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The Worth of a Coach

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One of the most difficult things to do in sports is to figure out just how valuable a coach is.  The Brian Orser/Yu-na Kim situation reiterates that difficult question, particularly with the revisionist history going on.  Many are saying that Kim saved Orser's career by choosing to work with him (without acknowledging that, obviously, Kim saw something in Orser worth working with) and others think that Orser is taking all the credit for plucking Kim from obscurity, even though she was already on the skating radar when she went to work with Orser.  How much credit should a coach get? 

In team sports, it's a common thought that a coach gets a bit too much credit when a team does well and a bit too much blame when a team does poorly.  Individual sports have a different dynamic, though.  The skater is out there on his or her own, the game plan depends entirely on them, and they will often take all the blame when anything goes wrong.  If a skater switches from coach to coach, we tend to assume the skater is fickle rather than blame the coach (or at least, I am guilty of that).

Still, you have to think there is a reason that Frank Carroll, Nicolai Morozov, and others so consistently produce champions. But it must also be acknowledged that not every skater they work with goes on to the ultimate successes in the sport. You have to concede that both Yu-na Kim and Adam Rippon made great strides after working with Orser.  But there is no way to know how they would have done had they chosen other coaches as they matured (although Rippon was working with Morozov prior to Orser and not doing as well).  It is also obvious how influential Tatiana Tarasova has been on Mao Asada's skating; not necessarily for the better.  And this isn't even getting into the strictly choreography side of things.

I guess with each skater/coach relationship, it's a different situation.  It's almost impossible to say what might have happened had Kim not worked with Orser.  As a Yankee fan, I don't give all the credit to former coach Joe Torre for the team's dynasty in the late 90's...but I do feel awfully appreciative of the guy whenever I see him on television.  And even though things ended terribly between him and the Yankees, I don't feel a need to bash his accomplishments or contribution. 

It's obvious how important a coach is to a figure skater - but how do we measure just how important?  And how important was Orser to Kim?  Or Frank Carroll to Michelle Kwan, John Nicks to Sasha Cohen, etc.?  Please comment if you have any thoughts.