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by Kate McSwain
Okay! So here it is. My first choreography reel: a “collage” of a lot of my work thus far! Thank you so much to the skaters who supported me and skated for me in this.
You are the reason I do what I do. Special thanks shoutout to: Jeremy Abbott, Rachael Flatt, Wesley Campbell, Alex Johnson, Sarah Zanolli, David Ings, Garrett Kling, Sean Marshinski, Jodi Porter Haller and Kimberly Felton!
ASK THE SKATING PRO
Q. What is an appropriate age to start teaching my child to skate?
A. This is a common question, but one that varies greatly depending on the particular child. I have occasionally seen children under 3 in skates, but 5 or 6 is probably a good age to sign them up for a tots class to see how they enjoy skating and to find out if they can handle lessons. Most children are attentive and coordinated enough to make good progress by the time they are 8. It is important to remember that most children who start figure skating will not ever enter upper-level qualifying competitions, so they should be skating for the enjoyment and challenge that ice skating offers
by Candyce Mairs
The selection of a figure skating coach is an important one and should be thoughtfully considered. The combination of personalities between the skater and the coach is very important in determining whether the arrangement is a successful one. The coach should be a good role model both on and off the ice and foster positive growth in the skater. Your skater will spend a lot of time with their coach. Many skaters go their entire career with the same coach.
If you are considering a coaching switch, the method listed below can assist you in choosing a new coach. Never switch coaches if you are in a highly emotional state. If you are presently unhappy in your situation, go through the checklist below to help you determine if a coaching change is really needed. Plan a conference with your present coach to discuss the situation and try and work it out. A coaching change can be very disruptive to the skater. A good suggestion is to take a month to walk through the steps below carefully before making any major decisions.
Before approaching any coaches, go through the following questions and document your answers to determine your needs. Even if you are a beginning level skater, the steps below will assist you in finding the coach that is right for you.
- Determine the present goals for your skater. Do you want to test and advance in levels or do you want to be highly competitive?
- Are you willing to compete? If so, how far are you willing to travel?
- What are your long-term goals? Is it Olympic level competition, judging, professional shows, or teaching? The coach you choose must be prepared to help your skater reach his/her goals.
- How much time and money are you willing to commit to the sport of figure skating?
- How far will you travel to a rink on a daily basis? Make a list of rinks you are willing to travel to. (If you are unfamiliar with rinks in your area, the Ice Skating Institute (ISI) at http://www.skateisi.com or the United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA) at http://www.usfsa.org, can supply you with a list of rinks.)
- Determine the Professional Skaters Association (PSA) ratings level you require for a coach. These ratings assure that the coach is qualified to teach that level. Call the (PSA) at 507-281-5122 if you are not familiar with the PSA/USFSA coaches ratings system. They can give you a list of coaches in your area who are PSA rated and can answer any coaching related questions you may have.
- Determine your minimum requirements in a coach in terms of the test qualifications of the coach, past student levels, ratings, commitment, availability, etc.
- Obtain a list of coaches and their resumes from your rink list above.
- Narrow down the list of potential coaches. Eliminate coaches without the appropriate skating background, test level qualifications, PSA membership or rating qualifications that you require.
- Go to the various rinks to observe each coach on this list.Make a log of the following observations for each of these coaches:
- Observe them on the ice from a discreet area of the rink to determine their teaching style and present student-coach relationships with various students.
- Observe various students of each coach during their practices. Does the skater appear happy? Is there a positive situation? Are the skaters able to structure their practice time?
- Observe the coach off the ice. Are they available for questions? Are they open to comments? Do they appear to get along with the other coaches and people around them?
Eliminate coaches based on your observations. You now need to begin the phone interview process to get a feel for their personality. If you presently have a coach and are definitely looking for a new one, have you notified your present coach you are planning to switch? If not, be sure to mention in the phone interview that you are only considering your options at the present time. Do not go into the details of your present coaching arrangement with any potentially new coaches.
Here is a list of questions to ask a potential new coach:
- Their personal skating background.
- Are they a PSA member? This ensures the coach abides by the PSA Code of Ethics & offers a grievance procedure if there are problems.
- PSA ratings. Are they rated, and if so, for what level? If not, do they have extensive experience in the field?
- Do they attend educational events regularly to ensure their teaching methods are up to date?
- Are their present students reaching their goals?
- What is their personal availability and commitment level?
- What do they require of their students?
- Are their present students able to get enough lesson time?
- Can lesson times be added throughout the season?
- Previous students’ test achievements.
- Injury record of past students.
