A Passion for Coaching: Interview with Matteo Zanni

By Matteo Morelli

Hello Matteo, it is a pleasure to talk to you and thanks for sharing your experience with us. You have been an ice dance coach and worked on choreographing programmes for some years now, and it looks like it is something you are enjoying a lot. 

I have been doing different things, including taking part in shows and completing a university degree in international studies that has nothing to do with ice dance, but I love my job as a coach. It allows me to express myself better than in any other role and I have a lot of fun doing it.

You competed as an ice dancer, achieving great success as a junior in a partnership with Anna Cappellini (which later became a senior world champion with Luca Lanotte) from 2001 to 2005, including winning four Junior Grand Prix events, a bronze at the Junior Grand Prix final in 2004 and a fifth place at worlds junior championship the same year. What do you take from this experience as a competitive skater? 

I ended my competitive career as a junior. I was getting ready to shift to senior but I also started to enjoy teaching and training, to be on the other side. I am happy with what Anna and I achieved, but being a leader of a group of skaters and express a vision as a coach has always been something I was interested in, therefore it made sense to go towards that direction.

You hinted at the fact that you have been doing different things so far. How do you think they helped you in your role as a coach?

I think everything can prove to be useful in this job. I love going to the theatre, watching F1, photography, to name a few. Everything helps, it is not just about the technique: culture also helps in the role, knowing what is out there and being open minded. I brought all these passions of mine into this sport, which is now the main thing in my life.

Your coaching career properly began in 2013.

Yes, I used to work a bit with Barbara Fusar-Poli in Milan, and I also worked with Paola Mezzadri for some years. She used to be my coach before. During these years, I worked on choreographies and enjoyed it, but did not yet have my own team until I decided it was time for me to do it by myself and make my own mistakes. So I did it, while I was working in Milan I started to pursue my ambitions. 

And then you started to work with the Young Goose Academy (YGA).

Nicoletta (Ingusci, the President of YGA) and I are very much the same. We have been working together to create the ideal condition to express what we want to do, and I am very proud of it. Nicoletta is very close to the guys that we work with. She knows well how to read them and she understands what they need.

At YGA, you have a team of coaches and choreographers working with you.

Yes: Barbora Reznickova, who I coached before and then invited to join our team at YGA, Denise Lodola, our ballet teacher, and Daniel Peruzzo, our athletic trainer. I am very happy with the team I work with. 

How many partnerships are you working with at the moment?

Eight in total, we have a nice international group. 

This year, you are coaching and have choreographed the programmes of Czech junior team Kateřina Mrázková & Daniel Mrázek, which won their Junior Grand Prix events (including a junior world record in the short dance), and won a bronze medal at the Junior Grand Prix Final in Torino. How is the journey with them going?

We want the same things. It is very easy to understand each other. We share the same passion, and I love working with them on a daily basis. It is a very exciting challenge. Every day we find something that excites us and motivates us to take the next step. They have made huge progress in a very short amount of time. They were both single skaters until about two years ago. I really enjoy working with them. Every team is different; they bring in different personalities, and I learn a lot from each one of them. This is the main thing for me.

Within the senior field, you coach amongst others the Czech team Natálie Taschlerová & Filip Taschler, at their first Senior Grand Prix season. They have been working with you for a while and managed to qualify for the last Olympic Games.

I have been working with them for more than three years now. We have been growing a lot since we started working together, considering they started as a junior mid-level. I am very attached to them, as we have been on a long journey together. They are totally different from Kateřina and Daniel. They have different skills and other ways to express their personalities. It is very stimulating to work with them, they approach work in a total different way. 

And you have recently started to work with Georgian team Maria Kazakova & Georgy Reviya, also at their first Senior Grand Prix. How is the work with them going? 

They joined us recently, they bring in another culture and another way of approaching work. Working with them is equally stimulating. We have a lot of fun together. It is different to work with a team that you develop and with a team that arrives from a different place,. You have to somehow adapt to their past. I can’t change the first ten years of their life into something new, but I am finding this to be another good challenge for me, I believe in them and at the same time I learn from them.

It seems that there is a good vibe between the teams in your school. I am thinking about that complicity that both Taschler & Taschlerová and Kazakova & Reviya showed at the Grand Prix in Sheffield they both competed in.

I have to say that there is a good atmosphere between them. I am very happy about this, they bonded easily and enjoy a nice relationship between them. This seems to happen across all teams, and I am very pleased about it.

Do you think you would be able to summarise your style as a coach?

I have many people that taught me a lot. I think I learned a lot from my old coaches, I took something away with me, but not everything: I find it essential to take something from those role models we have in life, but also to reject some other things, which I find equally important. I also find it essential to create a role model, rather than copying from our role models. I love to fantasize: I go home, I let my creativity free, we work on new strategies, things we have never done before, we test new approaches and see if they work or not. Everyone helped me to look at this sport with different eyes. I also like to change, I don’t like to think that I am at a definite point, but rather I like to think I have more to learn.

What are your objectives for the season ahead?

My objective are mainly in relation to coaching and training. I let the teams I work with communicate what their objectives are, we discuss them. I believe they have to set their objectives and we then work together towards them.