Mar 9, 2011

Another post about skipping levels

Why is that child in PreFreestyle when she can't do crossovers? Here's why:

Skater actually did pass the prior test
Frankly, this is the most common reason that kids look like they haven't passed. They actually have, legitimately. But they don't get that you have to do it right all the time, not just when some coach is screaming at you, or when it " counts." I don't know why this would be, except lack of practice. It's not like they forget how to read between school days. Or maybe it is- any classroom teachers here who feel like they teach the same lesson over and over because the kids don't retain it after the test?

Skater passed the prior test last year
Also very common. Skaters will come back in at the last level they passed, even if they haven't skated for a year or more. So they've lost the skill. You hate to bump a kid back, and they have to be pretty bad to justify it; it's not worth the ego hit, frankly. My one exception would be freestyle. I think if you haven't been in a given freestyle program for the past 2 or 3 sessions, you should have to test into your level.

Skater jumped several levels back

And it's catching up with her. It is possible to get jumped past PreAlpha or Alpha or Beta, illegitimately, and then actually pass Gamma and/or Delta, because we are not allowed to retest the "lower level" skills in order to hold a kid back. And frankly there would be no point, because you can't really devote class time to reteaching these skills to individual children. It's not fair to the ones with the legitimate passes. But as we've all observed, it catches up with them, especially at the middle freestyle levels.

Private lesson coach is selling you a bill of goods
The private lesson coach has convinced the parents that the class levels are "a waste of time," or "holding them back" or that the skater is "so talented she doesn't need to take that class." Let's see what else-- "I can teach this better/faster." "Privates are always better." Parents take this as gospel and up the kid goes. There is a prevailing attitude that "your child is talented, so she'll catch up." This is absolutely true if you have a coach, and the money, who will do multiple lessons per week (lots of coaches have semi-private groups working on basic skating). If you're not skating much, don't skip the level, don't short the level. Stand your ground and finish the level.

Parent doesn't get it
Actual quotes:
"I don't understand why you're working on stroking. Isn't that in Alpha? This is Gamma, she's already learned that."
"She taught herself backward crossovers on public last week, so she should jump from PreAlpha 2 to Gamma."
"I was a competitive skater when I was a child, so I want her in Freestyle 1."
"She only wants to work with Coach In-Crowd, and she teaches Delta, so we're going to take that class."
"I can't get her at that time, so we signed up for the class two levels up on Tuesdays, which fits into our schedule"
"She needs to be in class with her friend/brother/cousin. So we signed them both up for Higher Level Class."
Private lesson coach is an idiot
But you didn't hear it from me.

Class coach is an idiot
No comment.

Okay I'll comment. There are coaches who are afraid to hold kids back unless the line is very very clear. They don't want to have to explain to parents why the child isn't passing. They don't know how to respond to comments about all those other kids "who aren't as good as my child, but he passed!" They don't understand the requirement, because they see what you're seeing-- kids without the skills, in the higher levels. They are feeding into a class that a friend is teaching, with an eye toward later telling you that "classes are bullshit." They are afraid to stand their ground on a borderline skill. They don't know how to do group lessons with a wide range of ability-- from beginners to almost passed-- so they bump up the almosts.

Parent lies to program about whether the skater has passed
I've been in programs where we tried to keep track of class tests, or where there were no class tests-- you had to pass on test day in front of a judging panel. Keeping track of tests is very difficult without 100% buy in from the coaching staff, which you're never going to get. And if one coach doesn't cooperate, pretty soon the rest of the coaches are going to say, well she's not doing this extra step, she's getting away with it, so why should I bust my britches. End of system. So you only have the parent's word for it. I've called kids on this and tried to put them back in their proper level, only to have a parent stand there and lie to my face about "the other coach passed him."

Kid lies about test
Yes, there are parents who don't look at the test sheet, so the kid just says that they passed.

Program doesn't monitor the problem
Any business without adequate oversight is going to have problems. In a shop, you'll get "shrinkage"-- disappearing stock-- through neglect or outright theft. Well, this is shrinkage in a skating school. Some stock will always slip through; shrinkage is a fact of life. But if you don't try to minimize, through oversight, policing, monitoring, and communication, the problem will grow until it's systemic and impossible to root out.

