Feb 18, 2011

Beyond Game Day: The Olympics

A wonderful alternative for horrible game day races on the last day of a figure skating session, based on circuit training-- every child does every station, at their own speed. The diagram came from a PSA seminar that I attended a couple of years ago and was created by Carol Rossignol, PSA's Education Director and all around marvelous human being.

Here's how Carol describes the activities (with a few variations of my own):

Olympics Day is designed for 7 stations with about 8 skaters in a group. You need an instructor and an assistant for each station/group. (The instructor can travel with the group or be assigned by station.) Skaters move from station to station in a circuit format, rotating counter clockwise around the rink, with 5 minutes at each station, filling out a 40-minute class. Adjust the amount of time per station, or the number of stations for shorter or longer class periods, remembering to reserve about 5 minutes to organize it at the start.

Station 1: Bobsled. Using cones or drawn circles, have skaters skate half way across the ice and then do a dip as low as possible. Four at each end start at the same time toward each other, doing a splice or pass through. They need to keep their heads up so they don't crash into each other!

Station 2: Speed Skating. Time the skaters to see how fast they can skate around the two red circles at the end of the rink. Skaters skate two at a time, and are timed individually. Each skater's time is recorded. If there is time, have a second round and see if they can improve their time.

Station 3: Curling. Draw curling circles on the ice and make rocks from plastic bottles filled with sand. Four skaters are on a team and each skater slides one rock toward the target to see which team will have the most rocks closest to the center white circle. Teams alternate sliding the rocks.

Station 4: Downhill skiing. Set up obstacle course with cones or other markers. Use sculling or slaloms to run the course.

Station 5: Figure Skating. Have skaters create a mini program consisting of a spin, a jump and a gliding maneuver for a maximum of 20 seconds program duration.

Station 6: Hockey. Set up actual hockey nets at either end. Use soft balls for pucks and plastic or inflatable hockey sticks. Let each skater have a ball and a stick. Four skaters at each end try to hit the balls into the hockey net.

Station 7: Ski Jumping. Draw four or more lines on the ice. Skaters take turns (one after the other) doing a two-foot jump or a bunny hop over each line.

Option Station 8: Medal ceremony. Set up a podium in the lobby (or a couple of them) and have junior coaches handing out medals and taking pictures of all the winners (mom and dad can take pictures, too. Ask them to post them on your rink or club's Facebook page). Participation is optional, and everyone gets a first place medal.

For more Game Day alternatives see Beyond the relay race.


  1. Oh this is fabulous! When I took lessons with young skaters the game day nearly killed me. I opted to practice on my own feeling the party is ruined by me (and what a waste of lesson time). I would not mind participating in this Olympics! A lot of instructors is needed though :)

  2. Terrific ideas. I am so tired of playing sharks and minnows!

  3. So we're doing this in Adult Freestyle next week, right? I think I'd like 4 & 5.

  4. Oh, I think it's Sharks and Minnows for the adults. That would be slo-mo Sharks and Minnows.

  5. "That would be slo-mo Sharks and Minnows."

    We could call it aardvarks and ants.

    /sloths and ___ does not work since they are mostly herbivores

  6. The only issue I can see with this is 1) the Parental Peanut Gallery won't know where to aim their cameras 2) Muffy will take too long at any given station which will elicit some yelling and 3) there will be some horrible debate about "not everyone can win first"

    I'll bring the popcorn!

  7. What's wrong with actually doing a LESSON on the last day? My rink does evaluation on second-to-last day, then does a normal lesson on the last day like every other lesson day. I paid for eight lessons.. I want eight lessons! Games, if any, are for the 15 min of practice AFTER the lesson. Doing 45 min of games or races is a waste of a lesson.

  8. LOL on the last day of my first group lesson session with kids I asked to practice on my own. One of the coaches graciously gave me a rockin' private lesson on sit spins during instruction time! That was truly appreciated.

    Can't remember what happened on the game day of next level. IIRC it was a regular lesson, skaters were more serious and coaches introduced an element for the upcoming level.

  9. I hate Game Day as much as the next person, but not because "skaters aren't serious." More because coaches are so uncreative about it. You can have stupid game day, or you can have game day where you use the skills and get something out of it. Lessons need not be exclusively linear, lecture/demo type affairs. Using learn-to-skate skills in something like the "Olympics" or having freestylers put together a program on a last day, or as you say, introducing skills from the next level, also have pedagogical value. Endless stupid relay races, not so much. But it's a mistake to lock yourself into a box where you define "value" so narrowly.

  10. Sorry Xan, no offense meant. It was just my personal observation that my FS3 class had younger skaters who literally begged for games, while for FS4 skaters did not ask for games and the coaches chose to teach. Surely age was a factor too.

    I play with freestyle elements or other tricks during public sessions, just prefer paid lesson times to be used wisely. And yes, these Olympic games qualify as great games that are productive at the same time :D

  11. Oh my old rink did power and moves for the last day, which I thought was a great approach as well.

  12. Jane, this is an excellent point. When you just fall back on Sharks & Minnows or relay races you are not honoring the diversity of a class. Younger kids want Mr. Fox, slow and timid children are terrified of chase games; competitive kids get furiously angry at the slow ones who make their team lose. Game Day doesn't need to be like that. There are creative ways to reach everyone at their strength.