Apr 30, 2011

The gag rule

UPDATE, November 2014: The gag rule is dead! The Federal Trade Commission got wind of it happening (across many professional associations, not specifically the PSA), and put a stop to it. PSA has changed their guidelines in compliance.

Imagine a job where if someone else's client approaches you about switching, because they were unhappy with the current relationship, you are bound by your professional association to report this to your rival.

Imagine you're the client. If you are seen talking to the rival firm, you can yourself be reported for an ethical violation, you risk destroying your current relationship, and the current firm can, in fact is encouraged to, sabotage your ability to hire a new firm. Doesn't matter if the current firm is abusive, incompetent, or unresponsive. If you talk to another firm, even if you leave your issues out of the conversation, you are in violation of the ethical standards of the industry.

Imagine an industry that tacitly encourages its clients to stay in arrears, so that they can prevent the client, legally, from switching to another firm, based on unpaid bills.

Imagine an industry where your firm doesn't offer a product that's available at the rival firm, and that your client needs. The client isn't allowed to seek it, and the firm isn't allowed to advertise it to your client.

Imagine an industry where my client isn't allowed to tell your client how much they like me.

Welcome to figure skating.

The issue is Solicitation, Tampering and Promotion, and it's a big big topic of discussion in coaching circles. Famous coaches have lost their right to attend competitions over it. Skaters have ended careers rather than run up against the rules. Reputations have been destroyed over rumors of violations.

Solicitation is the Big Bad Wolf of the issue-- seeking to acquire a student who already has another coach. Of course, you don't always have control over it, because if the student or parent comes to you and you don't immediately shut down the discussion and report the student to the current coach, and it gets out, you are in career-ending trouble. Tampering is "undermining a coaching relationship" for instance by encouraging, or even by not discouraging your skaters from singing your praises to the skater of another coach or his/her parents. Promotion is just marketing--neutral advertisement of your services, like this website. Just be careful who you market to. Some rinks are so skittish that they don't even allow you to pass out business cards on the premises.

Coming from a performing arts background, I could not wrap my head around this when I learned of it. What do you mean, I can't talk privately to a different teacher if I don't like the current one? And they have to "report" me? It was the most ridiculous thing I'd ever heard.

If you're a serious competitor who needs to be with a different coach, you practically have to quit skating before you can switch. If you're in a small market, the dumped coach can make your life miserable.

If you just suspect that your coach is not what you need, you cannot ask around and find out. Other coaches won't talk to you. Other parents won't talk to you. You literally cannot get the information that you need to make an informed decision. It's patronizing, insulting and paternalistic, assuming that all coaches will try to steal students, and that parents aren't capable of recognizing good vs. bad information from their own or other coaches.

I have run up against this often. Because of the types of students I take (recreational and low level only), and because of the blog, parents do approach me looking for neutral advice. I'd give it, if I was allowed. I recently had to tell a parent, who in fact has an unqualified coach that is holding their skater back, that I could not talk about it.

I call it the gag rule.

So here's a career-ending opinion:

The gag rule is bullshit. If you can't hold onto your students, that's not my problem. If you let bills go unpaid, you're just a bad businessperson and it serves you right if the student leaves without paying you. The gag rule is unfair to the parents, allows incompetent coaches to thrive, and prevents young coaches from establishing themselves. Get rid of it.

Apr 28, 2011

Thank you

I've been in a really bad mood lately. Chalk it up to the endless grey weather. So I felt like I needed to remember the things that make this work so joyful. Anyway, thank you:

Class student mom MP for telling me she thinks I'm the only teacher at my rink who really cares about every student. I don't think it's true, but it was nice to hear.

NB's mom, for understanding both loyalty and bullsh*t.

Miss E, for having the most beautiful disposition, despite more barriers than anyone should have to deal with.

Mom A for telling me, in so many words, "I appreciate what you do! "

Sasha for fixing my ruined skates, and giving me the cleanest edges I've had in years.

Adam, for asking me to skate with him for 10 minutes the other day.

B, K, N for being coaches who take the garbage with a giant grain of salt, and remind me that I should too

My Friday Pre Alpha class, the craziest, most fun group of little girls you can imagine.

Apr 26, 2011

Summer Skating

Originally published April 11, 2010

It's always puzzled me that in the winter when it's freezing cold outside, everyone goes to the freezing cold ice rink, and in the summer, when it's steaming hot outside, everyone goes to the steaming hot beach.

