Oct 6, 2009

I like the teacher that passes my kid

I could post the stories, but it might get me in trouble.  The parent who had promised her child she would pass a level, when the child wasn't ready and I didn't agree.  The father who brought his child to class, stuck his nose in my colleague's face and said "She better pass this week, or I'll be talking to your director."  The coach who told a parent that her child was so talented that she could skip four levels.

So how do evaluations work?
Most rinks follow one of two national curricula--   Ice Skating Institute Learn to Skate or US Figure Skating basic skills.  These curricula have specific markers that let a coach know when a child is ready for the next level.  The curricula build on each other-- mastering one puts a skater on the path to success at the next.

    There is no accepted or standard rate at which skaters move through the levels. As with any skill-based endeavor, participants progress at different rates depending on interest, practice, and ability.   A very committed skater will move through quickly; someone who cannot devote as much time will move more slowly. A skater in private instruction will progress more quickly than someone who takes only the group classes, and always, the skaters who practice on their own will do better. If you take every level just once (this is rare), the fastest you will get to Freestyle is six sessions, or a little over a year.  Most children can make it to Freestyle in less than 2 1/2 years.  If your child starts skating at the age of 8 or 9, this means they’ll make it to the higher Freestyle levels well before high school, so don’t worry.

    If you really disagree with a pro’s evaluation, always feel free to ask the pro why you or your child received that evaluation, and ask what you can do to help your skater move ahead faster. In most cases, you shouldn’t ask a different pro to re-evaluate your child.  (The exception is in the case that your private coach is also the class instructor.  A skater’s private coach should not evaluate his/her own student.) The best person to perform the evaluation is the one who knows your child from all the time they’ve spent together in class.

    You can read about general criteria on line at US Figure Skating (look for info on Basic Skills Program) and the Ice Skating Institute (look for Learn to Skate).  Both links are in the sidebar.


  1. I enjoy reading your blog. As a person who has convinced herself she has terrible social skills, I feel a bit better that its not just me that can't understand the culture of rinks. Anyway I was surprised that it can take 2 1/2 years to get into Freestyle. I have never followed any skater but myself through basic skills. In fact it only took me four months to get through basic skills. But I suppose every skater is different.

  2. Doing just the classes (private lessons speed up the process as does extra practice), one session at a time, you could do it 12 to 15 months. A rink that is allowing you to move up in the middle of a class session (most sessions are 6 to 10 weeks), is not doing you any favors. Given that most skaters repeat at least one level, and many repeat 2, and then take the summer off, 2 to 2 1/2 years should be about right. Four months through all 8 levels of Basic Skills makes you a prodigy.

  3. My rink doesn't have levels of class. The skaters in my group lesson are split according to level, but it's loosely defined. There's the very beginner group (swizzles), the more advanced group (crossovers, mohawks), and my group (ranging from half flip to double salchow.) We pass whatever we can pass at the end of the session, and we are taught over a range of levels. For example, though I am Freeskate 2, I routinely work on Freeskate 3, 4, and 5 elements, though the 2 elements is what the instructor assigns me to work on the most. Often, I will be working on scratch, then back, then sit, along with two Freeskate 4 skaters, and the other two will be working on sit-change-sit, layback, and back camels, and other spins I can't identify.
    Sometimes I pass two or three levels. Sometimes I only pass one or none at all. But I don't "repeat" levels, never have. The instructor certainly doesn't pass barely mediocre skills, either. They don't do the "pass the child so the parent is happy" thing. A rink that has classes according to level, and doesn't allow you to move up in the middle of a session, is only impeding your progress and not giving you time to work on elements. If my rink had a Freeskate 4 session, nobody would get a sit spin or a loop in eight weeks. No way. My rink offers regular group lessons for all levels, with different days available (you can sign up for the Tuesday lessons or the Saturday lessons), and they also have a freestyle group, and freestyle bridge classes, and more beginner-oriented group classes.

    Just wanted to say that, I seriously have never understood rinks that have sessions for each level. I can, however, understand that it works for ISI- in the lower levels, that is. Certainly not in freestyle. Why should any skater be held to a minimum of 12-15 months?

  4. There are rinks, like ours, with anywhere from 7 to 20 kids in a class. having levels ranging from crossovers through turns in a single class would be a nightmare. Having designated maneuvers per level is at the very least allows the teacher to focus on a few skills, thus making sure everyone understands them. Figure skating skills, especially at the beginning levels (which I would characterize as up through the Salchow/FS3) build on each other. Jumping from level to level and skill to skill with no arc or order is going to result in skaters with gaps and weaknesses in their ability.

    Nobody does get a sit spin or loop in 8 weeks. That's why they repeat levels. Plus, you shouldn't move on just because you've "done" a maneuver or set of maneuvers. Move on when you've mastered it. Won't kill you to work on a couple of skills you've already got for another couple of weeks.