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Ben Agosto: From competitor to coach

Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto skate together during the P&G & Wal-Mart 'Tribute to American Legends of the Ice' at Izod Center on December 11, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto skate together during the P&G & Wal-Mart 'Tribute to American Legends of the Ice' at Izod Center on December 11, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

In 2004 Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto won their first ice dance national title and continued their winning streak for five years in a row. Now at this year’s U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Ben Agosto is no longer going as a competitor or even as a spectator, but he is returning to nationals as a coach.

After retiring from his ice dancing career with Tanith Belbin and winning the ice dance Olympic silver medal in 2006, along with other countless competitions and a fourth place finish at the 2010 Olympic Games, Ben Agosto moved to Olympia, Washington in November of 2010. His girlfriend, Merrie Schultz, who had trained as a pair skater, was from the Pacific Northwest so Agosto decided to give the Northwest a shot.

I absolutely love the lifestyle out here. The rain doesn’t bother me,” Ben said with a laugh. “I love the greenery and the mountains, so it’s been a lot of fun.”

Throughout his career, Ben claimed that he would never be a coach as he did not find it appealing to spend his life in an ice arena. Once he retired from competitive skating, he began participating in ice shows and eventually started to coach a bit on the side.

“I started to realize how much information I had learned over the course of my whole career, I’ve been skating for about twenty six years. It was pretty intriguing and very rewarding,” Agosto explained.

Coaching mainly at Sprinker in Tacoma and occasionally at Olympic View in Mountlake Terrace, Ben works mainly as a consultant to many figure skaters as he feels that he is still learning how to coach and not yet ready to have the weight and responsibility of a head coach.

“I feel like I have learned and gained such a greater understanding of skating at it’s most basic level from having to teach it and that’s only been for a few years,” Agosto related, “I can’t imagine if I actually have to teach this for a long time, I feel like I will really still be uncovering more and more layers of things that I didn’t even realize were there to know.”

Ben is currently working with Hannah Eby and Logan Weaver as they make their U.S. Figure Skating Championships debut this week. Hannah and Logan have only been skating together for a little over six months, but have progressed rapidly and will be competing in intermediate pairs. Though it’s a challenge for this new pair team, it is also a challenge for Agosto as their coach.

“It’s a lot scarier than it was as a skater, because when you’re skating you’ve trained and you do your thing. You go out onto the ice and you have your job to do, but as a coach, once their name is called and they take their opening positions, I have no more control. I can’t do anything...I have to hope that we did enough preparation. It’s definitely more nerve wracking for me as a coach than for me as a skater.

Agosto has done his best to prepare his young students for the magnitude of this competition, but he is also trying to help them remember to have fun and enjoy each moment as he once did.

I really do love the sport and I love when two people skate together. I think it’s so wonderful and it has so many possibilities. I remember that was something that drew me to ice dancing when I was nine-years-old...I can consciously remember having that thought like, ‘Wow, it seems like you can have so many more possibilities to do interesting things if there’s two people instead of just one.’ I still feel that way. So it’s really fun to stay involved and now help other people realize that same thing,” Ben expressed.

Though Ben Agosto is no longer a competitor, he possesses the maturity, wisdom and humility of a champion that inspires those around him. It does not take long to realize that, even though he is modest about his knowledge of the sport, he has a depth of experience and possesses the strength of a true athlete. This becomes exceedingly clear when he makes statements such as this one:

“One thing that I have kind of learned about something like the Olympic Games is that when you go to and you perform on an extraordinary stage, simply doing what you normally do every day becomes extraordinary.”

It is not surprising that Agosto’s top moment of his career was winning the Olympic silver medal, but a moment that came in a close second, was when he and Tanith won their first national title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. It was quite a wonderful moment for him and now, nine years later, he is ready to make another memorable moment, but this time behind the boards.

Regardless of the placement of his first students to make it to nationals, it would not be surprising to begin to see Ben Agosto at nationals year after year coaching students, and it will not be too long before he raises up champions of his own.

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