Ice rinks are great in the summertime. Nice and cool, and often, empty. They often turn over the ice to the figure skaters all morning and the hockey players all afternoon (or vice versa), and you can basically spend all day in skates. Many rinks run skating camps, at both learn to skate and freestyle levels, or you skate on your own; take your coach's summer program if she or he has one, sign up for one of the many sleep-away skating camps, or just come once in a while for fun.

For skaters who want to compete, summer is pre-season, one of the most critical training periods. You want to make sure you're at the correct test level, start solidifying the new programs, make sure you have all the latest rules updates incorporated into your choreography, and strengthen your newest elements. Serious off ice endurance and strength training starts building up in the summer too.

Even for non-competitive skaters, you can use summer as your pre-season push. Maybe there are synchro or ice show auditions in the fall, or you're trying to make it up a level or two in class. This is the time to learn a new jump or spin, even if you're not planning to compete, just because there's so much ice available.

By May you're going to want to have had a conversation with your coach about your goals for the summer and the coming year, so you know how much ice to sign up for and what the training arc is going to be. Find out which competitions the coach is expecting you to do, what costumes you're going to need, and what the requirements are for your various goals. Here are some of the summer skating options:

Sleep-away camp
Like any sleep away camps, there are serious highly competitive ones for "career" skaters like Ice Castles (although anyone with the cash can go if I'm not mistaken) or USFS camps for the current Team Envelope members. But there are also many many quality camps for skaters from serious to recreational. Ask your coach, club rep, or local USFS or PSA area representative how to find a skating camp that matches your skater's goals and level.

Local skating camps
Many rinks have both interim skating seminars and summer-long camps, ranging from half to full day. These camps usually consist of on ice and off ice components and may include things you won't get during the school year season. At my own rink we offer ice dance, figures, moves, and choreography as part of the summer program, as well as off-ice components that include ballet and jazz dance, pilates, soccer, arts and crafts and field trips to do things like roller blading or swimming. These camps are extremely cost-effective; often you don't have to sign up for the entire time, or even for every day, but can create your own schedule according to your vacation schedule, finances, and other activities.

Coach-led camps
Many coaches will set up their own summer programs, if their rink allows them to. You'll pay the coach a retainer-type fee based on the number of participants and hours, plus you'll pay the rink directly (in most cases) for ice time. Depending on how many skaters your coach gets involved, this can be the cheapest option, and easily incorporates your private lesson time into the ice schedule. Not all rinks allow coaches to do this; if your regular rink does not, you may need to follow the coach to a different rink for the summer. Many coaches will allow only their own students into these camps, even if you are not taking from someone else.

On your own
You can also set up your own training schedule without a supervising camp structure, but I would recommend this only for older and very self-directed kids. It is extremely difficult to maintain your own practice when you feel like the odd one out, where everyone else is in a program and you're just on your own. A couple/few times a week it will be just like school year skating, but if you want to try to skate every day, I would recommend finding a program to be part of, for the social aspect and the supervisory safety if nothing else.

Just for fun
Summer is also a great time to just take a break from structured lessons. At many rinks, practice ice is much emptier in the summer, and at every rink public sessions are very very sparse. Just come and skate for fun. Then go to the beach or the pool, where it's hot and sunny.

Me? I'll be waiting for you in the nice cool rink.

For more about skating in the summer see: Summer Skating

Apr 25, 2011

Welcome to summer ice

120 skaters, 10 hours of ice daily. The form is a 3 pages long grid, including black-out dates. Literally. Here's a hilarious conversation about it from Facebook.

R (mom)-Is it just me, or are the practice ice forms even more confusing than they've been in the past? WTF, I have to do maths now? ARGH.

A- See what you get for encouraging your kid?

P (dad)-If Tuesday = (x3/y2) - 7z, and z = minutes on ice, solve for cost.


P- If a skater begins lessons in March at level 1 and is in level 10 by the following February, what has cost more in that time: general lessons, private lessons, gasoline burned getting to lessons, or psychiatrist/alcohol bills for coaches dealing with skater who has been bumped up too quickly?

R-You missed the variables of cheap skates and glitter.

A-Don't forget amount spent on brownies at the snack bar.

Apr 22, 2011

Should you be giving your skating coaches vacation pay?

