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Transferable Skating Skill Levels

by Claude Sweet
  
USFS Gold MITF, Free Skating, Pair; International Dance test; and Intermediate Figure judge.

 
The Basic Skills Group Class Program
      There is an increasing popularity of both male and female skaters participating in speed, hockey, and figure skating. It is helpful to understand that essential basic skating skills are transferable to these sports.

      Congratulations to new skaters for enrolling in the Basic Skills “Learn to Skate” group class program. You have embarked on a wonderful journey which can take you to distance cities and possibly other countries where you will met and share experiences with other skaters who share your passion of hockey, speed or figure skating.

      Skaters enrolled in the group classes learn the essential skills that eventually will become the foundation for various ice sports - figure skating disciplines, ice hockey, and speed skating.

      The Basic Skills program has proven to be an outstanding success in encouraging beginning skaters by providing quality instruct at a reasonable cost and the concept of positive feedback to the skaters.

      I would compare the Basic Skills program with enrolling a child in preschool and kindergarten accomplishes in preparing a child to enter 1st grade – it is essential to the child's future success in school. The Basic Skills program achieves the same result for skaters who will transfer to beginning hockey, speed, and figure skating programs.

      A badge in the Basic Skills skating program is awarded when a skater demonstrates they understand the skill concept and is able to demonstrate it at a beginning performance level.

FUNdamental skills
      Acquiring the necessary skills should be fun. The basic skills drills and exercises are not punishment that is inflicted on the skater. The following skills are the essential foundation to develop hockey and figure skaters:
  • Balance, coordination, agility, and core body posture
  • Skating on 8 basic edges –
    • Left forward outside and inside, right forward outside and inside
    • Left backward outside and inside, right backward outside and inside
  • Crossovers in clockwise and counter clock-wise direction –
    • Forward
    • Backward
  • Stops – Skating Forward and Backward
    •  On one foot
    •  On two feet
  • Turning Forward to Backwards
    • Turning to CW direction
    • Turning to CCW direction
  • Turning Backwards to Forward
    • Turning to CW direction
    • Turning to CCW direction
      These skills are an essential part of every skater continuing to develop their skating abilities in hockey and figure skating.

Natural Progression of Skills
      There is a natural progression of physical skills that can be compared to the academic advancement through the grades of school.  For example, every school child needs to continue to expand their oral and written vocabulary as they move from grade to grade and eventually become employed after graduation from high school and college.

      The timeline to acquire the necessary skills proficiency before transferring to hockey or figure skating depends on the amount of time and energy expended by the skater and parents. Coaches in both sports expect skaters to be well prepared when they enter the hockey or figure skating programs.

      I encourage skaters in a "Learn to Skate" program not to not rush to exclusively concentrate on playing hockey or becoming free skaters until they have acquired the essential basic skills to be successful in these respective sports.

Skill Acquisition
      Parents and skaters should not expect to achieve the same results if attending the group class and the skater does not practice between classes. Four days of practice between lessons will result in maximum skill development.

      The acquisition of properly fitted skating equipment – boots and blades also contribute to maximizing the achievement of skaters at all skill levels when compared to other skaters who also participate in the same level of lessons and prac-tice sessions, but who have poor or improperly fitted skates.

      Skaters who participate in off-ice training, such as strengthening, flexibility/stretching, warm-up, and cool down exercises, improve more quickly because they benefit from off-ice activities that are especially designed and coordinated with the on-ice skating training.

Progress is Relative
      Skaters enrolled in group classes and/or private lessons maximize progress they are skating five times a week as compared to once or twice a week.

      Research has shown that motor skill development benefits from regular practice to convert short-term muscle memory into automatic muscle and nerve responses essential to all ice skating sports.

      Anders Ericsson’s research indicates roughly 10,000 hours of deliberate practice is needed to become an expert for world class/Olympic athletes to reach their skill levels. While this averages out to 20 hours a week for 10 years, I caution parents to factor in the child's age. Twenty hours a week would be excessive for even teenager basic skill skaters.

      Parents should be aware that a rush to progress too fast can ultimately cause delays, frustration, and unnecessary expenses to correct fundamental technical skating errors not corrected at the basic skill stage.

      Many elite track skaters will continue to compete additional years past the 10,000 hour/10 year rule in order to gain a place on the USA world and Olympic team in hockey, speed, and figure skating.

Follow a Comprehensive Training Plan
      I highly recommend that recreational and competitive figure, hockey, and speed skaters follow a comprehensive training plan that involves both on-ice and off-ice training involving weight/strength, flexibility, warm-up, and cool down exercises, plus an emphasis on nutrition and attention to a regular and sufficient sleep schedule.

      Figure skaters should also consider taking off-ice classes in ballet, ballroom, modern, and other forms of dance to improve their musical interpretation and presentation abilities.

