Monthly Archives: February 2012

Welcome Back to Figure Skating

by Marta Nilsen

Ann Margreth-Frei ice skating coachDid you take ice skating lessons when you were younger? Maybe you stopped because of financial resons, or possibly logistics.  Whatever the reason, you never realized your aspirations . You are among thousands of adults wanting to return to your childhood passion, figure skating. You now have the time and financial capability to explore activities that you always wanted to when you were a kid.

Welcome back to figure skating!

As a figure skating coach I embrace adults who want to get re-introduced to the sport. Let me assure you that you are a welcome change from ice skating classes full of six year olds! You are interested in learning, enthusiastic and willing to try. Come on into the ice rink and try group or private lessons. Most rinks offer adult classes, which I recommend as a great place to start. If you want a more personalized approach, look for a private figure skating coach.

It’s never too late to learn! See you on the ice.

Marta Nilsen is a PSA Master-rated coach teaching at the Tampa Bay Figure Skating Academy (TBSA)

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Filed under Coaches Corner, Figure Skating Education, Ice Skating Blog, Learn to Skate

What Are Your Personal Goals for Figure Skating?

by Katherine Ruch

The start of a new year almost forces you to reflect back on the year you just had as well as prepare for the one that is ahead of you. My year essentially started with breaking in new skates, a daunting yet exciting task! A highlight from 2011 for me was a fall competition where I managed to not let my nerves destroy the experience. It was the first competition I have ever done where I didn’t feel like l fell apart while out on the ice!

Another highlight last year was passing that Silver Moves Test after the sixth try. I had begun to question whether I would ever be able to pass that darn thing! On the other hand, it was frustrating to hurt my hip in December. It got to a point where it hurt me to do usually simple things like stroking and crossovers.

While at the Doctor getting it looked at I did have a funny interaction with the Radiology Tech. He asked me if I hurt my hip doing a Triple Axel and I just about fell on the floor laughing. Even though I said “No, I said I was a skater, I never said I was a good one,” this interaction did get me thinking about how critical I am of myself. Even though I can safely say that I will never skate as well as the people we all get the joy of watching on the television, I shouldn’t let that stop me from being the best skater that I can be! It ended up that the hip injury took nothing but a lot of patience for it to get better but that seems to be the thing that I’m usually lacking!!

If the new year doesn’t get somebody pondering those goals, watching Nationals on the television sure will! As I sat glued to the television all weekend, I did manage to plot out the upcoming season in my head for both myself and my students. Before the end of the year 2012, I have set out to be able to do a Flying Camel, land an Axel, pass the Adult Gold Moves Test and last, but certainly not least, win the ongoing war between me and my nerves!

That being said, I’m planning on going to about three competitions this spring because there is no better way to conquer your fear of competing than to continue to do the very thing that terrifies you! I may even forget to get nervous at those competitions if I lose sleep over whether or not my Gold moves test will be executed with Jesus-like perfection come March! At the end of those days, I hope I can find a way to rest easy in knowing that I did the best I could do and that truly is the most anyone can ask or expect.

One of the things that I love most about coaching is trying to learn what motivates my students, because I have learned as a figure skating instructor that not everyone is looking to get the same thing out of ice skating. If I have learned anything over all these years of skating it is this: each ice skater is on their own path and that is the one to commit to or you risk facing constant disappointment. As a skater, you have to follow your own path, set your own expectations and find your own motivation. There is no one who can do that for you! I’m truly excited to see what this year will hold…

Editor’s Note: Learn more about facing your personal fears in James Smith’s “Fear Itself” blog post.


Filed under Coaches Corner, Ice Skating Coaching, Katherine Ruch

Should I Let my Daughter Quit Figure Skating?

Q. My 8 year old daughter has been skating for a year and a half. She just recently moved up to the Gamma level and has expressed a desire to quit skating. She has a history of quitting things when a greater effort is required (e.g. dance class, horseback riding), and I do not want this to be just a continuation of a pattern. She has competed successfully and likes competitions, but said she doesn’t like the work required. Do I insist she work through this or just let her off the hook? I think she can do this, but is just getting lazy! Thanks for your input.

A.   As a pro I see this very frequently. Here are some of the things that I suggest. If you are not taking private lessons, I suggest that you try a few. Private lessons can provide the instructor with the option of introducing new skills that may be more fun than practicing three-turns! Skating must be fun and sometimes that means throwing in a few advanced skills even if the student is not quite ready for them.

If you are taking privately, speak with your instructor about how both of you can add some fun to the learning process. Games like skating with beanie babies on the head teach proper body alignment and posture while the student gets a fun challenge. A second part of “fun” is the social aspect.

If your child does not have any friends at about the same level who skate, it’s highly unlikely they will continue. Having a friend to practice and play with is an important factor. Inquire about a club. Many rinks have figureskating clubs and junior clubs which could help you find some friends. They also give exposure to higher level skaters which might motivate your child to work harder to improve.

Finally, if at all possible try to allow your child to request to go skating instead of prodding them to go. Why? Typical of many kids, anything you want them to do, they won’t be interested in. Good luck and let me know how it all turns out.


Filed under Figure Skating Parents, Learn to Skate

Common Sense and Fun Approaches to Teaching Basic Skills

by Rebecca Nagle

Snowplow 1, 2 & 3 or learn-to-skaters can be very playful with a creative coaching mind. As we all know, attention spans are very short and the best solution is to keep their feet moving and their minds off how tired they are becoming. Games such as Hokey Pokey incorporating snowplows and two foot hops are terrific exercises.