I ask, because your skating coach is in fact paying you to take vacation, by foregoing his or her pay when you're out of town.

I had one of those weeks-- two students out of town for spring break, one sick, another more or less kidnapped by grandma "for Easter." Hope they had fun, because it meant my income was down 40% for the week, and I didn't know about it ahead of time. (Even the vacationers didn't tell me until last week.)

How would you like to never know, from week to week, what your income would be? I actually only plan for 40 weeks per year from any single student; even though I have to hold those lesson times for 52 weeks, I can only count on getting paid for 40 of them. Further, I can't take my own vacation, because then I lose another week or two of income.

High level coaches on retainer presumably don't have these issues because they've negotiated a season's retainer fee-- they get paid the same amount every week for a set range of lesson times. If they're smart they've worked days off into this.

But most of us don't have that luxury. We work week to week for casual, recreational skaters, who never realize that their Florida vacation is costing some hapless coach (or nanny, or piano teacher, or tutor) a couple of days groceries.

Take the poll-- do you think it's fair to have to cover your lesson fee even when you're on vacation?

Apr 21, 2011

Where your axel went wrong

When I first start teaching bunny hops, I always ask the kids-- do you know what you're learning? They all shout "BUNNY HOPS!" "Nope," I tell them, "you're learning axels."

The complex high free style skills are not something you "get to." You don't learn an axel in FS5 or Prelim, or Freeskate 6. You build an axel, and a double toe loop, and a lutz, and all your triples and complex spins over time, starting from the first moment you totter onto the ice.

Here's some of the basic skating moves that people gloss over, making the axel hard, if not unattainable:

Bunny hop
The first jump is not the waltz jump- it's the bunny hop. This is where you learn how to swing your arms properly, and where your free foot should be in the air (toe pick out in front, not underneath or behind you). It's not just about getting into the air. There's technique and it's important.

Basic back outside edges
The basic skating position. An effortless, clean back outside edge over your landing foot (right side for CCW, left side for CW jumpers) is the basis of the back spin, air position, and all landings. It mystifies me that coaches let back edges slide (haha), especially if they are older coaches that came up when School Figures were compulsory.

Waltz jump
Think of it as a one-third axel. The biggest mistake? Bringing your free leg through too soon; if it's already behind you when you land, how are you going to snap into the air position (free leg in front). To test for this error, try a waltz-jump/loop combination. If your free leg is in the wrong place when you land, you can't do the loop. Second runner up error: over-rotating the shoulders on the launch. When you see these two errors in the waltz jump, you're going to see them in the (non-existent) axel.

Back spin
Outside edge please, nine rotations. Biggest barrier to the axel--not getting over the outside edge right away. Doesn't count if you get over the back outside edge after a couple of rotations. If you cannot get quickly into a proper back spin position, you're not going to be able to do that axel. If the first two or three rotations are on the inside edge-- a very common error-- you are not going to have the understanding about the tiny amount of time you have to snap into that position in midair on the axel. You don't have time to do a couple of rotations over the wrong edge. You can't do it in the axel, and you shouldn't do it in the back spin. And coaches shouldn't be passing them (and the back spin should not be in the same level as the axel, it should be in the level before-- ISI are you listening?)

So, where did your axel go wrong? Basic 7 & 8. Delta-FS1. That's where. When your coach skipped you quickly past these levels, she wasn't doing you any favors.

Apr 18, 2011

From the keyword search

Competition as a learning technique for 3 to 5 year olds
What, exactly, are you trying to teach them?

Where do you put US figure skating patches
Well, my daughter's are in a ziplock bag in my closet. I am absolutely convinced that someday she will thank me for saving them. (With any luck she won't find out that because trophies won't fit in ziplock bags, those have all been discarded.) But a lot of kids put them on their warm up jackets, which I think looks pretty cool.

Putting white skates on your little boy
Only do this if there are other obvious indications that it's a boy. This helps the teacher. If the question is "will kids make fun of him if he's in white skates," the answer is first, no and second if you're worried about it, get some shoe polish. If the question is actually "will white figure skates make my son gay" then please get counseling before you continue being a parent.

Establishing boundaries between coach and athlete/coach relationship student cross line/ice skating coaches that cross the line
These three were within about 10 minutes of each other. Someone needs to have a serious discussion with their coach. Also, I hope the kid is okay.

