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Free Dance Test Considerations
 
Differences in taking tests with a competitive partner and a non-competitive partners
       The level of adult dancers was indeed quite high in the 1960's in the Los Angles area where club sponsored ice dance sessions were held every day of the the week, usually from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. weekday. The Glacier Falls FSC held a dance session from 8:00 a.m. to noon every Sunday morning and Arctic Blades FSC held a dance session every Monday evenings from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

        As a general rule, female skaters wishing to take partnered dance tests usually have always had a limited pool of male dancers with the appropriate skills and time available to practice. Over the past few decades, the demand for male partners has result in an increasing demand for male dance coaches to partner tests, especially in areas where adult dance sessions are not held several times a week. 

      There was a time that adult dancers actually represented the USA in the World Championships. Dance was not an Olympic event until it was introduced at the Innsbruck Games in 1976. 

      Please note that dance training sessions are much different from a traditional dance sessions with a set schedule of dances that are geared to the number of skilled dancers at different levels.  A conflict did exist if elite teams used their more complicated and time consuming competitive starts, thus most dance sessions did not allow their use. Generally so many couples attended that two flights of the dances were required. The 14 step was skated as a double lobe dance to accommodate more couples per flight.

The Standards of Test and Competition Judging
       The judges are allowed to evaluate a compulsory dancer taking the test considering if the partner has contributed to a problem affecting the couples performance. In severe cases, the judges may request another partner to partner the test. If the test requires the candidate to solo the dance, judges may take the the candidate's performance into consideration and pass the test. 

       Dancers are not required to use complicated starts when testing compulsory dances. While the introduction is not judged, there is a possibility that the couple will end up starting the dance on an incorrect beat and lack the experience to recover.

       Fancy endings are also not judged. The panel immediately begins to write comments after the last pattern has ended in order to stay on time as the test sessions are tightly scheduled.

       Compulsory dances do not have a provision for retrying a portion of the dance; however, the panel  of judges may request an additional full two patterns, with the same partner, on which to base their decision.

      Free dance tests are judged as a team. Thus both skaters must perform up to the minimum passing standard. If the total errors, of both skaters, does not exceed two required elements, judges can ask for the couple to reskate two elements if they feel the couple can improve their score allowing the test to pass.

      The requirements to pass a free dance tests are much lower on the technical difficulty. Sadly couples wait to take the free dance test in the weeks prior to the Sept. 1 deadline to qualify to enter the next competitive season. They have been working to increase the technical difficulty of their program, but the unison and quality of the performance usually suffers. The total result can be that one or two technical mistakes combined with poor unison and ragged performance will not result in a passing mark.

      It may be better to take extra time and master their basic dance skills at a lower competitive level that attempt to move up even if there are relative fewer teams to compete against in their sectional competition.

 The Perfect Partner
       It is highly suggested that each dancer acquire a credible level of skating and dancing skills prior to seeking a partner.  When their skills warrant, it will be time to explore the possibility of a competitive partner. Unfortunately, an ideal partner may not reside within a reasonable commuting radius of a rink with a qualified dance coach/

Dancing is a partnership of individuals who possess equal physical and performance abilities
      Any skater who wants to become a dance partner must have strong basic skating skills that complement the partner.  It is very desirable to have a  physical frame, with a corresponding height and weight, that is complimentary to the appearance of the team. Partners in a pair or dance team should have a very strong foundation in basic edges, turns, and generation of continuous power as needed to interpret a wide variety of dances and musical  tempos.

      Every skater should balance the development of their lower and upper body strength, flexibility, coordination, and presentation skills necessary to perform lifts, spins, and footwork sequences with ease. There should not be an unequal skating ability or there is an increased possibility of element failure or a fall which results in a major loss of points.

     The personalities of both individuals must be compatible for the team to endure the necessary intense training for a period of multiple years to become a contender for spot on the USA Olympic or world team. Even more years may be necessary at the international level to be in contention for a place on the podium.

      The stress of raising money to pursue the expense of training to reach the elite level of skating can cause considerable stress on skaters and parents.  Ideally both parents of the team should pay the expenses equally. Stress can become a problem if one set of parents picks up the bill for the team. Eventually revenue becomes available as "prize" money for placing in Grand Prix competitions and from endorsements.

      Typically one partner will provide leadership on and off the ice.  Dictators do not inspire individuals!

      Generally the male partner should be taller and more muscular than the female partner.  Too much of a difference in size and age usually does not work out well in a sport that requires an exceedingly long term commitment.  Differences in sizes may make some  elements easier and others more difficult.

      Brother and sister teams have advantages and disadvantages. Unrelated partners have two sets of parents that must get along or the road to success will be very rocky.