- Inquire of names and phone numbers of previous students no longer skating (for reference).
- Do they offer a trial lesson without any form of commitment?
- Are they accepting new students?
Once you have interviewed your entire list, review using the following criteria:
- Personality compatibility of skater & coach. Would your skater and this coach be compatible?
- Teaching style of the coach. Would your skater respond well to them?
- Coach’s communication skills. Are they easy to talk to?
- Ask around about the reputation of each coach in the community. Are they respected?
- Do they meet your coaching requirements?
- Call at least two prior students to get a feel for their experiences with this coach.
It is important to follow the PSA guidelines regarding switching coaches. Do not start lessons with the new coach until you have notified the previous coach and all lessons are paid in full.
Going through the steps above should help match your needs to the coach who can best fulfill those needs. Nothing can ensure that every situation is perfect, but rest assured that by following the above methods, you have done everything you can to ensure the chances of a positive and rewarding experience for your skater. As in any good relationship, the skater-coach relationship must be built on trust & respect.
– Candyce has served as PSA State Education Director for Minnesota and is Master-rated in Figures, Freestyle, Group and Program Director.
ASK THE SKATING PRO
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. Mix it up.
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 figure skating 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. (Anything you want them to do, they won’t be interested in.) Good luck and let me know how it all turns out.
Note: Readers please feel to comment and offer your suggestions!
[Another oldie but goodie article]
In many ways, photographing figure skating is similar to photographing hockey because both sports are performed inside an arena on a rink.
But there’s one big difference. While hockey pictures usually concentrate on the brutal aspects of the sport, figure skating photos typically emphasize the grace and beauty. Having said this, however, we must admit that audiences (and judges) seem to be far more concerned with athletic prowess in the jumps than they are with the delicate balletic movements between jumps.
How can you best capture this athleticism as well as the beauty?
Where are you sitting? If you’re ringside with your camera, that’s one thing. If you’re sitting back in the stands, that’s another. Fortunately, sitting in the stands in a typical skating arena is not the same as sitting in the stands at a football stadium or Madison Square Garden. Usually, skating arenas are smaller and more intimate, with seating perhaps only ten rows deep. So being in the stands at most figure skating competitions or exhibitions is not as photographically challenging as being in the 50th row of a large football stadium.
In addition, skating audiences are usually more polite than their counterparts at more aggressive sports, which means that, when the skater leaps and gyrates, the spectator in front of you is less likely to stand up and block your view and knock over your camera.
With these thoughts in mind, let’s turn to taking ice skating photos. While the “normal” lens on your point-and-shoot may give you a nice wide-angle picture of the arena, you will need a telephoto lens to get in close to the action – that is, to fill the frame with your subject. What if your point-and-shoot has a zoom lens, and you can zoom out to 105mm or even 180mm? Can you rely on it? Probably not…for another reason!
Most point-and-shoot cameras have a delay of up to a second between the time you press the shutter-button and the time they snap the picture. During this momentary delay, the camera has to automatically set the focus, automatically set the shutter speed and aperture to produce the “right” exposure, and automatically “decide” if you need flash. While a second is not long in a lifetime, it is far too long when it comes to snapping the shutter and getting a picture of the “decisive moment” – in this case, the high point of a jump or other maneuver. Unfortunately, you’re likely to end up with a picture of the skater back down on terra firma – or, at least, down on the ice…if the skater is even in the field of view at all!
This problem of delay can also afflict some SLR’s when they are set for autofocus and autoexposure. So our advice is to use an SLR, but set it to Manual Mode if possible. This way, you’re in charge of focusing and exposure, and you should set them in advance so there won’t be even a millisecond delay when you snap the shutter.
How do you set focus and exposure in advance?
Pre-focus on an area of the rink near you. You won’t be focused for the fireworks that occur farther away, but skating routines bring the performer to your side on each oval, and you’re prepared to shoot whenever the performer is in your pre-focused zone.
Set your exposure in advance too. Remember, you are aiming for correct exposure of the performer in the glare of the spotlights – not for correct exposure of the ice or the spectators in the stands. Even if your seat is not ringside, we advise that you walk up to ringside before the festivities begin. Take your reading at ringside. Perhaps, you can get a reading of your own skin in the glare of the rink lights. Or you can get a graycard reading in that light. Use this reading as your exposure.
Now return to your seat, and set up. You will be using a long lens. How long? This depends on the size of the arena and the location of your seats. Probably 180mm or longer.
