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Offline VAsk8r

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kids and progress
« on: September 14, 2012, 07:49:44 PM »
After getting some exposure to skaters outside of my own rink, I've started thinking about the average rate of progress for kids in skating and what affects that.

I've encountered (and read about here) kids and teens who landed their first axel within a year of stepping onto the ice for the first time. Or kids who started skating at 10 and passed senior moves at 16. In many of those cases, from what I can gather, it seems as though the kid went from no ice time to many hours of practice and an hour of private lessons every week. And in most cases, I would imagine the parents were either rich or very committed to their child not just skating but becoming an extremely successful skater.

Yet I never see that at my own rink. We are a relatively small rink and club with a growing Basic Skills program. It isn't unusual for kids, especially kids under 10, to take a year or two to get through Basic 1-8. Some of those kids spend several hours a week on the ice and take private lessons, while others might skate one or two hours a week. Some take Learn to Skate with an occasional private lesson or Theatre on Ice participation for a couple of years before going into more serious skating or quitting entirely.

Most of our skaters are lower level. We have maybe five who are above preliminary, and another handful who are pre-pre or preliminary. The rest are Basic 1-8 or just finished Basic 8 and are beginning to work on pre-pre elements.  (I'm currently the only adult who skates more than an hour a week.)

I've come up with a few reasons for why we don't have more hardcore skaters:
1. Many skaters live and go to school a half hour or more from our rink. It's impossible for them to get there more than twice a week.
2. We only have about eight hours of freestyle per week, and school conflicts with some of them.
3. Most parents around here are not familiar with figure skating and don't know anything about competitions, testing, USFS structure, etc., when their kids start. Their goals are for their kids to get exercise, have fun and make friends.
4. Most parents aren't willing or able to financially support the practice and lesson time required to progress quickly. I think our ice time costs are above average.
5. Our coaches are great and have a good rapport with the kids, but for the most part, they're younger and less experienced than the coaches at the more serious rinks.

None of this is a complaint. I love the atmosphere at our small rink and am glad we're more relaxed than some. I'm just curious if we're an anomaly or if the clubs full of kids who are landing triples after five years of skating are more unusual. What's your rink like?

And what do you think is the greatest predictor of the rate of progress and the ultimate abilities of a skater? Natural athletic ability? Tons of practice time? Great coaching? Parents who push them appropriately and know the ropes?

Offline jjane45

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Re: kids and progress
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2012, 08:40:28 PM »
In my books, it's a combination of natural talent, coaching, practice time, and motivation.

From what I hear, hard work can get a skater thru the single axel, but double axel will require talent.

Offline hopskipjump

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Re: kids and progress
« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2012, 11:38:36 PM »
What do you think is the greatest predictor of the rate of progress and the ultimate abilities of a skater?
Time spent on the ice.  2 kids in park and rec class - one goes the day of class, the other uses their free pass to go a second day - the 2nd day kid will progress MUCH faster.

Natural athletic ability?
I think this works well until Axel.  At Axel, you need something more - drive, determination, and some amount of fearlessness.

Tons of practice time?
You don't need tons, you need smart practice.

Great coaching?
A coach who works well with your kid is invaluable.

Parents who push them appropriately and know the ropes?
Knowing the ropes?  I don't know...I think parents with great coaches for their kids and a good bank roll tend to have kids who do well (they have the coach, time and equipment).  Pushy parents make kids forget why they skate.

Offline fortune8

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Re: kids and progress
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2012, 04:49:17 AM »
That's such an interesting question.
We are just so lucky to have a rink which gives priority to affordable freestyle sessions. Figure skating gets priority over hockey and speed skating.
Since my elder daughter started skating 2 years ago, I've watched lots of skaters progress. Now that I think about it, what stands out most about the ones who have progressed the most is their dedication. Lots of time on ice (before and after school), lots of lessons, lots of off ice training, etc. In other words, a lifestyle that really revolves around skating.

