Monthly Archives: January 2012

Ice Skates for the 3yo Interested Skater

ASK THE SKATING PRO

Q. What sort of skates should I get for my three-year-old daughter who has yet to go skating but seems to have a great deal of interest in it?

A. I would suggest that you rent figure skates until she shows sustained definite interest. Put her in a 6 or 8-week group lessons class. After she finishes the class, if she is still interested, new ice skates could be a reward for her commitment to finishing the lessons. Too many parents buy expensive skates before the child even knows if they truly enjoy skating.

When you she shows that interest, we would be more than happy to help you through our Pro Shop at IceSkatingWorld.com.

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The Use and Abuse of Plyometrics

by Kim Goss

When Dorothy Hamill skated at the 1976 Olympics, I recall the TV announcer’s extensive praise for her tremendous jumping power. Certainly Hamill’s flawless artistic presentation played a role in her victory but what the announcer was trying to impress upon us was how Hamill had introduced to the sport a level of athleticism that was unprecedented. Dorothy Hamill was a pioneer, an athlete who was unquestionably ahead of her time.

Nowadays, of course, the performance that won Hamill the gold medal at those Olympics would barely place a skater in our least-competitive regional competitions. Triple jumps for women and quad jumps for men have become the competitive standard-and if you don’t have at least a double Axel by your 12th birthday, you might as well forget those Olympic dreams. With such expectations forced upon our athletes, ever-growing numbers of skaters are being encouraged to participate in off-ice conditioning programs. Of all the oft-ice training options skaters have to improve their performance on-ice, the one that has sparked the greatest interest is plyometrics-and with good reason. Plyometrics is considered to be one of the best ways, if not the best way, to improve jumping ability.

Unfortunately, the manner in which this type of training is being implemented in some off-ice conditioning programs may cause more harm than good.

What are Plyometrics?

Plyometric jump training, or more appropriately the “shock method” of training, refers to activities characterized by an intense jump that is preceded by a relaxed state. Dropping off a box and landing on two feet and then immediately jumping upward is an example of a true plyometric training exercise. Skipping, hopping and most jumping exercises and medicine ball throws do not fulfill the requirements necessary to be considered true plyometric training exercises.

The person most exercise scientists regard as the father of modern-day plyometrics is Professor Yuri Verkhoshansky, a Russian scientist who developed this training method to improve athletic performance. Dr. Mel Sift, a South African exercise scientist who has worked with Verkhoshansky on several projects, told me that Verkhoshansky is appalled at most of the material being published about plyometrics in this country. He believes our coaches have, quite simply, misinterpreted the original research on this subject.

One reason for this problem in communication is that often the original material published by respected Russian scientists like Verkhoshansky is not translated accurately in the US. Sift says that the Germans, who recognized the value of Russian research, often had entire teams of linguists and scientists working full time to accurately analyze the writings of scientists like Verkhoshansky. In the US, when such material became available, often only a single individual would translate it-and then only as a part-time assignment. One example of poorly translated research is when American coaches recommend that an athlete should be able to squat 1 1/2 times bodyweight before performing plyometrics. Although this is an excellent safety guideline, Russian sports literature presents several specific types of true plyometric exercises that can be performed without possessing such an advanced level of strength. (For those interested in learning more about Verkhoshansky’s work with plyometrics, I recommend Siff and Verkhoshansky’s exercise textbook, SuperTraining.)

The Abuse of Plyometrics

The most common problems I see with U.S. coaches who prescribe plyometric exercises (or, at least, what they think are plyometric exercises) are that they underestimate the intensity level of plyometrics and don’t take into consideration the athlete’s training schedule, work and recreational activities. For example, an intense plyometric training program should not be undertaken if a skater is in a summer program that requires him or her to perform three freestyle sessions a day, five to six days a week, along with ballet and power skating.

Another problem I commonly see is that the plyometric exercises most coaches prescribe to skaters are not biomechanically specific to their skating jumps-and as such often have little carryover to skating performance. For example, all legal jumps in figure skating take oft from one leg and most require that the skater take off backwards. The majority of exercises I see prescribed in plyometric programs for skaters have the athlete jumping forward from two legs.

Plyometrics can be an extremely valuable training method if used correctly. Unfortunately, too many strength coaches do not understand what this type of training is or how to properly prescribe these exercises. And the injuries and mediocre performance improvements that result from their incompetence has often led skaters and their coaches to become skeptical about the value of all oft-ice conditioning programs.

