Ice Network

Shnapir brings high performance program to SCOB

Two-time U.S. champion grooming next generation of skaters for success
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Simon Shnapir works with a student at the Skating Club of Boston. -courtesy of Simon Shnapir

After ending his competitive career in 2015, two-time U.S. pairs champion Simon Shnapir found himself at a crossroads. He saw two options in front of him: He could join an ice show, as he loved to travel and perform, or he could continue to pursue coaching, which was already a part-time job for him by the time he retired.

Not wanting to leave behind the students with whom he'd been working at the Skating Club of Boston (SCOB), and envisioning coaching as something he could do long term, he chose to stay where he was -- but move to the other side of the boards.

"I saw an opportunity here to expand my business and build my future," Shnapir said. "I've been very blessed to travel the world, but at the same time having traveled so long with competitive skating, it was kind of nice when I retired to not pack a bag."

In addition to coaching, Shnapir has undertaken a challenge as director of the high performance program at the club, which he has developed since its inception.

"I made a suggestion to our executive director and to our club manager about bringing in a seminar for the skaters. From there, they approached me and asked, 'Do you want to be the high performance director?'" Shnapir said.

"I wasn't expecting that," he added. "We first started talking about this in October 2016, and in November I accepted the position and started the planning process."

Shnapir trained at SCOB with former partner Marissa Castelli starting around 2009. His entry into coaching came through the club's junior coaching program, where he was mentored by a staff coach. By the time he stepped away from competing, he was coaching as much as 20 hours a week.

Throughout his partnership with Castelli, and then when he teamed with DeeDee Leng, Shnapir participated in training camps with U.S. Figure Skating. Through these experiences, he learned about all aspects of high performance training -- from injury prevention to sports psychology.

"Also, studying the training methods and approaches of skaters from other countries and athletes from different sports as well, and looking at what they focus on, both on the field or ice and off," Shnapir, 29, said. "Right now, we're trying to create an environment and educate our current skaters on how to better train, how to better prepare and give them the tools, knowledge and skills, in addition to skating and what they're doing on the ice with their coaches. (We want) to take their results to the next level."

In building the high performance program, Shnapir examined the factors that took him from being an above-average competitor to an Olympian. He wanted to create an inclusive yet demanding program that inspired the club's skaters. Some of the things he focused on were nutrition, off-ice training, flexibility, psychology, strength and conditioning, dance and fundamental skating skills.

Shnapir said the program is a resource for all the coaches at SCOB. He's planned a seminar about injury prevention, and he wants to build a fully inclusive training center.

"We're trying to bring back that competitive fire that we've had for so long and the club has always been known for," he said.

Developing a pairs program is also a goal. He has a couple of promising students for whom he's seeking partners. Just two weeks ago, it was announced that 1994 world pairs champions Evgenia Shishkova and Vadim Naumov are joining the coaching staff.

"It's going to be very inspirational for our up-and-coming skaters," he said. "Now, with high performance, the energy in the rink is picking up and the whole competitive environment is coming back."