Offline Schmeck

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Re: kids and progress
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2012, 06:01:21 AM »
You have to remember that most skaters that have the drive and talent to go far in skating, go far to skate - if they show any early promise, they pack up and move to where the elite coaches teach. If you are in a big skating metropolitan area, you may have a few choices (Boston area has SCOB, Colonial, and the one down on the Cape to name a few) for big skating coaches and then you'll see a wider variety of skaters. If you live in a small town, with one rink, any promising skaters in that area have packed up and headed to the skating meccas.

Of course there are the exceptions - the one elite skater who stays in the neighbohood, with an original coach.

Offline VAsk8r

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Re: kids and progress
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2012, 07:33:05 AM »
If you live in a small town, with one rink, any promising skaters in that area have packed up and headed to the skating meccas.
This is true. Most of the few higher-level kids we have at our rink, plus the ice dancers, go to other rinks 1-3 hours away for their lessons. One college student told me her coach discouraged her from going to school here because she wouldn't be able to train.

That's why I brought up the issue of parents who know the ropes. I suspect most of our parents would never consider moving elsewhere so their kids could train at a skating mecca. No matter how much potential their kid has, the family's lives and jobs and schools are here.

But I wonder if parents who were skaters themselves or grew up in an area where skating was very popular and elite skaters trained would be more open to that idea because it would seem a little more normal or common.

Offline fsk8r

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Re: kids and progress
« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2012, 07:54:15 AM »
People aspire to be the best, that's the nature of competitiveness. Take that out of the competition arena, and that's the kids looking around the rink and wanting to be the best there, to make it to Top Dog. Once you're Top Dog, there's little reason for you to work harder to become better, unless you're aware of the wider world (big fish, small pond).
If there are two kids vying for Top Dog they both work hard to become better and land the next jump, do a better spin. If however, Top Dog doesn't percieve much competition, they don't need to work harder to be better. Success breeds success.

Offline sarahspins

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Re: kids and progress
« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2012, 07:56:48 AM »
I had an axel in a year and a half of skating @ 13/14/15 (I started skating a few months before turning 14, landed my axel a few months after turning 15)... my daughter (7) has been skating for a year now and she's only in basic 4... but she's really afraid to try anything new, so that she's gotten this far is really an incredibly HUGE accomplishment for her.  She swears she loves to skate and wants to keep taking lessons, but she's not really naturally talented (yes, I said it, doesn't make me a bad mom, right?) and she's not particularly self motivated to practice,  especially the things she struggles with (for example she says everything in basic 4 is easy except for 3 turns, yet she WON'T work on those by herself).  She likes to skate and sometimes asks to go when we're not already planning to skate, but usually not at times we can (rink schedule doesn't work well with her school schedule, plus we live 45 minutes away).

I suspect that she may progress through the next 4 basics faster than the first 4, but so far she's had to repeat each one twice.

On the other hand, you couldn't keep me off the ice as a teen, and I could go skate every day after school by either walking across the street (8th grade) or taking a 10 minute bus ride (9th+).  The last part of 9th grade onward I was homeschooled (for reasons unrelated to skating) and skated constantly :)

To put it in perspective, my daughter also took gymnastics for 3 months right before she turned 6 and didn't progress at all in that time because she was too afraid - and she had ASKED to take gymnastics.  She had friends who had started with her at the same time who were already invited to team levels (4 and 5) while she remained in 1, which is not much more than an intro class.  I encouraged skating classes just so she could skate well enough to be safe on a public session with me.

