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.


  1. "The biggest impediment to passing a Senior tests is not the skills, it's the grueling 4-minute program."

    I think a lot of people really discount just how tough it is to skate for 4 minutes, adding in jumps, spins, and footwork. I see kids who are good at skating a solid 1:30 program, and as soon as a program increases up to 2:00+, they really struggle and are breathing hard coming off the ice. At Juvenile level, my daughter really had to add on some off-ice conditioning classes to get in better shape.

  2. I agree that the 4-minute program is the kicker.

    I had one chance to take the Senior freestyle in the summer leading up to college. I knew that if I didn't pass it then, I would have an uphill (let's say, oh, maybe Mt. Everest - like) challenge to keep my endurance going in college.

    My jumps (dbl flip and lutz) stayed with me about three years, but the endurance for 4-minute program faded that summer.

    I would love to know the % of Novice/Junior skaters go on to pass their Senior test. Does the USFS(A) put out any figures like that?

    Thanks for the great post!

  3. Thank you Xan for your thoughtful response. The questions emerged from a discussion on skating goals: for an adult onset skater with average ability / resources yet strong determination, are triple jumps or senior test realistic goals? My career goal is a single axel so those are out of the question, but it may be interesting for parents of younger skaters.

    ITA passing tests is not a the only goal for skaters, I just thought it gives a reasonably achievable benchmark, unlike "making the Olympics". The preliminary population consists of skaters who already put in more serious work to be at where they are, and at least for some moments they want to "skate well".

    For the serious academic achievers, knowing how prestigious a certain doctorate degree or professional certification is helps them setting career goals. Talents, health, resources, and determination are all considered in the big picture, lack of one thing would require compensation from other things.

    Thank you for the insight on the grueling program length, that really helps too!

  4. Jane, Sorry it took so long to get to your questions! It's been in the queue forever.

    For a strong adult skater who is confident that she/he will not injure themselves, and who has a good coach, the axel is no harder than it is for kids. An adult skater who can get an axel can probably also do a double salchow; the jump's not that much more challenging.

  5. Hi Xan, passing the Senior tests is actually one of my long term goals. This was an interesting post. I always wonder how I will feel if I never make it through Senior freestyle. Now I know, that I should feel that I made it as far as I possibly could on my individual talent/time/ability. I started skating at 12 but did not start seriously skating (more than one hour a week) until a year and a half later. I am now 14 and have not taken any freestyle tests, but am working on the 2nd and 3rd mif tests. It's very difficult to find info on passing Senior tests that isn't geared toward National-competitor, triple-jumping skaters, so it was great to find this post.

  6. Anonymous 14-yr-old, you're exactly where my daughter was at your age, and she ended up triple-gold: Senior test in Moves, Free Skating and Dance before she graduated highschool. Good luck!

  7. Sooo, what's the best off ice prep you can do to prep for the four minute program?

  8. Anon- There is an extremely involved fitness technique called periodization which works over several months time that builds up both strength and endurance through a coordinated schedule of aerobic and anaerobic (strength, cardio, and endurance) training. There is literally nothing in sport that comes close to the level of fitness that a Senior skater needs to be at. Your best bet is to listen to your coach. When she says you need to do certain training regimen, believe it. If you are working at least at the Novice level and you are not doing the same amount of off-ice as on-ice training, ask your coach why not.

  9. For a strong adult skater who is "confident that she/he will not injure themselves..." That's a very smart way of phrasing the physical and psychological limit of an average adult figure skater, thank you Xan! :)