Coaching At The Games

Coaching at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games

Coaching at my second Olympic Games is a new experience of sorts. Becky Calvin is credentialed as Paul Bonifacio Parkinson’s main coach. So you might be wondering how an uncredentialed coach works at the Olympics. Well, aside from not standing at the barrier, riding official transportation (I walk from an apartment that is 5,000+ steps from the rink–according to my Nike Fuelband SE) or living in the village, it is business as usual. I can physically interact with Paul before and after practices. I am able to coach from the stands above and behind Becky (which is where she orders me to be–wink) during his practices and warm ups because athletes can request two practice passes per session for anyone they choose. There are other coaches functioning the same way (Bruno Marcotte from Canada is one) and this is exactly what Becky did in Vancouver.

I feel like a tennis coach at a Grand Slam event and quite frankly it feels good. Sitting above ice level involves coaching from a different point of view since it allows me to see program patterns and jump set ups in ways that you can’t at ice level. I definitely recommend trying this approach at least once per week to all of the coaches reading this and I will as soon as I return home. Perhaps this is why I notice some technical panels often sitting in the stands, too.

One more thing that is different is I get to use social media (follow me @CoachTomZ) to show a coach’s experience at the Games. This is because being “uncredentialed” exempts me from the social media restrictions put on athletes and coaches. I decided to write this blog because of a recent article in the Olympic Village newspaper. Yes, there is such a thing. In the February 9th issue, “The Athlete’s Support System–Coaches and Entourage” highlights the importance of the coaches’ (note plural) role and two presentations (one with figure skater Stephane Lambiel as a speaker) which discuss the team around the athlete and how it basically takes a village–something we all know and realize but is often not publicly acknowledged. That is one thing the Parkinson family has done so well. (As did the Flatt family who listed every coach who helped Rachael on the jumbotron in 2010.) I am not only happy to be here to support Paul but humbled and honored that he and his father asked me. Paul is “very green,” having finished 33rd at Worlds last year, 23rd at this year’s Europeans and the middle of the pack at several Senior B’s. In fact his ISU ranking is 127th. But nonetheless he is one of 30 men competing at the Olympics because he has worked hard and dedicated himself to this goal. Specifically, he earned Italy one of six Olympic wildcard spots for the men’s event last September after first qualifying to compete at Nebelhorn by winning a run-off competition involving eight Italian men in Milan.

Anyone who observes my coaching techniques knows that I am a very strict–but fun–disciplined coach. So when I say Paul has trained clean short and long programs with quadruple salchows, level 4 elements and performance ability– that is the truth. If my physical presence in Sochi helps him feel the conviction and confidence to achieve his goals then I am all in–credential or not!

I am dedicating this blog to all of the coaches around the world who are NOT the “designated” primary coaches but still make significant contributions to the athletes with whom they work. And to Paul’s parents for so eloquently and generously recognizing my contribution to their son while supporting Becky 100%. Here’s hoping teamwork makes the dream work tomorrow night when Paul goes for a personal best short program and a top 24 placement


Posted in Sochi Olympics.