Offline sk8lady

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Re: kids and progress
« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2012, 08:09:45 AM »
Only one of our rinks has any designated figure skating ice, and it's from 1:40-2:20 weekdays--so only homeschooled children can skate on it (and it's only open 5 months a year). We did have a Sunday evening (4:40-6:50) Basic Skills, Intro to Figure Skating, and 30 minutes of freestyle ice until the figure skating club dropped our program at the end of last year. Few of the kids made it through the program and none made it as far as an axel. The only time for practice and private lessons was after Basic Skills.
The other two rinks have not been figure skating friendly. One of them (the only one with summer ice) actually has a posted sign with a picture of a figure skater saying "Figure skaters, no spinning or jumping." (They will let us spin and jump if there aren't a lot of people but you have to be a local to know that.) I know many rinks have this policy for public skating but the ones I know of also have figure skating ice of some kind.
The university rink is trying to add ice for non-hockey players but the hockey folks have been favored for so long that they will come onto public skating ice with sticks and/or pucks and fool around with them even though there is a big sign on the Jumbotron saying "No sticks or pucks are allowed on public skating ice." This ice is also during the school day so few kids skate on it.

Not surprisingly, the only regular figure skaters in our area are adults and a few home-schooled kids who don't test.

I would vote for having regular practice ice as a #1 necessity for making decent progress!

(Sorry if this turned into more of a rant than a response to the OP's question!)

 

Offline VAsk8r

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Re: kids and progress
« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2012, 08:30:20 AM »
my daughter (7) has been skating for a year now and she's only in basic 4... but she's really afraid to try anything new, so that she's gotten this far is really an incredibly HUGE accomplishment for her.  She swears she loves to skate and wants to keep taking lessons, but she's not really naturally talented (yes, I said it, doesn't make me a bad mom, right?) and she's not particularly self motivated to practice,  especially the things she struggles with (for example she says everything in basic 4 is easy except for 3 turns, yet she WON'T work on those by herself). 
We have a lot of kids just like this at our rink. Kids tend to stay at Basic 4 for months or even a year because of 3-turns. One mom mentioned to me once that her daughter, who had been skating for maybe six months, wasn't as enthusiastic about skating anymore. I told her that the things her daughter was working on -- 3-turns and backward crossovers -- were not particularly fun or easy to learn and practice but were essential to learning future skills. Fortunately her daughter stuck with it.

Heck, it took me probably a year or more to get inside 3-turns from the time I was introduced to them. I was in group lessons then, the rest of the group wasn't progressing much either, and I really had no reason to be motivated. I'd occasionally show up at freestyles to practice, but the environment intimidated me (we had a lot more higher-level skaters then) and I'd try a few, fail, and figure I could always try again another day. It wasn't until a coach (who eventually became my private coach) called me out on it and challenged me that I went to freestyle and practiced really hard so I'd have something to show her the next week.   

I'm glad you are keeping your daughter in skating even if she's not the most talented at it.  :) I never progressed much in ballet for that reason, and I doubt I would have gotten far in skating in elementary school.

Offline mamabear

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Re: kids and progress
« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2012, 02:56:36 PM »
sarahspins-I'm so glad I'm not the only one whose child progresses slowly.  I really struggle with this.  My daughter has been skating for 2 1/2 year or so.  She is in Basic 5.  She is 13. She skates during lessons and one other time a week.  The rink has added additional times so I think we can add another practice each week.  It is often tempting to stop since progress has been so slow but this is the only sport we've tried that she enjoys and our coaches are wonderful and patient about it.  She loves skating in the shows the rink puts on and works hard on those programs. 

My guess is there are a wide variety of reasons-I have a friend whose daughters started a few months after my daughter and they have both progressed much faster without private coaching or multiple practice sessions a week.  In that case, I view them as having more natural talent. 

Another skater started around the same time and has progressed much faster than either my daughter or my friend's daughters but she skates multiple times a week and has private lessons along with LTS lessons.  In that case, I think it's a combination of athletic ability, ice time and parental support.

I know from reading here, blogs and other sources that our rink is pretty small and so I think the idea that you would move away to seek other coaching would be pretty accurate for highly talented skaters.  I think the nearest rink from here is 3 hours so commuting would be difficult although not impossible.