Of course, when you use a long lens, you cannot safely handhold. You want to avoid camera-shake. Our suggestion is that you set your camera on a monopod to steady it. If the spectator in front of you jumps up, you’ll end up with a great picture of his back…but, as we’ve mentioned, this is far less likely at staid figure skating events than at raucous hockey or football games.
Since you are using a long lens and you will often want to freeze the action with a fast shutter-speed. That means you may need to set a higher ISO on your digital camera. If you’re using a film camera, ISO 800 film from either Kodak or Fuji is extremely good.
Now, what about shutter-speed? As we just said, you will often want to freeze the action with a fast shutter-speed. But not always. We suggest that you also try to capture the feeling of speed and action in your picture by using a slow shutter speed to blur the skater and the action. To do this, bracket different shutter speeds – starting at 1/15th and getting slower – 1/8… 1/4… 1/2… etc.
Also, try panning some shots by following the movement of the skater as you press the shutter-button. A good pan will produce a sharp image of the skater against the blurred background of the spectators. During panning, use a slow shutter speed – 1/15th…1/8…or 1/4 – and keep the skater in your viewfinder as you press the shutter. A monopod or tripod is essential for good panning, otherwise the skater will be blurry as well as the background. There’s an example of a well panned picture taken during a speed-skating race.
What about flash? Many arenas don’t allow it. Even when they do, be aware of the limitation of your flash. The typical built-in flash has a range of just 10 to 15 feet. Will this be enough to light the skater subject from your seat? If you use a separate flash — rather than a built-in — know its maximum range. Can it reach out 20 feet‚ 30 feet‚ 40 feet‚ or even farther? The answer depends upon the particular unit, so read your unit’s specs and know its limitations in advance.
So much for figure skating. One final point about these winter sports: When it comes to early-morning hockey practice, we think your best shots may be of those sleepy-eyed moms and pops!
Reprinted with permission of the New York Institute of Photography
ASK THE SKATING PRO
Q. My 6 year old son just started taking lessons, his feet freeze…what type of socks should he wear?
A. Usually we wear one thin pair of socks, similar to dress socks. The blade conducts the cold from the ice up into the boot. If you have room to put in an insole, that may help a little. It also is helpful to warm the boots up before putting them on. I sometimes use the blow dryer in the bathroom to blow hot air down into the boot. You could also use a hairdryer.
by Marta Nilsen, PSA Master-rated coach
As ice skaters we are always looking to improve, especially over the previous season. The New Year is as good as time as any to evaluate our situation and finds ways to become a better figure skater. Below are five recommended steps for improving your figure skating and making better progress over the course of the next season.
1) Add another day of skating to your week.
Adding another day of skating per week can speed up your progress dramatically. If you can’t add another day, the next best thing would be to add two more hours per week of skating time. Instead of skating one hour per day for two days per week, instead skate two hours per day, two days per week.
2) Take a ballet class at least one day per week.
Ballet increases flexibility, strengthens body alignment and placement, and teaches proper jumping technique. This is a great way to get that super spiral or increase your jump height.
3) Participate in off-ice classes at least one time per week.
Off-ice class is not just another workout. You will be practicing simulating skills that are done on the ice. Practicing off ice allows you to feel, see and understand the basic positions that your body must attain during skating moves. You will also learn exercises and stretches that can do at home. Check out tools such as the Spinner for off-ice training.
4) Go to at least three competitions away from your home rink this season.
Competitions push you to increase your skill level faster than any other method of training. Striving to do your best in a competition helps you to reach the goals that you have set for your skating.
5) Set figure skating goals.
You need a plan for where you are going and a process for how to get there. You decide where you would like to be, which you discuss with your skating coach, and then he or she makes a plan to help you reach it. All successful people set goals to help them reach their greatest potential, and successful ice skaters are no exception.
Best of luck in 2013!
Now is the time to order the new Club-edition 2013 Figure Skating Calendar featuring beautiful photos of your favorite top skaters!
The Figure Skating Calendar is the oldest and most collected among skating fans. Made in Canada, this calendar includes important figure skating event dates and fantastic photos!
On the cover this year are Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir. Also featured in the 2013 Calendar are: Patrick Chan, Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy, Akiko Suzuki, Brian Joubert, Ame’lie LaCoste, Jeremy Abbott, Ashley Wagner, Meagan Duhamel & Eric Bradford, Meryl Davis & Charlie White, Carolina Kostner, and Daisuke Takahashi.
Order today for yourself, your coach and/or loved one from the IceSkatingWorld Proshop – www.iceskatingproshop.com
There is also a Buy 2 – Get 1 free offer.