Development of Bilateral Abilities
      Every skater should learn how to skate outside and inside edges, both forward and backwards on both feet. It is the balance and control of edges that allow a skater to begin learning basic turns from forward to backward and backward to forward on one foot turns (i.e. Three Turn) and a change foot turns (i.e. Mohawks). 

      After a skater learns to skate forward in a straight line, they must learn how to skate in a circle. This process is called “crossovers”, but frequently taught as “Stepovers”. Learning to skate fast is useful only if you are able to perform turns and controlled stops.

      In public and most free skating sessions, skating usually occurs in the counter clockwise (CCW) direction, which is the direction that most right-handed skaters feel most comfortable.

      It is no surprise that beginning skaters mostly skate in the CCW direction and that this becomes the stronger, more comfortable, and dominating direction because it is most often skated in practice. As a result the CW direction does not develop the same strength and control! 

Transferable Skills
      Some off ice training and all essential basic skating skills are transferable to hockey and figure skating. Don't forget that both male and females skaters participate in speed, hockey and figure skating.

      Skaters at all levels of skill development acquire new skills and improve existing skills depending on natural physical, mental, and emotional abilities, but equally important is the quality and quantity of the instruction and access to on and off-ice training.

      Age, physical size, strength and body coordination, combined with different personality types are related factors in achieving success in hockey and figure skating that have not been addressed in this article.

Positive Feedback from Coaches and Parents
      It is very important that regular feedback is provided to the learner so that technical errors do not become permanent habits that are very difficult and expensive in terms of time and energy to correct. It is unfortunate anyone needs corrective lessons and practice sessions that could otherwise be put to better use in acquiring new skills.

      Regular positive encouragement is desirable, but avoid excessive or unwarranted praise that sounds insincere!

      The skills mentioned in this article require constant work to enhance the opportunity to achieve a skater's full potential.  These tasks are acquired in incremental stages. Sometimes plateaus may occur between stages of skills developing.

      Gross and fine motor skills rarely develop uniformly; however, there is a definitely association with the progress the skater achieves and the effort they put into improving their individual basic foundation skill sets – edges, turns, power, and stops.

      Public school kindergarten classes have a mandatory minimum age (Year, month, and day) to start unlike ice skaters that can start in group lessons at any age. In skating the level of skill acquisition ultimately varies directly with the age, physical, and social development, plus the  time and effort expended by the learner.

      An individual's potential is unlimited as a skater. A skater's involvement in their sport does not have to end with college. They may decide to become a volunteer or professional coach on full or part time basis.

      Encourage skaters who celebrate their 18 birthday and are continuing to train and compete, to become skating officials such as judges and referees, and/or participate in the management of the local speed, hockey, and figure skating clubs or leagues.


  Good luck to all skaters who are just starting on the
path to achieving greatness on and off the ice.


Recommended Reading:
  • USFS Basic Skating Skills 1-8  The “basic skills” are the fundamentals of the sport. These eight levels of the program introduce the fundamental moves: forward skating, backward skating, stops, edges, crossovers, turns and Mohawks. Upon completion of the Basic 1-8 levels, skaters will have acquired a fundamental knowledge of the sport, enabling them to advance to more specialized areas of recreational and competitive skating.
  • Skating in the Schools  supports a program of the fun and fitness of skating in coordination with the local rink by offering a basic skating program that can be integrated directly into the school's physical education curriculum. The concept can be offered as a:
Once-week program, designed to make students aware of skating and provide an initial skill introduction to the sport.

Four-week course that focuses on additional skill development and application.

The language, goals and content of the program can be adapted for use with students from elementary school through college. The program may be conducted by the school during the school day, as an after school offering or as a rewards program.
  • USFS Basic Skating Skills Hockey Program  Proper skating techniques are the primary focus of the levels. All elements will be taught without a puck. Skaters will learn the necessary fundamentals to be successful in game situations.
  • USFS Basic Skating Skills Speed Skating Program  The Speed skating track for the Basic Skills program introduces beginning speed skating techniques for skaters after they have learned the basic skating fundamentals in Basic Skills 1–4. These techniques include basic positions, edges, turns, starts and speed development. Skaters will be ready for racing after completing the Speed 1–6 badge levels.
References:
  • Skating in the Schools  supports a program of the fun and fitness of skating in coordination with the local rink by offering a basic skating program that can be integrated directly into the school's physical education curriculum. The concept can be offered as a one-week program, designed to make students aware of skating and provide an initial skill introduction to the sport up to a four-week course that focuses on additional skill development and application. The language, goals and content of the program can be adapted for use with students from elementary school through college. The program may be conducted by the school during the school day, as an after school offering or as a rewards program.
  • Bridge Program -World Ice Arena
    Bridge classes are smaller than those in the Learn to Skate program so skaters can quickly progress into USFS competitions. Skaters will be evaluated and divided into groups based on their skating level and ability.
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:

   
   
   
Learn to Skate Program
   
Table of Contents - Basic Skills Bridge Program Handbook
 

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.


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