Group skating lessonsGather your group in a circle and begin singing “you push your right foot in, you push your right foot out…”, and let them shake their foot all about; end the verse with a two foot hop and you’re on to the other side! A full snowplow into the circle and back skating out completes the last verse of the song and you’ve just started developing their balance and snowplows as well as a lasting desire to come again next week.

Four and five year olds love to pretend so introduce silly ideas. Pretending to have animal parades by using forward and backward swizzles along with one foot glides keeps the class moving and imaginative. Koosh balls are a great trick for the extremely timid two, three or four year old skater. Toss the soft waterproof balls out of their reach and your little skaters will have fun trying to bend down and scoop them up. This is a great way to give your beginner students the confidence and falling practice they need.

Kids love stickers. Besides being used as a reward method, they can be used to demonstrate many a point to a basic skills skater. Place a sticker on the inside of their skate (usually the inside toe area) and tell them to squeeze the sticker when trying two foot glides (forward or backward). This works well with scullies also.

Other game suggestions that work well on the ice are Red Light, Green Light for forward or backward snowplows; Simon Says or singing “If you’re happy and you know it do a…” incorporating any basic skills move being learned. Remember, little people want to have fun yet need to learn.

Basic 1-6 levels or the non-jumpers, depending on your program structure, are the levels where skaters learn their basic turns, edges and crossovers-the vitals of skating! How to accomplish such a task and stay interesting requires a technically creative mind over silliness. Permanent markers, skateguards and the boards can be tools used to demonstrate.

Drawing with waterproof markers on the ice gives the children a very descript visual. A rocking horse is challenging to trace. Three or four small circles drawn for a group of ten gives the skaters the spacing they need (2-3 per circle) to practice an outside/inside edge, three turns or Mohawks.

While attempting backward one foot glides hold a skateguard in front of the torso in two hands. Have the skater think of bringing their knee up to the guard from the two foot glide position.

Another exercise that the kids enjoy is balancing a pencil or water bottle on your clipboard. Use this trick for outer swing rolls, forward edges or one foot glides. See who can go the farthest down the ice without spilling!

The boards are a terrific way to teach the bend and stretch feel of pumps. For example, have the group line up with their right side against the boards. Press right hip and ankle against the boards. Stretch right hand back and left in front. Have the Beginner skater bend their right knee over their skate while pressing their hip and ankle against the boards. Extend the left leg out to the side while bending. Repeat several times and then transfer to a circle. This should keep the skaters from doing scullies and produce real pumps instead.

Relay races incorporating two foot turns, hockey stops, t-stops, one foot glides, Mohawks and slaloms are a great way to end a group and develop strong skating.

Low level freestylers ready for spins and jumps can either be over anxious or timid in the beginning. Some commence Moves in the Field at this time and some a basic figure program. There are many creative teaching tricks at this level that can keep skating fun.

Balancing quarters on top of the hands, placing a mitten on top of the head or stickers on the palms of the hands help control those fly away arms or the leaning over of the upper torso.

Stickers again can be used for scratch spins. Place a sticker on the outer heel of the free toot in the spin. When bringing the free foot across on the scratch spin have the skater place the sticker on the outside part of the knee of the spinning leg and slide the sticker down the outside of the leg to the tight crossed position.

Airturns on the ice right from the start of the waltz jump or a half flip jump is a terrific way to get kids to lose their fear of leaving the ice (jumping). Start with simply rising up to the toes and down in conjunction with the proper arm positions. Have the group pair up and face each other while doing this. Then do a few two foot jumps with no turns. As the comfort and ability level increases so should the airturn. Begin to do a 1/2 turn with 8 repetitions and so on. A group of ten can accomplish this exercise easily.

When introducing a sit spin have each skater put a glove/mitten in the hand of the free side of the spin. After entry the skater will take the glove and place it between their knees and have the arms extend to the sides. They need to spin three times around holding the glove with their knees. They will be in a semi-sit position. This exercise is simply to have the skater understand the closing of the inner thighs and to not lean way over with their back in the spin. It is a very challenging exercise but once again great for a group of ten skaters learning sit spins.

Music, as we know, is very much a part of skating. Singing, humming or playing a variety of music can help develop rhythms or flow at this level. Back edges or the waltz eight to waltz music slows the child down and aids in the counting. Split jumps or flips to rap gets them motivated to jump high! Seasonal music once in a while, such as a scary tape at Halloween or holiday music, can uplift the attitude of a group class lesson.

At low level freestyle introduce the stopwatch which will be ever so present in their skating career. Time the skater going into their waltz-toe loop jump and have them beat their time the next skate around.

The advanced groups have fun with an introduction to hydro-blading. Use this to strengthen their muscles for the up and down motion of a sit spin or develop a better understanding of lean into the circle for crossovers, spirals or the tightening of an outer edge into a spin. Have the group challenge each other to see who can hydro blade the longest.

For additional ideas refer to the Creative Teaching Section in the PSA Coaches Manual.

Reprinted with premission from :

The Professional Skater Magazine
May / June 1997 – pp. 13 – 14.
©1997 by Professional Skaters Association


Filed under Coaches Corner, Figure Skating Education, Ice Skating Coaching, Learn to Skate