This is a questionnaire adapted from A Coach's Self Assessment, which was designed by the Women's Sports Foundation to help coaches think about the nature of their relationships with their athletes. The statements have here been presented in a way that will hopefully make it easier for you, the athlete, to think in different ways about your day-to-day relationship with your coach.
The creators of the Coach's Assessment say, "Coaching is an emotionally intense profession. Strong bonds and emotions are part of the job. The line between appropriate and inappropriate behavior is often a matter of intent and context."
Your career as a skater can also be an emotionally intense experience at times. You've been training hard to excel, and you and your family have probably made a lot of personal and financial sacrifices to support your career.
You've got a lot emotionally invested in your situation, too, and also in the coaches who may have helped you improve your skating or get the results you've always wanted. Very likely, you look up to him or her, and you and your parents may even consider him or her to be like a member of the family. That's perfectly normal, as are intense emotions between you and your coach at different times -- during a challenging training session, or at a competition.
However, there may be other times when things "get intense" between you and your coach, and they may be things you don't feel entirely comfortable with. The following list of items is intended to help you realize when someone may possibly be overextending the proper boundaries of their role as coach, and potentially crossing the line with you.
1. Your coach often tells his/her personal problems to you.
2. Your coach has said to you, or to other people, that he/she wants to be friends with you when your career ends.
3. Your coach keeps finding ways to work individually with you when he doesn't with his/her other students, such as special practice sessions which run before or after the regularly scheduled practice.
4. Your coach invites you to social events outside of the rink or club, which aren't being attended by anyone else you know from the rink.
5. Your coach asks you regularly about your personal life, even when you haven't gone to him/her with any special problems lately.
6. Your coach considers himself/herself more of a friend than a coach to you, and has told you or other people this.
7. Your coach is always cajoling or teasing you over something.
8. Your coach talks to you a lot like you're someone who's the same age as him/her.
9. You've spent a lot of time at your coach's home, for reasons other than discussing your career goals, or for reasons other than choosing music or costumes.
10. Your coach has agreed to take on your training for a very low fee (or for nothing), and you have noticed that he/she mentions it a lot to you, or says things about it that make you feel uncomfortable.
11. Sometimes you feel like your coach is looking at your body in a sexual way.
12. Your coach sometimes makes comments to you (or to others) about your body, in ways which don't seem to you to have much to do with your skating.
13. Your coach wants to spend a lot of personal time alone with you, outside of practice or at competitions.
14. You feel as if your coach would be upset with you, if you told him/her that you didn't think you were making the kind of skating progress you wanted with him/her.
15. Your coach frequently makes special requests of you which habitually disrupt your social life (for instance -- meeting with friends, participating in activities off the ice, or going on dates).
16. Your coach makes sexual jokes, about you or about other people, when he/she is around you.
17. Your coach often seems upset or jealous when you are spending time with other people.
18. Your coach sometimes checks up on you at home when you're not at the rink, wanting to know what you are doing or planning for that day.
19. You feel anxious to please your coach even when you're not in practice or at a competition.
20. Your coach uses swear words around you a lot, but never around your parents.
21. You feel as if your coach doesn't want you to talk to or associate with certain other people at your rink.
22. You feel as if you can't really discuss your relationship with your coach with anyone else -- including your parents or closest friends -- even if you want to sometimes.
23. Your feel as if your coach doesn't like you to get advice from other people about your career plans, your diet, your technical goals, or your costumes, routines or music choices.
24. Your coach is sharing alcohol or drugs with you.
25. When you don't do well in practice or in a competitive performance, the first thing you usually feel is that you've let your coach down.
Now that you've considered the above statements and how they might (or might not) apply to you, you should understand that most of these items, taken by themselves, don't indicate a coach-athlete relationship that has gone out of bounds.
But if you have checked any of the above statements, you should take some time to think about these situations you may have encountered. How do they affect your comfort level when it comes to practicing, competing, or interacting with others -- your family, friends, or other skaters at your rink?
As an athlete, you should always keep in mind that your enjoyment and everyday comfort level with skating are crucial to your ultimate success. You should also keep in mind that you (or, you and your parents) are the employer of your coach. That is to say, that no matter how experienced or technically skilled your coach is, he or she works for you -- not the other way around. Simply for that reason, your personal feelings about the relationship are very important.
If you find that you have checked a great many of the above statements, you should seriously consider sharing this questionnaire and the items you checked, with your parents or a friend you can trust -- someone who's not your coach. Although it's important that you communicate to your coach about how you feel about the relationship, it may be more helpful, at this time, for you to instead first approach someone else that you can talk to about your feelings.