Teenage coach dismissed by skating club

Derek Montague editor@thelabradorian.ca
Published on March 28, 2014
Katie Hinks (left) coaching some young skaters in Cartwright. On Jan. 9, Katie was dismissed from her coaching duties at the Snowflake Skating Club in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. She and her parents claim they never received an explanation from the club.
Submitted photo

No explanation given for dismissal

For more than two months, 17-year-old Katie Hinks, along with her parents, have been trying to figure out why she was dismissed from her coaching duties at the Snowflake Skating club in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Starting on Oct. 7, 2013, Katie, who was a competitive figure skater through most of her childhood, began coaching kids for Snowflake’s junior program and CanSkate program.

Katie, who was being paid to coach 5.5 hours a week, enjoyed the experience and the bond she was making with her students. But, on Jan. 9, 2014, she received an email that abruptly ended her coaching experience at the skating club.

The brief email, sent by Snowflake Skating Club president Shannon Abbott, simply stated that Katie’s coaching services were no longer required.

“Good evening Katie,

The board met recently and discussed payment of your Junior hours and it was decided that the board would pay you for the 15 hours submitted at a rate of 10.00 per hour, which can be added to your next cheque once we receive your next invoice for your Canskate coaching.

At this time, SFSC board would like to thank you for your time and dedication to our Canskate session for the fall 2013 session, but we will not require your coaching services for the upcoming Winter 2014 session. We wish you all the best with your future endeavours,” reads the email.

The young coach was taken aback by the email. Katie claims that she often received good feedback from parents and peers, without any indication that she might be dismissed.

“At first I was thinking about the kids and how I made such a great bond with them,” said Katie on being dismissed as coach. “All the parents were telling me I was doing such a good job … I felt very upset because I did do as I was told. And I only wanted to make everyone happy.”

No explanation

Katie claims that, on the same night that she was dismissed, she sent a message to Abbott, offering to continue helping the club as a volunteer. But she never got a response back.

The hardest part about the dismissal, for Katie, is the bond she lost with her young students. Not long after she received the email from Abbott, she ran into one of her former students. It was difficult for Katie to explain to the child why she would no longer be coaching.

“This one little girl asked me if I was going out to watch them (at a skating event), because I originally did plan to go. I had to tell her ‘oh I have exams next week’,” said Katie.

“I still think about (the dismissal) everyday. I feel like, if I run into someone at the arena … it’s kind of awkward.”

For Katie’s parents, Art and Elaine Hinks, having been given no explanation for the dismissal is the hardest pill to swallow.

“An explanation would have been okay with us, I mean we’re reasonable people,” said Art. “If there was a reasonable explanation, we wouldn’t have had any problems.

“Nobody seems to be taking any responsibility here.”

Elaine says that she tried multiple times to get an explanation from Abbott and the skating club but never got a response.

“She (Abbott) didn’t reply (to my email). And I saw her the next night … I asked her if she was going to respond to the email and she said yes she would.

“I tried to call one of the other board members and left a message and I didn’t hear a reply. ‘

The Labradorian made an interview request to Shannon Abbott but she declined to comment.

Trying to get certified

During her time as a junior and CanSkate coach with the Snowflake Skating Club, Katie was also attempting to get her Level I (Starskate Primary) coaching certificate.

In order to get the certification, Katie needed to be mentored by certified coach. So, beginning Nov.1, 2013, she began studying under Snowflake Skating Club coach Dominic Pike.

According to Katie, the mentorship involved being on the ice with Pike and observing him coach other students.

Katie, Elaine and Art thought that Katie did everything that was necessary to complete the mentorship program. But, on Dec. 28, when Elaine took Katie’s home study guide to Pike, so the coach could sign off on her lessons, he wouldn’t give his signature.

Elaine said the coach told her signing it would put him in a compromising position, even endangering his job.

“I was in shock,” she said. “I walked away, shaking my head because I just couldn’t believe what he had said.”

Dominic Pike was contacted by The Labradorian for comment. He declined and referred the newspaper to Lori Brett, executive director, Skate Canada Newfoundland and Labrador. A message was left for Brett, but she did not respond by press time.

Elaine and Art sent a letter of complaint about Pike to a complaint review officer with Skate Canada. The officer emailed the parents back, saying Skate Canada could not get involved with the dispute.

“The situation you describe is a matter between your daughter and Mr. Pike and Skate Canada will not get involved,” states the email.  “While Mr. Pike’s behaviour may or not have been appropriate and while it may or may not be a violation of the Coaches’ Code of Ethics, the nature of this conduct is not serious enough to warrant an investigation at the national level.”