USFS Club Communications
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San Diego Figure Skating Communications
Confidence Building

The Problems are often Complex
       Some situations are very complex and are extremely difficult to simplify without distorting or misrepresenting some "facts" in an attempt to prove a point.  In overcoming the over simplification in any argument, it is necessary that you are fully aware of the pros and cons on the topic. Not every "expert' will have the same qualifications so you need to seek others who support or reject the stated or unstated hypothesis. You must become aware of any biases that you and others may have that affect their opinions and the reason that is behind their reasoning in support or rejecting the question/  

Confidence Building Suggestions for Figure Skaters
  • Ask the skater what they thought of their performance. Their response provides judges with a clue of their frame of mind and what comments might produce a positive reaction from the skater(s).
  • Urge the use of visualization as a technique to provide a positive “mental imagery” of their skating to help improve mental performance and increase self-confidence.

  • Suggest “Role-Playing” as an important total immersion technique in the character/theme of the music by imagining how a favorite elite skater would perform the program. The goal is to provide the skater with inspiration to aspire to greatness when no higher level skater train at their home rink.

Season Long Training Suggestions
  • Inquire as to what, if any, off ice programs the skater participates in on a regular basis – such as ballet, drama/stage shows, or modern, interpretive, or ballroom dance classes etc.

  • Suggest taking videotapes of practice performances on a regular basis to observe progress occurring over a training season. In addition, most club, open and qualifying competitions have a professional videographer who can provide a DVD record of individual skaters or the entire event.

Role of Music and Choreography Choreographing Artistic Skating Programs
       Music should be selected for its value in displaying the skills of the skater not the choreographer. The musical score should not overwhelm the skater nor should it be background music with no changes in tempo or sections that build to crescendo to highlight major jumps or spins. The step sequences and transitions should be inspired by the music. The music selected can assist in building empathy with the audience or it can just be playing in the background with no relationship to the choreography of the skater's program and does not support the objective of enhancing the interpretation of the performance.

Retaining Skaters and Avoiding Drop Outs

       It should be the personal goal of every club, judge, and coach to reduce the number of first time test failures to avoid the loss of self confidence and potentially avoid skaters becoming discouraged to the point of dropping out of skating.

       Coaches, skaters, and judges may, at some time or other, experience not being on "top of their game". It is important for everyone concerned to attempt to leave any personal problems outside the rink and not allow them to distract or influence their demeanor and interaction with others. As in all performing arts, the show must go on.

       For some skaters it is a matter of finding the right fit for them. Not every skater has the ability to become an elite free skater – they might be better suited to exploring forms figure skating such as - dance, showcase, Theater-On-Ice and/or synchronized team skating.

Privately Arranged Critiques
       In this arrangement, a coach arranges for a judge or another coach to come to the rink to watch their skaters perform  elements of a MITF test, compulsory dance or free skating, pair or free dance program. Since the skater's coach is present the skater should experience a sharing of ideas, not a lecture or blame session for the skater.

       Individualized critiques where coaches and judges collaborate to help improve a skater's ability to be the very best they can be. The coach needs  to inform the judge, in advance of the critique, if any special problems exist. This can include processing problem (ADD) or a personality trait, a family illness or death, divorce, etc. as these situations may produce hypersensitive in the skater that results in crying or displays of anger.
       Usually the coach is looking for support that specific improvements need to occur for the test to achieve a passing standard. Coaches sometime ask for suggestions to communicate the information. They have developed an insight into the skater's personality and their receptiveness, which helps judges try to relate to these younger skaters.

Destructive Personal Problems Outside of Skating may Emerge
       Teenagers are individuals who are sometimes struggling with issues that are not related to ice skating which complicate their ability to accept any constructive criticism from an authority figure (parent, coach or judge) – and they can interpret attempts of being positive as a negative comment.

       Attempting to perform a free skating, pair or free dance program is a totally different proposition that, unfortunately involves the egos of the skater, choreographer, and the technical skating coach. There may be some judges and coaches who have a formal background in behavior analysis and are qualified to serve as a counselor to deal with mending skaters who have emotional problems. Parents and coaches should not expect judges to have such expertise.

       A critique for a test uses applicable standards. The minimum requirement to pass is a "C" grade performance. MITF tests should be scored using the nine focus points outlined in the USFS Rulebook and the PSA MITF booklet. Skaters, coaches, and parents should expect a command of all the focus points as these will eventually need to be mastered to earn a gold medal. NOTE: a gold adult MITF test minimum passing marks are at a much lower total score than a "Standard" MITF Gold Medal.

       Judges critiquing a competitive free skating program operate with the assumption that skater and coach desire a frank and honest assessment of the skater's strengths and weakness. To be effective the critique must occur so there is sufficient time to implement the advice prior to the first competition. 

       Skaters must allow time to shift to a "Training" mode so the skater can "peak" to qualify in the first competition and move to the next level.  Elite skaters must peak later in the season for the national championships, worlds, and Olympic championships. They have the Grande Prix series to warm-up and test out new programs. Sometimes a skater and coach will completely scrap a program that is not well received by judges. A critique earlier in the new season should help to avoid this waste of time and energy.

       Communication problems are less likely to occur with critiques of tests since the requirements are very clearly listed in the USFS Rulebook and on every test sheet along with the number of reskated elements that are allowed. Problems that generally occur are because of confusion on the part of the coach, choreographer, and skater as to the differences between test and competition requirements. When the test is taken in close proximity to an Open or Regional competition, the content of the test may contain jumps, spins, and step sequences that the skater is attempting, that are well above the minimum test requirements.

       The skater's performance of these elements suffer as a result of falls, step outs, touch downs, and other errors that result in not meeting the requirements to pass the test. In many cases the transitions between the elements are lacking or not performed up the expectations for the event levels. In too many cases there are last minute changes that cause a skater to become confused with a total memory failure that is devastating to the skater and provides no options to the judge to provide positive comments.

       While the above comments apply to younger skaters, they also apply to adult competitive skaters who sometimes are especially sensitive to comments that do not support their perception of their abilities. It is impossible to critique anyone who only wants to hear how well they are doing when they have experienced performance anxiety (stage fright). Adults are generally more realistic about their technical limitations in free skating programs judged under IJS, but seem to have dreamlike expectations about their ability to perform artistic programs.

       Some individuals seem unable to understand that it is the artistic component that judges will be evaluating and that the choice of music, costume, and the skater's ability to express the composer's musical theme are much more important than the technical difficulty of a skater performing jumps and spins. Since artistic programs are not judged using the IJS system, the levels of technical difficulty of their jumps and spins are not relevant. Refer to Judging Systems.

Recommended Reading:

Role of Technique in Choreographing Figure Skating Programs

Role of Music in Choreographing Figure Skating Programs

Role of the Choreographer in Figure Skating

Artistic and Interpretive Events

Showcase Events

Theater On Ice Events


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:

Developing Personality Traits and Character Traits

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

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