Do kids play hockey and figure skating lessons together?
Yes. It's especially useful for hockey players to take figure skating lessons, because hockey programs tend to be weak on skating skills development (they focus on rules, stick/puck handling & scoring, and speed/agility and seem to just hope that the skills develop). I just got a new student whose mom put them in hockey to help them be tougher and less skittish on the ice, which sounds good to me.

How many hours practice before you test the American Waltz skating
How good a skater are you?

Should I let my son carry on learn ice skating or not
Does he like figure skating? (See also above, "will white skates make my son gay.")

Can you skip a level in ice skating
In lessons, yes. In testing, no. You must test every level in order in both ISI and USFS.

What question do you have that I can make fun of? (Oh, I'm kidding, you know I love you.)

Apr 15, 2011

How do you judge teacher performance?

There's another in the perennial line of bills in the Illinois House for a statewide standard on teacher performance. I work in an industry where teachers are even less accountable than they are in a classroom, mostly because no one really pays attention to after school programs except inasmuch as it affects their own child.

As such, it's a microcosm for what's wrong on all aspects of the teacher accountability debate: how do you judge a teacher, why, when, and the big question should you? Teacher accountability standards can only work under the following ideal conditions:

All teachers have proper training and understanding as to what "accountability" and "performance standards" means. I might think my kids have satisfied a performance standard if they come to every class, are attentive, happy and respectful, and practice outside of class. The guy in the next class might only consider the child successful if they accomplish the task at hand each day. Another might not care at all. One might consider a "D" level performance passing, another might want all kids to pass with the equivalent of an "A." Everyone has to agree as to the meaning of success.

All students have the same resources at their disposal. The kids with money will do better, period. They take lessons, their friends take lessons, they skate all the time. If I've got a class full of these kids, I'm going to look like a better teacher than if I have a class full of poor kids who only skate once a week in rental skates.

There are mechanisms to catch cheaters. I'm not talking about the kids-- unlike a math test, you can't copy proper crossovers (or home runs, or laps) off someone else's paper. You can do it or you can't. But coaches pass kids up to the next level for all sorts of bogus reasons.

Differences in a child's ability is considered. Some kids are more talented than others. It's easier to teach them. If you think I'm good with the clumsy ones, you should see what I can do with a child that has talent.

Passing standards are enforced. Every youth sport has passing standards, sometimes written down in impenetrable and tedious detail. At the recreational level, it is very difficult to insist on them. The problem is exacerbated in that every coach you talk to will insist that they are "tough" and never pass kids who aren't ready, when the evidence of your eyes tells you this isn't so.

Apr 12, 2011


Is your coach comping you lessons? Is she letting you pay "when you can"? Is she sending bills infrequently, so that you don't have to worry about them? How about giving you "discounts"?

What a great deal. Here's what one coach told me about these practices.

According to this coach, high level coaches will comp, discount, or carry students to pay when they can, so that if they try to switch coaches, Coach Old can go to Coach New and say, y'know, they owe me a lot of money; if you take this student I will report you to the PSA". Taking on a student when there is an outstanding bill to the old coach is strongly discouraged by the Professional Skaters Association and USFS. Basically, by not insisting on full, timely payment, the coach is buying your indenture. As long as you owe money, you can't switch.

Here's the lowdown, in ascending order of bad idea:

Infrequent billing
Rating: not too bad, if you control it
This is the coach's problem. If they can somehow afford to live without getting regular paychecks, that's their worry. You don't have to play along. Simply write that check every week anyway, and when they finally bill you, you have, in effect already paid it.

Rating: get it in writing
If you are taking a lot of lessons, a couple to several hundred dollars per week, discounts make sense. You are a guaranteed income stream for the coach, you're reducing his administrative time, and you're a valuable customer. But beware of discounts that are too deep. I've heard of coaches reducing fees by as much as 70%, and then coming back when there's trouble in paradise and stating that the family "owes" them, not necessarily money, but loyalty. If you are getting a discount, get a contract that states the discount and exactly what the expectations are (for instance, I would say it's perfectly reasonable for a coach giving a significant discount to expect the student not to switch coaches mid season).

"Free" lessons
Rating: too good to be true
Again, this can be a way for an unethical coach to buy your loyalty, in effect to indenture you. Now, lots of coaches comp talented kids who legitimately can't afford lessons; I've done it myself. But if you're a well-off family, or have a competitive skater, beware. TANSTAAFL (There ain't no such thing as a free lunch).

