Figure Skating
hosted by
San Diego Figure Skating Communications
a non-profit educational organization
Amount of Training
to Acquire Athletic Skills

Training Time Equates to Years of Training
       The age of the individual, his or her motivations, perseverance, attitude, aptitude, and opportunities to fully develop their potential will determine the length of time to achieve elite status. This status is only to qualify for entering an international competition. There usually is still much more mastery of skills that must occur to become an international ranked athlete in a specific sport such as figure skating.

The USA Olympic Committee estimates that the elapsed time from starting, as a beginner in child- hood, to achieving elite status in any sports is roughly ten years.

      The chart below is an estimation of an average skater who starts in childhood as a beginner to move through the testing process while participating in a full academic school and social curriculum. It assumes that there will be some variation in when a beginner actually starts and takes their first USFS test. 

Note: As skaters consider entering the juvenile levels of competition, they must conform to
rules requiring having passed the test prior to September 1 in order to compete at that level
in the competitive year. Some competition levels also have age restrictions.

MITF Free Skate Compulsory Dance
Senior Senior Gold

1-2 Junior Junior Pre Gold

1-2 Novice Novice Silver

1 Intermediate Intermediate Pre Silver

1 Juvenile Juvenile Bronze

1 Pre Juvenile Pre Juvenile Pre Bronze

1 Preliminary Preliminary Preliminary

1* Pre Preliminary Pre Preliminary

The goal for most skaters is to pass their senior level MITF, free skating, and gold compulsory dance tests before attending a college or university (age 17-18).

*Competitive skaters require passing both the MITF and free skating tests at the same level. The same applies for dancers who must pass MITF, compulsory dances, and free dance tests at the same level in order to compete.

Most test skaters will concentrate their training on the MITF prior to taking the same level free skating test

The chart above assumes that a beginner will start in group classes and have passed several ISI or Basic Skating Skill free skating badges prior to transitioning to the USFS test and competition program.
       Delaying the more advanced free skating tests gives skaters an opportunity to develop a wider array of complex Free Skating skills required to be successful in competition.

       A Gold Free Skating test requires the same effort in skill development and training as a Gold Free Dance test.

       Prior to starting to taking the preliminary compulsory dance test, a skater benefits from having taken and passed the preliminary MITF test.

       The exact number of years required to progress through the tests depends on the amount of consistent:
  • practice sessions,
  • lessons,
  • natural skills,
  • financial support,
  • the skater’s -
    • attitude,
    • ability to focus,
    • desire to succeed.
Ice skating requires an investment of time, energy, and resources for a decade of more!  
      The amount of funding to earn a gold medal in any discipline varies, but it mounts up over time. Sometimes a parent will attempt to speed the process up by increasing the number of weekly lessons and practice sessions. There is a reasonable level that should be between a skater who can independent practice and someone who require constant supervised practices.

      As any school teacher can attest, there is much more to learning than having a warm body in a seat for six hours a day from Monday through Friday. The factors that influence learning include:
  • Parental support, or lack of
  • An emotional and physically threatening environment:
    • Home
    • School
  • Focusing ability
    • Development disorders such as ADDH
    • Absenteeism caused by illness
    • Physical problems such as hearing, sight, Muscular Dystrophy, etc.
  • Interest in subject
  • Native potential (IQ)
  • Emotional maturity
  • Social development
      Many skaters have skated for several years prior to beginning to take USFS tests. The process to earn Senior MITF or Gold Compulsory Dance medal usually requires eight years or regular weekly practice ranging from 1.5 to 3 hours daily, five day practice week with time off from skating year round.

Availability of ice skating facilities
      Many regions of the country do not have ice available at their home rink year round. Some rinks schedule a week or more for maintenance of the ice and building or major overhaul of the refrigeration equipment. Some rinks in humid summer climates still close for the summer because they lack dehumidifying equipment.

      In regions that have year round rinks, a skater involved in developing their skating skills can vary widely depending on their involvement in a job, school, church, romantic interests, and/or other sports.

      Very few PE teachers, skating coaches, and fitness trainers feel that a 52 week practice and competition schedule is advisable. A down time is suggested to refresh the physical, mental, and emotion aspects of the skater. Most figure skating experts recommend cross training in other areas that do not have a negative effect on the primary skating discipline. Off ice training activities can include:
  • Weight Training
  • Flexibility Training
  • Ballet
  • Ballroom Dance
  • Modern/Interpretive Dance
  • Musical Training
Some activities conflict with training
      Various activities can cause a skater to be unable to participate in training. The following activities can conflict with a normal practice session schedule:
  • Federal and State holidays - approximately 10 days per year. These holidays usually alter the rink's ice schedule. Normally uncrowded public sessions become very popular. Early morning sessions become very popular during school summer vacations.
  • School summer vacations - In the summer, large groups are usually organized by park and recreation department and various youth groups (YMCA, Scouts, etc.) that impact the availability of daytime sessions and force skaters to come in for the earlier morning sessions.
  • Family vacations - one to three weeks per year
  • Birthdays, weddings, births, funerals, anniversaries
  • Accidents and illnesses of a family member, including the skater
      The goal of achieving sufficient skating skills to pass Senior MITF and Compulsory Dance tests is physically possible for most skaters; however, this assumes they start skating in elementary school, Usually 8 to 10 years of training needs to occur before graduating from High School and entering University or college (approximately age 17-18). 

      Most skaters start out in beginning group classes and graduate to free skating, MITF, etc. The skaters work on simultaneously passing the MITF while preparing to pass the same free skating test level. Note: Passing the MITF is necessary to qualify to take the free skating test. The free skating test determine the level the skater is qualified to enter in competitions.