Offline davincisop

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Re: kids and progress
« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2012, 08:31:58 PM »
We have a young girl at the rink who told her mom she didn't want to keep skating because "it wasn't fun anymore". The girl is working on doubles and up to this point everything came incredibly easy for her (she really has a natural talent and stage presence, she's one of my favorite little kids at the rink, and on top of that she's probably by far one of the most polite and articulate young girls I've ever met, too). Her coach and her mom talked and they realized it was because suddenly everything wasn't coming as easily anymore. Now she's starting to land doubles and looks happy as ever. But I think with some of the natural talents, if it comes easily, when it gets hard they don't want to work for it.

I envy the kids that 1) have the time to skate as much as they do and 2) are progressing rapidly.  I've been back on the ice for almost three years now (age 24 now), and with a coach for two, and I have barely started axel because I'm still working to get a consistent loop, flip and lutz. But I also have a full time job and a part time job so I can only make it to the rink 2-3 times a week. Once of those days is public skate where they turn off the lights and let the hockey kids run loose so even skating in circles is dangerous.

Having a rink so close by though and a lot of afternoon freestyle is really beneficial to our kids at the rink, so I've seen a lot of them progress rapidly, but only a few have very strong basics and I can tell exactly what coach they have based upon that.

Offline GraciousB

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Re: kids and progress
« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2012, 08:24:36 PM »
Mine is one who has seemingly progressed very quickly. I say seemingly because while she finished LTS in just 6 months(legitimately) she skates 5days a week with a daily lesson with her private coach. She does have a lot of natural athletic ability, which helps. Still, I do not think this progression shows that she is more talented than other skaters- I just think she SKATES MORE than most of the other kids. I think as she moves into the higher freestyle levels her progress will likely slow way down.   ;)

Offline Newicemom2016

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Re: kids and progress
« Reply #13 on: February 08, 2017, 08:32:35 PM »
My daughter has been skating for 7-8 months she is on Freeskate 1/2 .  Would anyone like to see a video of her and give me a honest opinion of how she is doing?  She really wants to know how much longer until she learns jumps.  I have no idea because I think she is doing well but I do not know if her progress is regular, slow, or fast.  There are a lot of good advanced skaters where we go.

Offline donanobispacem

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Re: kids and progress
« Reply #14 on: February 08, 2017, 10:36:15 PM »
If she's in FS 2, she should have been learning beginning jumps for a while now if they're following the USFSA curriculum.

Offline Newicemom2016

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Re: kids and progress
« Reply #15 on: February 09, 2017, 01:24:21 AM »
She has been.  I am asking about what she tells me not 1/2 fake jumps.  Full rotations ... :laugh: very ambitions .  Like I said a lot of more advanced skaters on our rink.  She can do a waltz, 1/2 flip, salchow.  When do these 1/2 jumps  go into bigger full jumps?

Offline fsk8r

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Re: kids and progress
« Reply #16 on: February 09, 2017, 01:49:51 AM »
She has been.  I am asking about what she tells me not 1/2 fake jumps.  Full rotations ... :laugh: very ambitions .  Like I said a lot of more advanced skaters on our rink.  She can do a waltz, 1/2 flip, salchow.  When do these 1/2 jumps  go into bigger full jumps?

She's already there. Salchow is the first single rotation jump.

Offline nicklaszlo

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Re: kids and progress
« Reply #17 on: February 09, 2017, 04:57:35 AM »
My daughter has been skating for 7-8 months she is on Freeskate 1/2 .  Would anyone like to see a video of her and give me a honest opinion of how she is doing?

If she's been skating 8 months and is on freeskate 1, she's doing fine.  I don't think it would be constructive to post a video.

She really wants to know how much longer until she learns jumps.


It's really the wrong thing to worry about.  Assuming your daughter is too young to post these questions herself, I'd point out there are lots of children who can jump well but skate poorly.  Hardly any children can skate well but jump poorly.

Does she get private lessons?  It sounds like she would benefit from them.  She should tell her coach her goals, and practice according to her coach's instructions.  Practicing is the best way to improve jumping ability, especially for beginners (elite skaters have to avoid overtraining).