Skate now, pay later
Rating: toxic
"Don't worry, just pay me when you can." Bad idea. Bad Bad Bad Bad Bad idea. If you cannot afford to pay now, you cannot afford to pay. Period. Cut back on lessons, raise money through community fundraisers or letters to friends and business associates, whatever. Do not buy what you cannot afford. That coach will never let you go. If you carry a large balance and want to switch coaches, your competitive career is over. And if you're not a competitive skater, what what what are you doing?

Apr 6, 2011

Modeling good behavior

Kids will copy what they see. It's worse if you then talk about it in front of them. Here are some rink behaviors to avoid.

The behavior: Disrespecting the coaching staff. If there is constant public questioning of the knowledge, authority and motives of the coaching staff, the skaters will learn that they do not need to respect the coaches. This is not the same thing as legitimate questions about rink management issues such as scheduling, special favors, inappropriate behavior, etc. This is about going to a different coach if your skater doesn't pass the class coach, or fighting with coaches in the lobby, or telling all and sundry gossip about the coaches, or stating that if you don't get your way, you'll just go to a different rink (if you threaten this, please follow through).
The lesson to the kids: there's no difference between legitimate questioning of authority and simple rudeness.

The behavior: Showing up late. Parents, here's a clue. You don't have to sign up for classes and lessons that you're going to be chronically late for. Find a time that works. If there isn't a time that works, tell the coach the problem and see what accommodations they can make. If the coach can't or won't extend the lesson, that's not their fault, don't complain about it. And don't expect the coach to suddenly back track and start a group lesson from scratch. Coaches, here's a clue for you. Parents don't care that your pay and benefits suck. They expect you on the ice at the start of class, participating in the teaching. And hey, how about actually teaching the class, even if it isn't full of your students? A word of two or praise every couple of weeks will not ruin the child's technique, either.
The lesson to the kids: my needs are more important than anyone else's.

The behavior: Ignoring the rules. Except for your skaters. It's okay for them to make it up as they go along, because they're the top group. Make sure they understand this, so they can lord it over the other skaters.
The lesson to the kids: see "showing up late."

The behavior: Encouraging cliques. This is not the same as friendships, or tight knit groups of friends. These are exclusive, based on exterior measures like who your coach is or how expensive your car is or what skating pants you wear. You can tell it's a clique if they girls (it's almost always girls) refuse to make friends with someone they might ordinarily actually have a lot in common with (like, um, everyone in the rink). The best way to encourage cliques is to put all the girls in the clique in hard-to-find matching outfits, to talk about parties that only they are invited to (or better yet, to hold the parties at the rink, but make it clear that it's exclusive) and to only talk to the coaches and parents in that group. (I see both coaches and parents encouraging this most destructive of all destructive rink behaviors).
The lesson to the kids: some people are better than others. It is okay to treat the lesser people badly.

The behavior: Never volunteering. Public institutions like schools, sports clubs and programs, and other youth activities survive on the efforts of the participants. In case you hadn't noticed, we do not live in a society neither government (because it can't afford it because people think taxes are a waste of money) nor private owners (because it undermines profits) provide enough resources. The wonderful American character of giving makes up for this. It is your obligation to participate.
The lesson to the kids: I don't have to give back; I get what I want without any more effort than is easy for me to provide. See also "showing up late."

Staying at a rink that you apparently hate. Vote with your feet, folks. After you've brought legitimate complaints to the coaches and management that can do something about it, you have to make a decision. If you can live with it, shut up; continuing complaints just make the kids think it's alright to be angry and disruptive. If you can't live with it, you're going to have to find another rink. If you can't find another rink, you're going to have to live with it.
The lesson to the kids: we are powerless to make change, and we have to participate no matter how unhappy we are.

The behavior (management side): Never responding to legitimate complaints. If you keep hearing the same complaint over and over, there's probably something to it. It's your duty to weed out the crackpots and whiners and actually listen to what's being said, and then either take steps to correct it, or communicate reasons that you can't, or at the very least acknowledge that the complaint has been heard.
The lesson to the kids: we can do whatever we want, because the people in authority don't care about us. They have favorites, and it's not us, so screw them.