Just as Dorothy Hamill trained hard to become the greatest in her era, the champions of tomorrow have to train harder and use every resource to their advantage. The trick is, when using a resource like plyometrics, you have to know what you’re doing!

Kim Goss was the strength coach at the U.S. Air Force Academy for eight years and is certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and the American Council on Exercise. He has served as the Senior Editor at Dayton Writers Group.

Reprinted with premission from : The Professional Skater Magazine May / June 1997 – p. 17. ©1996 by Professional Skaters Association

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Obtain a new professional position with help from PSA Coaches Manual

by Shirley Carlson Hughes (New Age Professional Skater (NAPS) Chairman – 1996)

Updating the PSA Coaches Manual has proven to be a formidable, sometimes seemingly impossible task! However, it will be available soon and I believe it will be useful to coaches at all levels. It will have many new features including oft-ice conditioning approaches and tests to evaluate progress. It will have an easy to use description of USFSA required free style tests and moves in the field with diagrams, required elements and teaching tips on one page. Elite professionals have agreed to provide “Masters Tips” in various sections. What follows is an excerpt from the manual which deals with the challenge of finding a new professional position.

JOB SEARCH

Establishing Personal Goals

It is imperative to begin the process of finding the right job by developing a clear understanding of what you want from the job. No two people have exactly the same objectives for the professional aspect of their lives and defining and prioritizing your own goals is a critical first step in a successful job search. There are many ways to approach this process but consider writing down your goals and discussing them with close friends or associates whose opinion you respect. Examples of questions which you may wish to consider while establishing these goals include the following:

What aspect of teaching interests you? Recreational/group lessons or competitive skaters? How much time are you prepared to spend? Do you want a full or pant-time job? Will you work early mornings? Evenings? Weekends? Will you relocate? Do you have long term goals include running a skating program or skating rink? Do you wish to advance to elite coaching? Are you prepared to attend seminars, clinics and explore other career enhancing opportunities? Would you be prepared to team teach?

Once established and prioritized, these personal goals will be an important tool in shaping your résumé, focusing your search for opportunities and in preparing for interviews.

Writing a Resume

The French word résumé means summary and refers to a fact sheet that identifies, describes and lists the qualifications of a person in terms of experience and education. While you will never obtain a position solely on a resume, it may well be the key to obtaining an interview and eventually the job. Your résumé should be well-organized, concise, clearly formatted and comprehensive. There are books available to help you develop a resume, either at most bookstores or in a library. Many computer programs enable you to format a resume. After preparing a résumé, consider asking friends or associates to review and comment on it. There are also résumé services available if you would feel comfortable with professional assistance. Résumés are not normally returned so ensure you keep the original. Take the time to have high quality copies made – remember, first impressions are important.

Arrange your résumé so that your most impressive qualifications appear first. Never overstate your experience or qualifications. List job experience and education in reverse chronological order. You may wish to include a list of references or reference letters with the résumé or, at a minimum, offer references if requested. Your résumé would normally include the following types of information:

  • Name, address, telephone number
  • Ratings (as applicable)
  • Highest tests passed (USFSA, ISI, ISU, other)
  • Competitive experience with highest title first (list only the most important)
  • Amateur training, clinics (including when, where, with whom)
  • Amateur or professional shows and exhibitions
  • Coaching experience (highest level skater you have coached)
  • Coaching education (seminars, coaches clinics, classroom, student-teacher)
  • Other education (college, high school, music, dance)
  • Outside interests
  • Personal (married, children)

When your résumé is prepared you must decide where to send it. Seek the help of friends and associates. Be sure that it reaches the hands of someone who is in a position to offer a job. Some of the sources that you should consider in determining where to

send the résumé include local ice rinks, lists of clubs in the USFSA Rulebook, lists of rinks in ISI Directory, advertisements in Skating, The Professional Skater and other publications. There is also a Job Placement Directory in the PSA Office.

Use a brief cover letter with each résumé. This is your chance to personalize and focus your communication regarding a specific opportunity. Note your most relevant qualifications, and explain your interest in the position.

Remember, the résumé will always be an important tool in furthering your career. Even after you have the job, keep your résumé up to date. Consider revising it every six months. It helps you be prepared for the next opportunity and also gives you a benchmark to ask what you have done to increase your experience and nurture your professional growth.

