Every skill is important.
- You can't do a forward cross over without a forward one foot glide. Therefore, you must legitimately pass Basic 2/PreAlpha before starting to work on these.
- You can't do a turn without a backwards one-foot glide. Therefore, you must legitimately pass Basic 3 AND 4/Beta (yeah, Basic Skills is weird with the turns) before attempting them.
- You can't do a flip if your mohawks are "closed" (free foot finishes in front) rather than "open" (free foot finishes behind). Bet you didn't know that. It's because everyone lets skaters get away with the closed mohawk. You'd be amazed at the coaches I meet who don't know there's a difference.
Basic Skills, despite the unfortunate acronym, has that name for a reason. These skills are BASIC. This is not a euphemism for "easy," "boring," "pointless," or "too easy for my future Olympian to waste time on." You have to have strong basic skating-- stroking, crossovers, turns, and edges-- in order to have solid, safe jumps and spins that don't take years to learn. All those skaters struggling with the jumps have one thing in common: poor basic skills.
This is never the skater's fault. Parents and coaches let their egos and marketing goals get in the way of good sense.
You do not get to decide when to move the child up. I don't care if she's disappointed. I have a skater right now in a Freestyle 3 class who started deciding for herself to not repeat levels. She has never passed PreFreestyle, FS1 or FS2. At least I didn't pass her, and I had her in all those classes. Can't do edges. Doesn't know the warm up (which is what we learn in PreFree at my rink). We have a family that actually switches rinks each time the child doesn't pass, and then lies about passing at the other rink. The thing is, talented skaters can do all the skills credibly. But you know what, smart 2nd graders can read Milton. That doesn't mean they understand it. Whatever. Have fun with the axel.
Your kid needs to skate more. Your child is not going to be a good skater if you only come once a week. I don't care if it's class with Suzy from the high school, or a private lesson with the World Champion. Once a week skaters either never progress, even tho the coach may be moving them up just so you think they're earning their keep. Here's a clue: you're paying close to $40 for a half hour lesson. You. Have. Financial. Resources. People who can't afford this don't do it. You are being cheap. You are making choices about what to spend your discretionary money on. Which is fine. But then don't make faces when I tell you that the reason your child doesn't progress faster is they don't skate enough (and unlike some coaches, I'm not trying to get extra lessons. Bring the kid to public. Sign up for class. Whatever. Skate more!)
Stay in class. If the coach tries to bump the kid forward several levels, or in the middle of the session, just say no. Tell them, you know what, how about if you work on the advanced skills in the privates; the extra 5 weeks at Beta aren't going to kill the kid. Kids who are really ready to move up a level after only a couple of classes are rare as hen's teeth. Chances are, your kid isn't one of them. And even if they are, HOW CAN IT HURT TO GET ADDITIONAL INSTRUCTION IN THE BASIC SKILL? All that's happening if you move them in the middle of the session is the new coach is ignoring them, because they're too far behind to catch up and it's not fair to the kids who have put in the time. Plus, when I see a kid who is ready to move on, I move them on-- to a more advanced version of the skill at hand. Further, if I've got a class full of kids like that, I'll just start introducing the next set of skills anyway.
Skate as much as the coach says. If the coach says Princess needs to skate more, and has a good reason (a competition, a test, your frustration with her progress), then you need to use that common sense again and sign up for more ice. And no, the second lesson per week cannot be with her friend who's a Freestyle 4 skater. An 11-year-old is not the same as a rated coach. Refusing the advice of the coach regarding preparation for tests or competitions is just setting the kid up for failure.
STOP lying to parents. "She's so talented" "Beta is a waste of time." "All my skaters have their axels by the time they're 7" (that's my favorite-- it both pumps up the coach and blames the child if they can't do it.) The child's progress is not a marketing tool, and I'm tired of being blamed (well Xan wouldn't pass him, but Other Coach says he's ready for Delta. Therefore Xan is a bad teacher). I have plenty of students taking Gamma class and working on Waltz jumps in lessons. That kid is going to be the better skater.
Don't pass a skater who hasn't mastered every skill. Yes, all of us have skills we hate to fail a kid on. But I once made a child stay in Beta 5 times over T-stops (and god bless that parent who understood how important it was). The thing is, with skills like that, if you don't learn them in class no one is ever going to teach them to you. Especially if a kid who skates only in class, they need their skills solid before they move on, because they don't have a coach to fix them. This is why you see kids in Freestyle 5 doing those foot-dragging non-stops. You may not agree with the curriculum (trashing the curriculum is second only to trashing that other coach as a favorite coaching parlor game) but the skills are the skills. Further, that Beta student? She had KILLER back crossovers by the time she passed-- better than most freestyle skaters.
Don't complain about the level of coaching in the basic classes if you're not willing to teach them yourself. The only time I ever see the "top" coaches in Learn To Skate classes is when they realize they need fresh meat. They come in for a session to skim off the most talented students and then disappear back onto the freestyle ice.
And finally, for Skating Directors
Don't just rubber stamp the pass. Especially at the freestyle levels, make the kids skate to the proper standard. I don't care how good their axel is. If they toe-push their cross overs, they shouldn't pass Freestyle 5.