Start by taking the time to answer the following questions -

      What is your age and USFS test level? Do you plan on competing in non-qualifying competitions?  Are you eligible to enter qualifying USFS events?

Schedule of activities:
  • When does the training season start and end?
  • List participation of off ice activities - ballroom, jazz, modern, and interpretive dance.
  • What tests do you need to pass to qualify to compete in the new competitive season?
  • List the closing date to enter the competitions that you want to compete in.
  • What is the date of the first competition?
  • How will peak training for competitions be affected by the event schedule?
  • What is the important competition of the season?
  • Place all of the above information on an Event Calendar.
  • Calculate the time between the dates to adjust training.
Develop a rough draft of the training plan:
  • Define in general terms your training goals and objectives.
  • Divide training year into time periods or phases based on the activities on the Event Calendar.
  • Is there enough time to divide the phases into macro cycles?
  • Is there enough time to divide each macro cycle into micro cycles?
  • Determine the training load for phases, macro, and micro cycles.
  • Specify daily training by the types of training.
  • Block out specific amounts of training time needed to accomplish the types of training.
  • Compare the amount of available time of the skater to your rink’s ice schedule of activities. Don't forget to include off-ice activities that are either at the rink or held off site.
      Use a generic training outline and modify it to meet your individual needs. The following example is divided into stage which are then subdivided in phases:
                    
                        
                           









Stages
Phases
    
First
  • General Preparation
  • Specific Preparation
  • Pre-Competition
   
Second
  • Competition
  • Taper
  • Pre-Competition
   
Third
  • Peak for final competition
  • Final Competition
   
Fourth
  • Relaxation
  • Off-season
 
     Develop a Daily, Weekly, and Season Long Schedule for Training
     
Identify conflicting dates with the timeline. It may be necessary to make adjustments after inserting the starting and ending dates, which determines the number of available weeks in each phase. 

       Have you factored into the schedule plans to take and pass MITF, free skating, and compulsory dance tests that are necessary to qualify to enter qualifying competitions?

       After establishing a working timeline, decide how many hours of training is affordable during each phase. Don't forget to include off-ice activities, plus transportation to and from home or school to the rink and other activities.

       There also is the question of having a driver or public transportation available and the cost/time of the transportation.

       Create a daily schedule starting with the first activity on the schedule. If the rink is the first stop on the list, add 20 minutes of stretching/warm-up exercises and putting on the skates to determine the arrival time at the rink. This is also an opportunity to warm-up your overhead lifts off the ice.
 
     
Create a daily schedule starting with a trip to the rink as the first activity on the schedule. Estimate the normal driving time assuming there is no need to fill the tank up with gas. Add 20 minutes of stretching/ warm-up exercises and 5 minutes for putting on the skates to determine the arrival time at the rink.

       Who is responsible for getting up at the house - the skater, the parent, both? Are there one or two bathrooms? It takes time to get up, shower, get dressed, and fix breakfast, pack lunches, and gathering school/work materials. It helps to be organized and have the clothes selected and laid out the night before.

       Check the refrigerator and cupboard to make sure there is milk, lunch meat, cereal, bread, juice, and  Coffee!  Invest in an automatic coffee maker that you can program to have hot coffee when you get up. Allow extra time for grumpy skaters and parents who move slowing in the morning.

Volume:
       Many parents choose a typical practice schedule based on what other parents are doing. This does tend to help if you are trying to car pool with other families.

       Ask your coach to recommend what is a normal amount of weekly practices for your child's age and skill level. Observe other skaters and talk to their parents.

       Choose a number that you can afford and see how this affects your family life. Start out with a minimum schedule and increase as necessary to achieve the desired rate of progress.

       Don't force your child into a weekday routine of getting up at 4:00 a.m. every morning unless they are really willing to commit to everything that is associated with the sacrifices that other family members will have to make.

Emphasis:
      The training emphasis is determined by the focus the skater and coach are comfortable with though out the entire season. The focus points include:
  • Physical – stamina, endurance, power, edging
  • Technical – mastering basic turns and edges, and exiting jump & spins, plus adding new jumps and spins
  • Mental – self confidence, assurance
  • Tactical – construction of program elements
      There is a balance of the following four elements which are age and skills specific. For example, when the general preparation phase starts 3 - 4 months before the competition phase, the balance might be:
  • Physical - 45%
  • Technical - 40%
  • Mental - 10%
  • Tactical - 5%
      As a skater becomes a more advanced athlete, the balance will change more towards the mental and tactical aspects of figure skating. For example:
  • Physical - 20%
  • Technical - 20%
  • Mental - 30%
  • Tactical - 30%
      Mental training involves improving a skater's focus, concentration, and attention control, plus self-confidence, determination, and motivation.