Interviewing Effectively 

Once you have been contacted and invited to an interview begin by reviewing your résumé and list all the questions which you might be asked. Find out as much as you can about the position and the person(s) who may be interviewing you. Look your best, be on time, be concise, emphasize your best points, relax! Some of the questions which you might expect to be asked include: How many years have you been skating? Why do you want to teach? What are your schedule restrictions? What level of teaching experience do you have?
Why did you leave your previous job? Will you bring your own students?
What levels will you teach (adults, tots, etc.)? Are you prepared to make a commitment to stay for a specified period? Do you intend to continue your professional education?
Will you participate in community events, advertising, etc.?

It is important that you interact with your interviewer in a proactive manner. Use the interview as an opportunity to learn more about the job being offered. You should prepare a list of questions which you want to ask during the interview. The following list may provide some examples.

  • Will you be an employee or an independent contractor?
  • If employee: What would be the base salary? How often would you be paid? Would taxes be withheld?
  • If contractor: What would be your commission and how would you be paid?
  • Who will be your direct supervisor (rink manager, skating director, club)?
  • What are the payment policies for private lessons, group lessons?
  • What are commissions? How much is paid? How often are they paid? When are they due? On which lessons?
  • Is liability insurance required? Provided? How is it obtained? What kind? What level? What is the cost? (Liability insurance is available through the PSA).
  • Are you required to join the PSA, ISI or both?
  • Will you be expected to be rated by the PSA?
  • What are the policies with regard to setting fees for private lessons?
  • What is the policy with regard to teaching at other rinks? Are there any limitations or restrictions?
  • Are there rink/club policies regarding private lessons? Can you teach anyone who asks?
  • Are there set policies/formats for group lessons? Are there tests at the end of each set? USFSA, ISI or other?
  • Will you be asked to provide administrative support? How much? Are you paid?
  • Will you be expected to cover certain sessions as the pro on duty?
  • Will you be expected to give tests, judge basic skills competitions, ISI competitions?
  • Will you be expected to volunteer time for stroking clinics, or club/rink shows?
  • Is there a pro room? Is there a dress code?

You may be hired at the interview but more likely that you will be told that you will be called. Do not hesitate to call back and reemphasize your interest in the position if you have not had any follow up within a week or so. On the other hand, inform your potential employer in a timely manner if you decide you do not want the job or have accepted another opportunity.

First Impressions

After you get the job you need to make special preparations for the first few days. It really is true that first impressions last a long time and there are things that you can do to ensure that the first impressions you make are good ones:

  • Be on time and look professional. Many people at the rink will see you before they meet you. Present a good image to everyone.
  • Work hard at meeting the many groups at a typical ice rink including the other pros, management, ice maintenance staff, office staff, and skate shop staff. Remember names, write them down if that helps.
  • Familiarize yourself with the entire rink schedule, take a brochure home and study it. Know the sessions and the prices, even for those areas which you do not teach.
  • Learn the rules of the rink; what is permitted on public sessions, who you can instruct and at what level. Determine all the details of group lessons, including levels, prices, group sizes, etc.
  • Identify the clubs at your rink and when their sessions meet. Do you need special permission to teach on these sessions? Who can authorize you?
  • Find out when and if tests are given, and the name and phone number of the test chairman.

You are not expected to know everything when you first arrive. It’s the best time to ask questions and learn everything you can about your situation. Make it an exciting, challenging experience – not a threatening one.

Reprinted with premission from :

The Professional Skater Magazine
February / March 1996 – pp. 27 – 28.
©1996 by Professional Skaters Association

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How Old should my Child be to Start Ice Skating?

by Michelle Wilkin

Age four is best to start. There are some children who are ready at 3 years old. Consider the following criteria:

Children figure skatingAttention Span – most group classes will last 30 minutes.

Separation from parent – Separation anxiety is still developmentally appropriate until approximately age four. If your child can be comfortable accepting instructions from another adult, then you should be fine.

Balance – both in skates and in regular shoes.

My recommendation is to start with your child walking in skates on the floor only. If this goes well, then your child is physically ready. Check with your local ice rink for age requirements. Many rinks will not accept children for group classes who are under 4 years of age. If your child is eager and can meet the basic criteria before he is 4 years old, you may consider private lessons. They are more flexible with the length of lesson and can adapt to the age of the child. To ensure quality instruction, make sure to ask for a Professional Skater’s Association rated instructor.

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