Offline DressmakingMomma

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Re: kids and progress
« Reply #18 on: February 09, 2017, 08:09:33 AM »
But I think with some of the natural talents, if it comes easily, when it gets hard they don't want to work for it.

This is sooo my kid. Passed through all the basic levels in under a year, went from FS 1 to pre-pre in another year and then bam - she has hit a wall. There was a time that she was at the rink everyday and skating for hours (we homeschool). Now, she doesn't really want to go, but I'm trying to push her through to a spot she feels more confident. (We also had a coaching change a year ago and serious boot problems for the last six months, but I think that's worked out as of this week.) I'm so hopeful that things will start coming together for her again.

I think practice time, personal motivation, good coaching, and parental commitment are probably all factors, but maybe coaching is a key ingredient. We have a rink by us that girls take lessons for years at and most of them don't get past an axel - yet at the other rinks around here that would be unheard of. i think in that case, it comes down to lack of quality coaching.

Offline Newicemom2016

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Re: kids and progress
« Reply #19 on: February 09, 2017, 03:37:18 PM »
It's great to see the different feedbacks.  She is always pointing out skaters at the rink and asks how much longer do you think mommy, until I can do that?  I just tell her she is doing great and to keep working hard the way she has been and it will come, it takes time and everyone started where she is and had to practice and Are still practicing, the long journey never stops. She is working with a very good coach.  We like him very much.  My questions do not really stem from worries but since this is new to us I just want to mAke sure I give her wise answers to her questions, and the appropriate encouragement and expectations.  Thanks again everyone for sharing your different experiences.

Online LunarSkater

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Re: kids and progress
« Reply #20 on: February 09, 2017, 07:00:43 PM »
In my experience (for a very long time I was the only adult skater in LTS, so I have skated with these kids for 2+ years), aside from the ice time, etc., a lot of has to do with just how much the kid wants to skate and get better. Some of the kids I skate with are happy progressing through LTS with a private lesson every so often and some non-lesson practice time. A handful do weekly privates and LTS with some non-lesson practice time. Some only do lessons and LTS. They are all about the same level, skating wise.

My observations - the ones that actually want to practice are the ones progressing faster. The parents can pay for lessons, ice time, coaching fees, etc. all they want but it's really the kid that matters. And some of the parents are quite smart - they know the kid enjoys skating, but they aren't willing to put a lot of money into it as long as their kid is happy with progress.

Something about progress I didn't see mentioned - kids lose interest in things. They can progress as high as triples, but when high school comes around and they realize there's life outside of skating, a fair number quit. Progress doesn't always matter as much as the willingness to devote large chunks of time to something. Commitment is a huge part of this sport.

It's what it boils down to for me: is the kid having fun? Does the kid want to improve? Then progress will happen, no matter how 'naturally' talented a skater is.

Offline Abbyar

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Re: kids and progress
« Reply #21 on: March 01, 2017, 12:06:12 PM »
My advice - ask your daughter's coach for a practice list. Edges, spins, and jumps she can work on, and how many times/ how much time she should spend on each. It will give your daughter a feeling of accomplishment to put words to all the things she's learning, and it will ensure she's practicing well and using her time effectively, not just skating in circles during her ice time.

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Re: kids and progress
« Reply #22 on: March 01, 2017, 01:21:32 PM »
I'm not myself at an axel level, so I can't comment on such things. But, as a person who has taught figure skating group lessons - though only on a voluntary basis - I would say that in the first few sets of classes, several major factors apply to figure skating group lessons, in descending order of problem frequency.

1. Some parents don't get their kids to lessons in time, or they miss a lot of lessons. They miss too much of the teaching and in-class practice. This is probably the biggest factor.

