teach me,” and the most accomplished people never stop learning.

With inspiration from Kori, I decided to take my own basic teaching skills to a higher level through the PSA Apprentice Program. PSA has a listing of master rated coaches on their website and I was lucky to find mentors in my local area. I will admit to having some anxiety about the process, but that disappeared quickly when I contacted Debi Leeming.

Together Debi and I designed a course of study geared to my coaching needs and the specific needs of my skaters. Where else would you be able to customize and optimize your learning? The result was an apprenticeship that gave me validation in areas where I was proficient and a greater breadth of knowledge and growth in areas where I could benefit from help.

My expectations for growth in coaching skills were met during the apprenticeship but there were also some unexpected benefits. I didn’t realize how much I would learn about the use of computer technology to improve a variety of coaching skills. Having a master rated coach validate my technical knowledge provided a great boost in confidence. I got a great networking opportunity with The Nashoba Valley Olympia Ice Arena and the Colonial Figure Skating Club, both of which were very supportive of our apprenticeship. Lastly and most importantly is the friendship Debi and I formed over the past year. 

As an apprentice, I am thankful for the coaches who are willing to unselfishly share their knowledge to make the sport better for everyone. They truly demonstrate the PSA motto of “team work makes the dream work”. Thank you, Debi!

 The Mentor’s Perspective:

I was delighted when Lindsay asked if I would mentor her through the PSA Apprenticeship Program. I consider mentoring an opportunity to make new friendships and enjoy mutual benefit from the one-on-one work. Once we established Lindsay’s goals and expected results, we began scheduling time together. Would we schedule an observation of my skaters, her skaters, jumps/spins, MIF, Choreography or off-ice? What made my job easy was Lindsay always had her questions or videos prepared, so we accomplished a lot of work. At each meeting she would either have specific questions or videos of her own skaters that we would discuss.

I helped her find the most efficient apps for her tablet and taught her how to look at jumps and spins with a technical eye. I think our best work was accomplished through the use of my Dartfish Video Analysis Program, which shows minute details and has the ability to switch jumps from a lefty to a righty. Most of the technique we spoke about was verified by watching videos of her skaters compared to elite skaters. I pointed out where common errors occur with special emphasis on how incorrect take-offs result in poor air positions on jumps. To help avoid these errors, we worked through skating skill exercises and jump preparations to promote positive muscle memory that the skater could apply while perfecting their jumps.  

We spoke of the importance of learning the proper technique right from the beginning stages and not skipping corners to get a quick and mediocre result. Eventually, the poor quality skills will need to be corrected if the skater wants to progress, so spending the time on it from the beginning is well worth the effort.

For me, the best part of mentoring is developing lifelong relationships with the coaches I mentor. I have had the privilege to assist many coaches throughout my skating career and there is nothing more fulfilling to me. My time with Lindsay was wonderful with both of us learning as we progressed. Lindsay brought up several topics that really made me think, go back, and seek the correct answers. I feel I am a better coach from my time spent with her. Thank you, Lindsay!

Interested in completing your own Apprentice Program?