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RINKBLAZER Randy Clark hasn’t strayed very far from his roots, but he is a believer in enjoying the journey. The 54-year-old, raised on the ice in Spokane, Washington, has coached for 33 years in that same town—methodically growing the program and his career along the way by his belief in building a solid foundation on which to develop. Basics are at the heart of Clark—for himself and his skaters. He believes in teaching them and he believes in the importance of enjoying them. When he talks career highlights, he discusses the bridge program he started from Learn to Skate, to aid the transition to the skating club. “The classes were taught by our club coaches and many of those students went on to private lessons and soon they became active members of our skating club,” he said. “It was very rewarding for me to see the club grow and to be able to help increase my colleague’s clientele as well.” With degrees in business and education, Clark pays attention to both the big growth picture and the individual athlete, which has led to grooming skaters from the beginning levels to the U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships and the U.S. Figure Skating Championships and to being invited to the Team USA training camp in Lake Placid— the first time he had ever been to New York. All of these accomplishments he gives equal credit to his coaching partner and “wing man” of 25 years, Noreen Clohessy Olson, who provides the choreography for all of Clark’s students from beginner to senior level. “Having Noreen as a choreographer has allowed me to be more specialized as a coach and concentrate on the things I love to do,” Clark said “She has enabled me a lot more time to focus on my strengths as a technical coach. Having her by my side every day at the rink working together as a team is why I'm so successful.” The success also inarguably comes from the cornerstones that conversation with Clark regularly, refreshingly circles back to: the steps, the progress, the journey. He shares a quote from a book he is reading called Perfectly Yourself: “I know that practice doesn't make perfect. Practice makes



Randy Clark

progress. And practice makes progress only if you practice the right things in the right way.” “I think that says so much for the skaters and the beginning coaches out there,” he said. “Teaching the right things in the right way. Learning the right things in the right way. Practicing the right things in the right way. Nothing is more important than that.”

Your mom, Joan Bellessa, is in the Spokane Hall of Fame for coaching figure skating, and your grandfather was a barrel jumper on skates. With this family history, was coaching your destiny? I was destined. I have always skated and what I really wanted to help my skaters with were the things that I could have done better. While I was skating, I openly admitted that I could’ve worked harder on my programs. My kids will never say that. We do program, program, program. My strikes will be their successes.

What was the moment you realized coaching was your path? Well, I left skating for two-and-a-half years. I’d gotten a degree in business so I went to work for a welding company because they offered me a company car and benefits and I thought that all sounded pretty good. One day I just realized that I was doing sales and maintaining accounts and working on salary and that I didn’t love this job. So, I went back and got my education degree and I did some substitute teaching for a while, but that never quite fit either. Maybe it was because I was so used to skating being one-on-one, but it just felt like I was babysitting. It was not at all rewarding. As I was trying to figure out what to do with my life, it hit me: I love working with kids and figure skating is what I did all my life, so it was just meant to be.

Skating as a sport takes great passion—so does coaching. What are you passionate about? Working with the kids on a one-on-one basis and working on the overall person. In some cases, they are with me more than they are with their parents so it’s important to me to strive to be a good role model and teach them hard work, discipline and work ethic so they can be successful. Whatever student comes in, it’s my goal to help them reach their fullest potential for as long as they want to keep doing it. I am passionate about showing them the importance of appreciating the progress, not just the outcome. Sure, there’s a 13-yearold Russian skater with a quad-triple, but that didn’t just happen—she still had to take all of the beginning steps to get there. Skating is a

By Terri Milner Tarquini

long journey—it’s important to enjoy it.

Let’s talk about some qualities you think, in your experience, that are important for coaches to possess? The number one thing is patience. You can’t expect results right away. I think, oftentimes, beginning coaches try to get to the end result too soon. It’s about basics, basics, basics. I spend a lot of time on stroking and crossovers, even before we do waltz jumps.

What do you think has aided you on the path to finding more success and growth as a coach? Watching others coach, learning from other coaches and being hungry to always learn more. I don’t think there’s any sport where there’s more pressure for one person when their name is called. I love working with skaters who are as hungry to learn and keep trying and get better as I am.

What is your favorite move to watch when it is performed really, really well? I can tell a lot about a skater just from a simple waltz jump. How they go out and push up into it. What their landing looks like. And I love to watch stroking. The way a skater carries themselves without even jumping. That draws me in before they’ve even done a trick.

Do you have a motto or philosophy? I have something I recently wrote down: My students, through proper training, see success, and with success I earn their trust. Through trust we acquire mutual respect and respect turns into results. The process in its entirety creates lifelong lessons of work ethic, appreciation and integrity. What says a lot about an athlete is how they handle it when they get to the next hardest trick. If they shut down and don’t focus on the baby steps, it’s so hard to get to that next level. They have to enjoy the digging into the process so they can take the time and the proper steps to get it right.

What are your goals with regards to your career? I’d love to get more skaters to Nationals and hopefully maybe even one day to the Olympics. Spokane has hosted Nationals in 2007 and 2010 so we have a town that knows skating and supports skating. We’ve had success, but it’s not reoccurring with skaters qualifying every year. We need to keep pushing forward. The northwest can be stronger as a competitive program; we need to keep seeing what’s being done elsewhere and implement it here. Putting

Profile for Professional Skaters Association

March/April 2018 PS Magazine  

Our March issue comes on the tail of Olympic fever -- we were proud to see our PSA Coaches representing the USA and the amazing talent of th...

March/April 2018 PS Magazine  

Our March issue comes on the tail of Olympic fever -- we were proud to see our PSA Coaches representing the USA and the amazing talent of th...