2. Some parents don't bring the kids to the ice in between lessons. You can only go so far without practice.

3. Some kids just don't care. E.g., the typical hockey boy whose parents think he will skate better if he takes figure skating lessons. They usually spend all their time picking on the girls, instead of paying attention or practicing. It doesn't help that most of them are already better skaters than most of the class, at least in those skills they care about. In addition, at a late pre-teen or early teen level, some girls who have been interested in skating up to that time, start spending all their time on the ice standing by the boards, gossiping and giggling with each other. That applies even to moderately high freestyle level skaters.

4. Most kids or parents don't tie the skaters' boots tight enough. This is a lot more common than people realize.

5. Some kids have skates that don't fit, or are not mounted to be properly balanced to their feet.

6. Some kids don't have properly sharpened skates. There is a lot of overlap with #5, especially if they are using rental skats, which are often pretty useless beyond basic forward and backwards strokes. I recently tried using the rentals - it was AWFUL. Nothing worked.

7. Some coaches are not very good at teaching, or are only good at teaching to students with specific learning styles. At the most basic levels, there is only a little correlation between skating skill and teaching skill. It is amazing how many very good athletes have trouble teaching people who don't understand what to do just by watching. And a few coaches teach some things wrong.

8. In the same vein, some kids have the wrong learning style for their coach's teaching style.

9. Some coaches only pay much attention to the best students, or to the students who ask questions.

10. Some kids have trouble paying attention to directions, or are easily distracted. There is a lot of overlap with #3, 7, 8 and 9 here.

11. Some kids aren't strong enough or coordinated enough to do basic skating. This is sometimes true at about age 4, and is quite frequent at age 3 and below.

12. Some kids have more "natural talent". Some of this comes from prior athletic activities, like dance and gymnastics. I believe some of it is genetic. You don't need a lot of natural talent to get through BS2. But people start dropping out in large numbers around BS3 (especially if they have trouble mastering outside edges), or can't pass it by reasonable standards. (This differs by rink and instructor, because some instructors have a lot tougher standards than others.) And by the time you get beyond the most basic jumps, some kids can't do it no matter how hard they try. (Neither can I...)

13. Some parents distract their kids while they are in lesson. It's not all that common - but it is an extremely hard to overcome problem. I know this is mean, but: parents - stay out of the way during lessons.

14. Money. At the early levels this isn't that big a deal - especially since the program I was in offered free lessons if the parents demonstrated need, and they got their skates sharpened free too, but by the time they need private lessons, it becomes important.

15. Some kids are afriad of falling, and are constantly scared and stiff on the ice. Not nearly as frequent with kids as adults, but it happens once in a while.

Anyway, that is my take. I don't think it is much different from why students have trouble learning other skills and subjects.

I'm not even counting the unavailability of ice time or coaches to people in some communities. That's a given.

I'm not sure how important school studies are in this vein. I've been shocked by how many hours high school students spend on homework now - often 6 - 10 hours per night for the college bound crowd, plus other after school activities, and required community service. I suspect a student cannot hope to spend enough time on the ice to be really good if they do that. Trade-offs exist.

Offline nicklaszlo

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Re: kids and progress
« Reply #23 on: March 02, 2017, 04:23:17 AM »
Good list, Query.

Offline amy1984

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Re: kids and progress
« Reply #24 on: March 02, 2017, 08:53:53 AM »
So my general observation is that there are a few coaches in my area that consistently have kids perform well at competitions.  You could argue that they have coaching magic and maybe, to a certain extent, they do.  But what I see is that they ask the same out of their skaters in terms of: time spent on the ice, how practice is structured, etc.  So it's not just their coaching ability in terms of getting across how to do an element, it's that they've figured out how to structure everything else involved too.  And yes, they're probably also taking on students that they see as competitive skaters with drive and talent.

So... time on ice x structure x lessons with a good coach = success ??  Oh lets change that up a bit... money(time on ice x structure x lessons with good coach) = Success  88)  Can't forget the money aspect!

I'd agree that most kids, with enough effort and determination, can get their axel and most of their doubles.  Talent will get you the rest of the way though (of course while still working hard).  I've seen kids struggle for years on a double axel despite putting in a lot of work.