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Pair Test Strategies
 
Essential concepts, to develop an annual training plan, should be based on
information from creditable sources.


Desirable Qualities for a Partnership
      
Any skater who wants to become a partner of a pair couple must have strong basic skating skills that complement the couple.  In addition, it is desirable to have a  physical frame with a height and weight that is complimentary to the appearance of the other skater.

       Partners in a pair team should have the upperbody strength to perform lifts with ease. The lady must have strong knees and ankles to land multi revolution throw jumpa. The jumping and spinning ability of both partners must be equal or there is an increased possibility of an 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.

Desirable Characteristics of Partners
      Typically one partner will serve as the leader 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.

      It helps if both individuals have compatible energy levels, more active day or night, have positive attitudes, and strong motivations to work hard to achieve success. Accept constructive criticism is extremely important. Each partner should take responsibility for correcting their own individual problems and provide support for their partner. It truly takes a team to earn a position on the podium.

Start by taking the time to answer the following quesions -

       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?
  • 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?
  • What is the important competition of the season?
  • Place all of the above information on an Event Calendar.
  • Calculate the time between the dates.
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 neet 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 warmup 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.


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, adrena-line 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 com-petition 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.

Recommended Reading:

Training Principles:

References:

Skating Programs, Seminars, and Workshops

Developing Training Plans

Beginning and Test Skaters

Elite Skaters PDF IJS Handbook
  
        
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:

  
PDF Judges Singles & Pairs Training Manual
         Figure Skating Pair Events
         Strategies for Pair Tests
PDF Single/Pair Elements Levels of Difficulty
PDF Pairs Free Skating
         Pair Test Requirements
         Pairs Competition Requirements
         Pair Test Level    
PDF
Pairs Events
         Pair Death Spirals
         Pair Lifts
         Pair Throws
         Pair Step Sequences

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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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