Intensity:
      A skater’s positive emotion is some-times described as their passion. However, as the term relates to training the meaning refers to physical exertion level.

      Periodised training plans assume that the intensity curve approximates a reciprocal of the volume curve. An increase in volume causes the intensity level to go down. Likewise, as volume goes down, the intensity will increase. If this is a valid premise, the fatigue loads should be consistent with the athlete's capacity for training.

      An effective aerobic training requires low intensity training over a long duration. Training the anaerobic system requires a different strategy - very intense training over a shorter period of time. Athletes respond quickly to increasing the training load. These energy systems can occur sequentially or concurrently.

      As a general guideline, the more fatigue that is produced per unit time, the more intense the activity. As measured by active and resting heart rate. The perceived effort (1 -10 scale) is very unreliable and is very dependent on the observer's interaction and frustration with the skater.

Phase Details -

General Preparation:
      The first phase focuses on developing the basic and fundamental skills to achieve power, ice coverage, edges, turns, and upper body control. Performing figures is an example of an aerobic energy system.

      Off-ice exercises are designed to increase muscle mass and strength as part of an overall fitness program. Skaters should use this phase to work on mastering the correct techniques rather than resorting to short cuts that are associated poor habits,  The exercise volume/load would be increasing throughout this phase.

Specific Preparation:
    Is a continuation of the preparation phase, but there is a transition into a discipline specific training such as jumps, spins, compulsory dances, synchro formations, etc.

    During this phase, the athlete should continue to emphasize speed and power. Volume/load should continue to increase throughout, with a high final volume (hrs./week) being higher that in General Preparation phase.

Pre-competition:
      This is the phase where the athlete prepares to enter the first competition of the season. The peak volume (hrs./week) in this phase gradually becomes more depending with the goal of peaking for the competition.

      Some coaches may both increase the volume and the intensity of training. It is very important not to let the fatigue level get out of control. Coaches must insist on a recovery period constant with the increased intensity. Macro cycles will generally be shorter (3-1, 2-1 and even 1-1) approaching the competition.

Note: when traveling some distance to enter a competition; there may be only a few short
official practices. Many coaches seek other rinks, within a reasonable drive of the host
rink, to obtain supplemental practice sessions. These sessions may be at very late or very
early hours that the skater is NOT accustomed to skating and as a result there is a decline
in the skater's performance until the body's time clock is sufficiently adjusted to the new
practice schedule to regain the accustomed peak performance.

Competition:
      At the competition, an athlete should be well rested. This means getting 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Coaches also need to reduce the total practice volume and fatigue levels by up to 50%. In the lower non-qualifying events of figure skating, the early competitions are generally treated as training races.

Tapering-Off:
      The concept of tapering is very dependent on the skater's age, attention span, adrenaline levels, and the possibility of dealing with hyperactivity disorders (ADHD). Young skaters and preteens generally have relatively little endurance; however, they recover quickly from workouts.

      A one-day event may only require one day off after arriving back home from the competition. Of course this depends on the skater's age and their exhaustion level from the travel. Obviously the parents will be more exhausted than the child who may fall asleep in the car during the trip home.

      There also is a considerable difference if the skater was successful in the competition or had a disastrous performance. Coaches and parents need to consider reducing the practice schedule as much as 25-30% of peak volume.

Peaking:
      Peaking may be only one competition event, or it may involve a short program or initial round of compulsory dances that qualify the skater/team to skate in the final round of the competition. Emphasis
is on mental preparation, performance, and recovery. Off-ice exercises are restricted to warming-up, flexibility, and cooling down.

Relaxation:
      This is a period of participating in other activities outside of the sport of figure skating. Typically a school age skater will be making up school assignments and tests. Not exactly very relaxing, but a necessary part of being a competitor in a winter sport.

Off-Season:
      The Off-Season phase is a stage that is devoted to recovery and regeneration of an athlete's physical, mental, and emotional state after an exhausting competition season. It is a time to take care of chronic and repetitive strain injuries under a doctor's supervision.

References:

Instructional Design:

Training Principles:

Resources:
  
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:

  
      
Ice Dancing General Rules and Regulations
         Dancing on Ice
         Dance Steps & Turns
         Ice Dance Patterns
PDF
Dance Curriculum
         Ice Dance Partnered Events
         Free Dancing
         Competitive Ice Dancing
PDF Strategies for Compulsory Dance Tests
         Free Dance Test Considerations
         Short Dance & Free Dance Events
         Pattern Dance Events   
         Solo Dancing
PDF
Solo Dance Events
         Solo Dance Competitions

    
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