As adults, sadly in some cases, we are in charge. The kids, for all their eye rolling and complaining, copy us. Let's make sure they're copying the things worth passing on.

Apr 5, 2011

Well, you're spinning, um, I guess

Here are some alternate spin positions that I have observed in class:

The Racoon
Arms folded straight up at elbows, with hands held palm out and slightly cupped directly in front of shoulders.

The Wolverine
Arms straight out to the sides, spinning as fast as possible: imagine Wolverine's adamantium claws slicing off heads as you spin.

The Zombie
Shoulders twisted, one arm up, one arm elbow out and down, hands in random claw-like position. A wild look in your eye helps this one.

Bride of Frankenstein
Arms held straight in front, with hands drooping

The Dead Fish
Arms out to sides, like the Wolverine, but hands flopping. For better effect, also bend your elbows slightly.

Oo oo call on me!
One arm over your head

The Tyrannosaurus
Arms held very bent, with hands pressed fingers down directly against chest.

Please Jesus don't let me fall
Hands palm to palm

The Spear Thrower
One arm bent as though holding a javelin, other arm stretched out to side

I'll just wait here while you spin
Arms straight out from shoulders, but bent elbows hanging down (as though leaning against something about chest high)

Let's see how dizzy I can get
Head tipped back so you can watch the ceiling (alternate version: eyes closed)

I love myself the best
Arms wrapping as far around body as possible
Don't ask

Apr 4, 2011

Reader questions

Re making it all the way to the Senior test:
I've always wondered if there are estimates or stats on the following:

1) what percentage of preliminary skaters will pass the intermediate freestyle test down the road?
2) what percentage of intermediate skaters will eventually pass the senior freestyle test? (Testing only, not necessarily competitive.)
3) To quote from the "keyword search" post, "For children, if you start skating by age 10 you will be landing doubles by the time you graduate high school, provided you work at it. You can pretty much take that to the bank." How likely will this hypothetical population pass a senior test which includes a double lutz?
While I understand what the reader is asking, I don't really concede the utility of the first question, because passing tests is not the only goal that skaters set for themselves. For kids, it's really about when you start and how much ice time you can get in. It's simply that if you set that goal, and make a plan, it's very very doable, especially if you start as young as ten. Chances are the number of people who get to the Senior test is a fraction of the ones who take the Preliminary test. But that's like saying "what percentage of freshmen end up as doctors?" Who cares? If you're not trying to be a doctor, it hardly matters that you don't become one.

A better way to put it might be "what percentage of preliminary skaters who WANT to reach their senior test make it." But then I might counter with "what percentage of 6 year old girls who want to be princesses make it." It's just not a question that can be answered, because there are too many variables and bumps in the road.

Some kids just never, as the reader says, manage to get all the doubles. It might be time, it might be talent, it might be loss of interest. But the lutz is not the best measure. It's required for the test, but on the other hand you don't have to do all the doubles for the senior test. If you've got one really strong one, you can repeat that as a combination, and just leave out your weakest double, provided it isn't the lutz. I've seen senior tests that used a solid double axel in place of a wonky salchow or loop. My own daughter's strongest double was the lutz, so she put it in there both as one of her doubles, and in combination.

The biggest impediment to passing a Senior tests is not the skills, it's the grueling 4-minute program. Everyone who takes a senior test knows that they can do all the elements, or their coach wouldn't be letting them test. But a lot of kids just don't get well enough in shape to skate that long a program.

My point is that you shouldn't fall into the trap of saying "oh I'm one of the xx% that couldn't get to the Senior test." It's that you're one of the successful ones that met a goal, or got as far as time, talent, and inclination sent you.

Apr 2, 2011

Xanboni Camp

I'm taking a break from general info, editorializing and complaining to engage in some shameless commerce.

I'll be holding Xanboni Figureskating Camp this summer at my home rink June 6 through September 2. Camp will run Monday, Thursday, and Friday from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and will include 2 to 3 1/2 hours skating plus off-ice, snack and/or crafts each day. It is for skaters in Beta through FS 3, with an option for high Freestyle skaters if I get enough of them. You don't need to sign up for every day, or for every week. There will be a discount for skaters who sign up for at least 8 weeks. Cost of coaching plus ice will be $10 to $17 per hour depending on how many skaters (in other words, I'll drop the price as I add students).

