What are solicitation, promotion, and tampering?

“Every skater has the right to believe his coach is the best and should not be interfered with by a high-pressure, fast-talking, snake oil salesman who promises stardom but by his own action, lacks the very qualities needed to develop championship caliber skaters.” – Bob Mock, Past President, PSA

Promotion is done publicly. It is appropriate for all coaches to promote their background and credentials to the entire world. This information can be posted in a public space at the rink, a dasher board banner, advertised in a flyer or competition program, or promoted in a newspaper - as long as the opportunity is available to all and the audience is general. Many coaches say they promote themselves through their work. Their student’s accomplishments are their "advertisement." That, unequivocally, is the best way to promote oneself.

Solicitation is done behind the scenes. It is clandestine and usually conveyed one to one and not in a public forum. Solicitation can be done by a coach, a parent on behalf of the coach or by rink management favoring one coach over another. It is considered solicitation for a professional to contact a skating student, not their own, when a significant motive for doing so is the personal gain of the skating professional. Solicitation includes contact directly, indirectly or through a third party, in person, by telephone, e-mail, social media, letter, or other means directed to a specific recipient.

In many ways, third party solicitation can be even more detrimental to the environment within a club or arena than the more obvious coach to parent/skater solicitation. Often, third party solicitation festers slowly within the rink and in many cases it is months before it comes to a head. On the other hand, social media like Facebook and Twitter promote spontaneous communication and accelerate the viral nature of the medium. The difficulty also lies within the framework of the US Constitution, which protects a person’s right to free speech. Ultimately, it is the coach’s responsibility to communicate regularly with their parents, skaters, and in some cases arena management, the proper protocol with respect to the procurement of new students.

Tampering – to influence something corruptly: to try to corrupt or influence somebody or affect the outcome of something.

To completely understand these terms, there is one more word which needs defining: Tampering – to influence something corruptly: to try to corrupt or influence somebody or affect the outcome of something.

An example of tampering is helping someone else's skater by offering a suggestion that might improve their skating. This gray area extends to such subtle tactics such as sending another coach’s student a birthday card. Another example would be holding a pizza party and inviting other coaches’ students.

Tampering can be an offhand comment regarding the failing of a test or poor competition results. The sentiment may be sincere but the perception is suspect.

In an excerpted article written by Bob Mock several years ago entitled, “Just Say NO to Soliciting!” he offered some great words of wisdom. “Soliciting destroys skaters, clubs, and rink programs. If soliciting is going on in your area, the good coaches, parents and skaters must band together to stop it. Every skater has the right to believe his coach is the best and should not be interfered with by a high-pressure, fast-talking, snake oil salesman who promises stardom, but by his own action, lacks the very qualities needed to develop championship caliber skaters. The soliciting coach always loses in the end. Don’t be the next victim.”

 

Here is a listing of some common methods of solicitation. There are many more creative approaches, but this should give you an idea of some possible scenarios.

Directly approaching a parent (or child) stating:
• “I could take your child further (to the Olympics, etc.).”
• "I am a much more qualified coach than ______is."
• "Join our program. That other program isn't very good."
• "We'll give your child free lessons, ice time, equipment, etc."

Indirect approach:
• Being overly friendly to the skater. (Giving hugs, offering assistance with skills on the side.)
• Ego boosting. ("You did so great today.")

Third -Party approach:

This one gets tricky. It's ok to be encouraging and to help a fellow coach instill positive feedback. However, it's when it's excessive that it crosses the line into solicitation.

• Parents in the stands talking and convincing other parents to switch their skater to the "better" coach.
• Skaters in the dressing rooms, on the ice or out of the rink, persuading another skater to become part of "the group of good skaters."
• Coach's spouse talking to parents both in and out of the rink. "My husband/wife could do so much more for your child."
• Sponsorships. "We (business) will sponsor your child, but only if they take from ______ or only skates at __________rink."

Approach from a Technical Official:

During a critique following an event, the technical specialist, who is also a coach, asked individual skaters to demo their footwork section. Then they were told by the technical specialist what they individually should do to get higher marks for the step sequence.

At the end of the critique, one of the skaters went to the technical specialist and asked if they could book a lesson, to which the technical specialist agreed and actually gave the skater several lessons.

The coach of the skater was very upset that the technical specialist booked a lesson without first contacting the head coach.

From the PSA point of view, at the point the technical specialist agreed to work with the skater, they were acting as a coach and therefore, breached the PSA code of ethics because they did not contact the head coach first. Also, the technical specialist may not use their position as a recruiting tool.  They are not to market themselves or trade on their credentials as a technical specialist.
                                                                                                               
Way to avoid this situation:

The ethical responsibilities for “specialist coaches” which would include technical specialists, choreographers, spin, jump and Dartfish specialists, are clear. They should always contact the head coach prior to agreeing to work with the skater - whether or not they are charging for it.

It’s important to note that most coaches are confident enough with themselves to realize that it may be in their skaters’ best interest to bring in a specialist. This relationship usually works out very well and the skater is the one who benefits.

Stopping solicitations from occurring is critical to have a comfortable environment in your rink. This applies to synchronized teams, dance and pair skaters as well as to singles skaters. It applies to all skaters whether they are in the same rink, across town or across the country.

If you witness any form of solicitation, it is your obligation to:
• Tell your coach immediately.
• Notify your rink manager or club president.
• Avoid soliciting coaches for your own best interest.
• Document what you have seen and/or heard. Include dates, times (if possible), method of solicitation, names of parties involved and what occurred.

It is possible to remain anonymous when reporting solicitation. Document as suggested above and report it immediately. The coach, manager or president should investigate the report and follow necessary procedures while maintaining your confidentiality.