Alexei Urmanov: first steps in coaching

At the last World Pro in Washington DC Alexei Urmanov wasn't able to get to the podium.It might be the last major event that he participated in. Recently, the Olympic Champion '94  began to train children in his native city of St. Petersburg. 

 Q: How did you start your coaching carrier? 

  -Last summer the director of the figure skating school at "Yuileinyi", Tatiana Menshikova, asked me if I would be interested to try working with kids. I didn't respond  immediately but it didn't take me too long to agree. I thought: "It's interesting, why don't give  it a try?" A 12-year old Anya Titkina has become my first student (her coach was no longer  working with her). 

Q: How many students are in your group now? 

 -Besides Anya, a 12-year old Valera Vorobiova and a10-year old Angela Pylkina. 

 Q: No boys? 

- Frankly, I'd like to try training boys but right now in the city there are no boys who  show great promise. Obviously, the coaches who already work with talented students would never give them to me. It's pretty common in the figure skating to lure away  somebody's students but I would never do it. It would be  against my principals. 

Q: Are your students showing promise?

 -The potential of a student becomes clear at age of 12 or 13. Fortunately, my girls are interesting  and promising ones. Of course, it's impossible to make champions out of all of your students, but I'll try my best to help them realize their talent in figure skating. 

 Q: How is it going so far?Q: How it's going so far? 

  -At the second round of "Cup of St. Petersburg" Valera Vorobiova won the short program. Anya Titkina was in twelveth. Tiny Angela Pylkina was 26th out of 46 participants but we don't make a big deal out of it and continue to work calmly and as was planned. At Europeans and Worlds there is a huge gap between the first six and the rest of skaters but at junior level competitions the skaters are very close in their techniques 

 Q: Do you find working with kids interesting? 

 -Yes,I do. Very much. Otherwise, I wouldn't do it. 

 Q: What is your salary?

-It is the same as other coaches'. Of course, I have my other sources as well as  savings but I would work with kids even for free. I want to say it one more time: I find  coaching extremely interesting. 

  Q: What kind of coach you are? A strict or liberal one, or, maybe, you haven't yet found your own approach?

 -I would say I am emotional and rather strict, but my students respect it. I think that if you set big goals for yourself -you cannot relax or take it easy. But off ice they may stand on their heads, I let them do whatever they want. 

 Q: Do people see you now as Alexei Urmanov, the Olympic Champion or Alexei Evgenyevich Urmanov, the coach? 

 -My colleagues come by to take a look the way I work with my students. I wasn't a bad skater but it's too early to say anything about me as a coach. This is my own opinion, though, and you don't have to agree with me. (Smiling) 

 Q: What is more difficult for you to skate yourself or to coach? 

- To coach, of course. I'm used to being responsible only for myself but now I am  responsible for all those tiny kids. While I've been skating myself, the whole situation was under my control and I was able to change it at any moment. I cannot do it anymore. 

 Q: What are your goals now? 

  -I am quite aware that it's a long, difficult journey from our junior competitions to senior Nationals. Only a very few from thousands figure skaters are able to reach  Europeans, Worlds or Olympics but this is a goal that I have set for myself in coaching. 

  Q: If you have such goals why don't you try to work with more experienced skaters? 

-I am not ready yet to work on that level. All the renowned coaches started their carrier at junior sport schools. There are no such examples where a young specialist took a well-trained skater and brought him to the Olympics. I'll tell you even more: not too long ago, Nina Nikolaevna Monakhova(my first teacher at age from 4 to 7) gave me an advise: "Try to work with a group of 4-5 years old kids. It will help you to understand even more  about figure skating." I greatly value her opinion and, maybe, soon there will be an audition for kids  to get in my group. 

  Q: Great athletes rarely become talented coaches, does this bother you? 

 -I am taking it easy. Why should such thoughts bother me? Figure skating is not just  a field of interest to me I do know this sport. I am not saying that everything will work out  but I don't think that it won't work either. I am going to give it a try and then we'll see. 

  Q: What textbooks do you use?

- My textbook is my own experience and of course, the work with Alexei  Nikolaevich Mishin, who gave me a lot. Now I understand that I should have written down everything he taught me, but I was young then and never thought of that. Fortunately, I  cannot complain about my memory and now I started to recall all the details and the exercises that I used to do. However, I understand that one must have his own approach,  it's crucial for success. I'm not ashamed to admit though, that I haven't found that approach yet. 

Interview by Andrei Mitkov, Izvestia