The curriculum will be ISI and USFS skills at the skater's level (as assessed in the first week of camp). Students who skate all camp days can expect to move up at least one level. The instructors will be me, my daughter and another local skater, with a guaranteed student-teacher ratio of 4:1 or better.


  • Freestyle students will start to learn USFS Moves-in-the-Field patterns for the Pre-Preliminary and Preliminary Tests. Students that meet USFS standards can take the official test at the end of the summer (test optional, additional cost).
  • Learn to Skate students will work on strong edges, crossovers and stroking, in both the “moves” patterns and the Robert Crown pre-freestyle level patterns.
Off ice
  • Stretching, cardio, outdoors games, crafts
Supervised practice
  • All instructors on the ice while campers practice on their own
Competition and Exhibition (optional, additional cost)
  • Students who want to appear in the Robert Crown July Open Competition and/or the End-Of-Summer Exhibition can take additional privates with Nora or Xan for choreography and practice. Programs can also be practiced during camp sessions.
If you are taking private lessons with another coach, you must get your coach's permission to participate. I need five students on any given day to make this work, so let people know about the program!

If you have any questions, put them in the comments, or email me coachxan@xanboni.com.

Apr 1, 2011

Ready or not

Is testing before you're ready a waste of everyone's time, or a good idea to just put it out there? And of course there's the always fraught skipping of levels, or dodging the class tests.

But how horrible is it, to test when you're not ready, or move yourself (or have your coach move you) along?

U.S. Figure Skating and the Professional Skaters Association consider it so awful to test before you're ready that it's actually in their codes of ethics that you will not schedule a test for a student who isn't ready for it. I have seen judges publicly lay into coaches whose students don't appear ready. USFS considers basic skills to be more important than free skating; you must pass each level's basic skills test-Moves in the Field-before you can qualify to test Free Skating. I don't care how big your 6-year old's waltz jump is. If her cross overs don't cross she's not going to be able to take the Pre-Preliminary Free Skate, because she's not going to pass Moves. In competitive figure skating, whether in the Nationals track of US Figure Skating, or the recreational track of USFS Basic Skills/Test Track or ISI, you cannot compete without testing.

But let's examine it.

Stop that skater!
It catches up with you. If the coach or parent or skater just keeps pushing through levels without objective evaluation, eventually the skater will get stuck. Something stops them-- USFS test judges, or the skater's own frustration, or a skill that even the most indulgent coach or parent can't finesse or bully their way past, typically the axel. If you're wondering why your coach has not suggested that your Freestyle 2 or 3 skater not do USFS Moves tests it's because, unlike other skaters at that level, yours has been pushed through and does not have the requisite skills.

Skates all the time
If your skater is skating a lot-- more than just a class, lesson and practice or two-- you can get away with muscling past the class tests. But this too has its pitfalls. If you skip basic levels, make sure your coach is actually teaching the missing skills in privates, and that your skater is drilling them in practice. Don't be impressed by tricks like spins and half jumps, which are easier for gifted, engaged skaters to acquire than are the workhouse skills like edges, proper stroking/crossovers and basic turns.

Second opinions
Don't be afraid of them. If you're planning to push your skater through, be you coach or parents, having that outside opinion can't hurt. It's what the entire structure of competitive skating is premised on--impressing people who don't know you. If your only evaluation is coming from people with a direct emotional or financial stake in the skater, like a parent or coach, you are not getting a trustworthy evaluation, especially if your skater seems to be moving way faster or way slower through the levels than other skaters with the same age, ability, and practice time. (And by the way, Basic Skills and ISI LTS level competitions don't count. The judging is too erratic from competition to competition.)

I get so nervous
I would take a skater who falls apart under pressure into pressure situations even before they're ready. Whether this means risking a public admonishment from a US Figure Skating judge, coming in last in a competition, or setting up an exhibition or practice test, sometimes putting it out there needs to be part of the lesson.

Respect for the profession
What does it tell a skater whose coach or parent keeps pushing them through the levels when another trained professional, like a judge or a class coach suddenly tells them "no." I can't tell you the number of children who stand in class arguing with me because their coach is handing them hooey about their technique or level. The skater has been taught that all the other coaches are wrong, or even against them.

Skills are confirmed through objective evaluation. Think about who is evaluating your skater. Are they really objective? If you're not getting tested, you need to think about what you're afraid of.