Don Corbiell

Meet Your Area Representatives

Thomas Amon
Tracey Seliga-O'Brien

December 1, 2012

   In The Loop Extended Articles

Don Corbiell
Area 15 Representative
Years coaching: 20
Current Location: San Francisco, CA
Ratings: MFS, MM

Don Corbiell’s students are fortunate to have found in their mentor a coach with their best interests at heart. He strives to raise his skating family to be successful and happy in every aspect of their lives. And, the responsibility of raising his skaters like a family has helped him to grow, as well.

“Since I don’t have children of my own, I think of my students as my kids,” Corbiell said. “I like to say that I want my students to be ‘well’ – well-rounded, well-adjusted, and well-mannered. I’m constantly looking for ways to help them achieve those goals. In turn, that makes me a better person and a better coach.”

Helping his students to become “well” means he is coaching much more than just skating, and he hopes to teach skaters lessons they can use throughout their lives. Whatever they do in life, skaters will be faced with the need to set goals, deal with disappointment, work with conflicting personalities, and learn how to take and utilize criticism to help them succeed.
“These are all tools that are character-building, and you can use no matter where your life takes you,” Corbiell said.
Corbiell’s sense of family with his students extends beyond the ice. With many of his students’ parents both working to support their households and an expensive sport, Corbiell sees that coaches often spend more time with students than they may spend with their own families.

“I feel it’s my responsibility, especially as a male coach, to provide a positive male role model for my younger students,” he said. “I want them to understand that they can trust me, confide in me, and understand that I will always do what’s best for them.”

Corbiell’s skating family includes all manner of students, from beginners to adults, and both competitive and recreational skaters. And, just like a proud parent, he revels in his students’ victories, large and small.

“I love the ‘Aha!’ moments when something clicks for a student, and you see a certain look in their eyes when they understand,” he said. “Those moments make me want to be a better and better coach.”

Thomas M. Amon
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Area 10 Representative, 4th Term
PSA Board of Governors-Seminars
Coaching since 1998
Ratings/Rankings: MFS, MM; Level IV

Thomas Amon has just returned from a successful U.S.Midwestern Sectional Figure Skating Championships. That’s not to say all of his skaters advanced to Nationals, because Amon doesn’t believe success lies strictly in wins and losses. There are important lessons he and his students learn from both experiences.

“I believe that my students, through their successes and challenges, teach me humility,” Amon said. “The humility factor can hit you in a heartbeat. When you have skaters moving on, you feel unstoppable. Then, when some don’t, it makes you take a step back and even self-reflect on the outcome.  Instead of quickly pointing the finger at them, I take accountability. What could I have done differently for them?  And, most often, what didn’t they do for themselves? I know that there is one thing that is constant:  Regardless of their preparation, once the door closes as they prepare to skate a program, the ‘we’ becomes ‘them.’  Those kids are on their own.  Their accountability will be evident at this point and it is my job to ensure that mine is not questioned by myself.”

Indeed, Amon believes his skaters need to be accountable, and when they make mistakes they need to own their part in the process.

“They teach me reciprocity of accountability, how important it is to be in this together,” he said. “My kids work endlessly hard for me, and it’s a challenge to have that tough discussion with them because they simply had a moment of being ‘human.’ That mutual accountability helps me to make sure I’m not saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.”

Amon works with his skaters to discover what might be causing those “human moments.” He has learned that, often, experiences outside the rink have a strong impact on their performances inside the rink, both in practice and competition. He has developed an off-ice strategy seminar for his athletes that has opened up free discussions and has helped both him and his students process the effects of those experiences. Amon said learning about their lives off the ice is the first step in helping the skaters overcome those challenges.

“More often than not, if you talk to them, they’ll open up and participate in the conversation. As a coach, I need to learn to recognize and take that information to help them be the best skaters – and human beings – they can be.  We are not just their coaches.  In most cases, we spend more time with these human beings than their own parents.  That is the reality.”