      Some skaters have enough time and energy to also work on the compulsory dances. However, participating as a member of a pair or dance team adds many additional hours of practice per week.

      Most coaches recommend delaying becoming a pair or dance partner until:
  • A skater has developed strong individual skating skills,
  • Their physical and mental maturity prepares them to work cooperatively with another individual,
  • Partners have acquired equal levels of advanced skating skills (especially multi-revolution jumps),
  • Be mature enough to interpret difficult musical themes that require complex emotional and/or artistic connections to the music to achieve advanced choreography expression.
      With younger, less skilled skaters, efforts to work with a partner can be frustrating and a waste of precious time and money. It can also be very dangerous to both skaters who lack the strength and coordination, but especially for the girl, to attempt overhead lifts and throw jumps.

Short and Long Term Memory
      Some activities based heavily on memory work - learning the steps of MITF elements, Compulsory Dance patterns, and Free Skating programs. and mentally and physically demanding activities such as . That time would be better spent learning complex free skating movement with a view to transferring that skill to the other branches at the appropriate time.

      Skills transfers flow from the complex to the simple. Learning basic to intermediate MITF and free skating skills first, provides a firm foundation to learn skills of other disciplines without compromising progress towards the Senior Free Skate test.

      Coaches and parents place considerable pressure on young free skaters to attempt to acquire complex neural reflexes before puberty times them out of competing and qualifying in the Juvenile regional event to compete at the Juvenile National Championships.

      A Gold Free Skating test requires different skills sets than a Gold Compulsory Dance test. A major component of a free skater is the lack of fear in jumping that is not shared by every skater. The skater who is lucky enough to have a partner will spend as many hours, if not more, practicing to compete in three different events in Junior and Senior Dance events.

      Working on several disciplines at once is very difficult if competition quality is expected. However, with adequate ice time, most skaters have the ability to learn the skills to pass multiple tests. The key is for to team of coaches who work in concert and not asking the skater to attempt to do similar things using different technical concepts.

      Skaters often quit in frustration because they have not found a niche in figure skating. Synchronized Team Skating and Theater On Ice. Skaters increasingly have found success in these team sports because they have the talents to prosper in this environment.

      The transfer of skills from discipline to discipline allows skaters to learn faster and better and actually pass more tests in the long-term than if they had attempted as younger skaters to participate competitive in two or more events. Most young skaters lack the physical size and strength to be a pair or dance partner and lack the basic skills to perform the pair and dance lifts without risking serious injuries.

      Physical size and strength of skaters tends to vary according to age.  There also is a difference between male and female skaters reaching puberty.

      It is highly suggested that every skater acquire the fundamental skills of MITF to assist them in learning to free skate, perform compulsory dances, and participate in Synchronized Skating or Theater on Ice Teams. Obviously being a pair or dance partner requires a background in free skating or compulsory dancing.

      MITF and Free Skating skills are extremely important before attempting to skate pairs. Physical size and strength is crucial for the male partner who desires lifting his partner over his head while rotating.

      MITF helps to learn how to properly skate compulsory dances. A background in Free Skating is helpful when it comes to learning how to free dance.

      A skater's progress depends on the age that they start to skate seriously and the resources that are available to foster skill development.  Progress is based on the quality of the practice sessions, not the shear volume of time spent at the rink and on the ice.  Too many unsupervised skaters spend valuable time on the ice socializing and/or day dreaming while parents make sacrifices  to pay the skating bills.
Skill Progress Varies in each Discipline,
and with starting age, sex, raw talent, focus, and assertiveness
Age Free Skating Compulsory Dances MITF Pairs
20 >





17 Junior Gold Junior

15 Novice Pre Gold


12 Juvenile Pre Silver Juvenile Juvenile
11 Pre-Juvemile Bronze Pre-Juvemile
10 Preliminary Pre Bronze Preliminary
9 Pre-Preliminary Preliminary Pre Preliminary
8 No Test
No Test No Test
7  Basic Skills/ISI Badges Basic Skills/ISI Badges Basic Skills/ISI Badges
6 Basic Skills 1-8 Curriculum
Snowplow Sam Curriculum

There are no USFS tests for Synchronized Skating, Theater on Ice, artistic or interpretive skating.

      Many skaters quickly pass the lower tests without mastering the individual elements on each test. Unfortunately skaters must acquire more power and the skills to perform deeper edges that are necessary to perform advanced turns with more quickness, control, and in more difficult sequences. Skater usually encounter a "brick wall" at either the Intermediate or Novice MITF and free skating tests.

      Undoing years of bad practice habits and poor technical skills can be a devastating experience for a skater who previously has held a very positive self image of themselves, only to finding themselves in a position of retrying a test one than once.  Skaters in their pre-teen and teens are very sensitive to peer interactions that alter their skating status.

Recommended Reading:



The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:
Principles of Sports Training:
Principles of Training Athletes
Developing Skills for Figure Skating
Acquiring Sports Skills
Amount of Time to Acquire Sports Skills
Biomechanics of Sports
Balanced Principles For Training
Sports Skills  & Mechanical Techniques
Physical Fitness & Preparedness
Individual Differences
The Overload Principle in Training
Recovering From Training
Principle of Reversibility
Principle of Specificity
Transference of Knowledge & Skills
Training Variation
Psychomotor Domain
Objectives of Psychomotor Goals

All materials are copy protected. 
The limited use of the materials for education purposes is allowed providing
credit is given for the source of the materials.

Athlete Concerns     Collection of Related Ideas    Skating Articles    Related Topics      

Ice Skating Rink Index    Topic Index    Site Index   Home Page