A word about ISI Learn to Skate and Basic Skills
It isn't the curriculum, it's the management and the rink culture.

Whatever. That skater is never going to land an axel, but if it's important to your ego to have your kid skip levels, go for it.


  1. Yes, children will blow off skills as they see fit. Stitch will spell like a demon on spelling tests, yet reading response homework is a misspelled disaster. He'll only do it "when it counts."

    I posted a "Won't somebody think of the children," response to this on my own blog so as not to take up too much space on yours.

  2. <"She taught herself backward crossovers on public last week, so she should jump from PreAlpha 2 to Gamma.">

    This reminds me of the question on Y!A today where the skater said she was in Gamma/Delta but 'already knew how to do everything.' She also taught herself a waltz jump, a sit spin and a layback, and then asked what level she should be in.
    Oh, she taught herself a layback, let's jump her from Delta to Freestyle 6. :D

  3. Just wanted to say, as a school teacher- this happens all the time. I teach English and every time we start essays, the students act like they've never heard of a thesis statement, when I know for a fact they have learned it over and over several times... so it's not just skating! haha.

    I can say, it's really frustrating when you are in group classes and one of the kids has cheated up a level- they are in freestyle 3 or 4 and can't do 3 turns or can't skate backwards well or have suddenly forgotten how to stop properly. The coach then has to spend time remedial teaching and the other kids don't get a chance to advance as well.

  4. Anon, I stopped doing the remedial stuff. Now I teach what's in the level, plus the general skating that I would do anyway. But I don't teach 3 turns to FS3 skaters anymore like I used to. And if a parent calls me on it, I alert them of the consequences of moving through the levels too fast.

  5. Another unfortunate consequence is the hurt feelings of the kids who DON'T skip levels or get passed up to the next level before they should. My daughter just turned 5 and is currently in Basic 5 group lessons once a week. She has also been doing 1 private lesson a week since the fall), and I take her to public skate for practice (though at public skate she mostly practices bunny hops, spirals and shoot the duck (as opposed to the skills in the level she's in) or makes up programs to whatever music is playing). This is her second time in Basic 5 and she is upset that 2 girls who were in Basic 5 with her last session are now in Basic 6 when "Mommy, they can't do hockey stops at all." She is right, they can't do hockey stops at all. My daughter (remember, she's barely 5) asked the group lesson coach how those other girls passed, and the the group coach said, "I don't really care about hockey stops." My daughter doesn't get a testing sheet at the end of a session because it's up to her private coach to decide when to pass her, but she can't do a hockey stop to save her life, and she needs more consistency on her 1 foot spin and back crossovers, so I am in total agreement with her taking Basic 5 again. But, it's hard to explain to her why these other kids are advancing when they don't meet the standard either.

  6. Anon-Someone needs to tell that skating director that one of her coaches is making up her own curriculum. For more on this aspect see the latest post by St. Lidwina (

  7. I don't remember hockey stops ever being mentioned in adult group lessons at Crown. But then again, they didn't evaluate us.


  8. Unless you want to compete, following chapter and verse of the levels is kind of beside the point with adults. I'm trying to remember if I routinely ignore hockey stops in adult class and I honestly can't remember, so you could be right.

  9. I am the Anon that posted about my (still) Basic 5 skater. I don't really know how/if hockey stops are important to figure skaters. But really, I just think that my skater should be able to make a quick stop. My 8 year-old hockey boy can stop on a dime, and that is a pretty useful skill.

  10. My (tentative) hockey stop is finally around the corner! It was openly disdained by my group lesson coach back then.

  11. A coach at our rink said that she had passed senior freestyle and MIF and started taking dance lessons with an internationally known dance coach. She said that the first thing they worked on was stroking and they worked on it for weeks.

    Not there her stroking was bad, but that there is always room to improve.

  12. Every single dance coach will do this, because no one strokes properly because it is so neglected in favor of the tricks.