Jul 14, 2011


About one in five skaters will jump and spin clockwise. Despite this meaning that they jump to the right (think about it), this tendency is called "lefty" jumping. It is somewhat, but not entirely, correlated with left-handedness, although there are right-handed skaters who jump lefty (me) and left-handed skaters who jump righty.

First, let me state emphatically that it doesn't matter which way you jump. There is no benefit or deduction for choosing one over the other. It is easier to teach a skater to jump and spin in the same direction, but again, nothing in the rules or in general technique would theoretically prevent a skater from jumping one way and spinning the other. Most highly competitive skaters now have spins in both directions. Ballet dancers have always done multiple rotation jumps in both directions.

Here's a basic guide:

How can you tell which way a skater jumps
If you are a parent, you basically don't need to worry about it. The coach will figure it out. If you're the kind of parent that feels a little smug and happy when your kid is different from everyone else, and you've got a lefty, I give you leave to brag (lefty skaters are cool, everyone knows it).

The easiest way is to just ask them to jump and do a half turn in the air. Most reasonably talented kids can do this on the ice by the time they're working on back crossovers. You can also watch their bunny hops (kicking with the right foot generally, but not always, indicates a righty or counter-clockwise skater; left kick is a clockwise skater,). There are other tests- have the skater face away from you, then give them something. They will automatically turn in their dominant direction. Ask them to spin. Then ask them to spin the other way and inquire as to which one they liked better (they won't always spin right off the bat in the dominant direction, strangely). Have them skate to the exit and step out without stopping. If they lead with their right foot, they're probably righties. Watch to see which foot they lead with going upstairs. Righties will generally lead with the right foot.

Which hand they write with is not the best indicator. A lot of right-handed people skate lefty.

Very young children have sometimes not established a dominant spin direction, or will change. Don't worry about it.

When should you choose
Most coaches will settle in on one direction or the other as soon as the skater starts to jump and spin (around Basic 6/7 or ISI Freestyle 1). But really you can play around with this all the way up to the back scratch or the axel if the skater really doesn't seem to have a strong dominance. I've turned a FS2 skater around; she was fine. I switched in FS3 (see the whole story below).

Can you jump one way, spin the other
This is great, but the way skating is taught in the U.S. a skater will have a much easier time if they spin and jump in the same direction. This is because the basic backscratch spin position is identical to the air position in all jumps. So then you only have to learn it once. However, if the skater and coach are willing to devote the practice time to it, no harm in being able to spin both directions. ISI Freestyle 9 has a reverse axel as an optional element, and FS7 has a reverse jump as a required element. Opposite direction spin in the IJS competitions counts as a feature, and therefore earns points.

Can you do both
Yes. Awesome.

What if the first coach gets it wrong
Eventually someone will notice.

What it the class coach gets it wrong
This happens a lot, especially with new coaches who don't know the kids in the program, and with inexperienced coaches. With adults it's not an issue because they'll announce their preference, but children need to be taught to tell the coach that they are reverse/lefty/clockwise jumpers (whatever terminology is in use at your rink.). In particular, coaches who don't know the kids very well will assume incompetence before they manage to get their brain cells lined up and manage to ask the poor child which way they jump. I've seen it happen over and over. Further, if you've got a pretty talented skater who suddenly gets incompetent when the jumps start, gently ask the coach if they've thought about trying the student jumping in the other direction. When I started skating I did not know anything about this. Couldn't jump or spin to save my life. YEARS into training, after laboriously learning to jump and spin counterclockwise, a Patch coach finally noticed that everything was stronger clockwise. He tried me jumping and spinning that way and glorioski.


  1. As a clockwise skater I would say if your can do it either way okay, go counterclockwise! It makes freestyle sessions so much easier.

    I have the bad fortune of being a clockwise skater who is heavily right side dominant. I am certain this is why I can't do a loop- my left leg is just not strong enough (I also can't do a left leg kicking bunny hop to save my life- I'm baffled at how the feet go). I think this was due to years of poor dance training (yes ballet dancers jump/spin in both directions, but only well trained ones, many studios only focus on spinning to the right- since it is easier for most people and then routines look good.) I just cannot spin to the left (CCW). Hopefully a kid won't have as much of the strength issues because they won't have 25 years of right-sideness to fight.

    My one other though: If you are a coach teaching a skater to spin for the very first time, and they are spinning clockwise on their left foot don't say "Don't spin on that foot, that's wrong, your spin should be on the other foot." Instead say "we are learning a forward spin, you need to use the other foot. The backspin uses the left foot." That way the skater keeps trying both, rather than not doing another backspin for 2 years and then cursing you when realizing their natural inclination was to do a backspin, but now they can't do them and it's going to take another 3 years to master, at which point they'll change their blades and be back to square one...

    /oh wait... sorry. I have backspin issues, and I totally blame the coach who told me I was spinning "wrong" rather than encouraging me to do both.

  2. This is what makes spins tricky-- you spin in your dominant direction, but standing on your weak side. This is why I teach one-foot entries from the get-go. That way the skater understands which foot carries the weight.

  3. now you have me wondering if my daughter has so much trouble spinning b/c she is spinning the wrong way. Everything came so easily to her until the scratch and backspin but she really struggles with those. How quickly should kids "get" those?

  4. I couldn't really do a one foot spin until I started practicing it in both directions. I continue to spin both ways, and they feel about the same. Equally bad, that is. My jumps definitely have a dominant side.

    I wish someone had told me to start working on my backspin at the same time I started working on forward.

  5. and why do they introduce the backspin as part of a changefoot spin instead of introducing it as a separate element? Seems like it would be less confusing to learn is separately but maybe that just 'cause I can't even do a forward spin

    1. a back spin is harder to do by it's self than in the in the middle of a spin you are more comfortable with.

  6. I am a CCW skater who is left side dominant, so leg dominance doesn't always determine rotation dominance, and with spins/jumps rotation dominance is much more important.

    I spin equally well on either foot, but I prefer starting on my left foot for moves (when most people will start on their right foot). I also have a bit of a problem in doubles where I pull my right foot in the air, and land on both feet with more weight on my left foot. One day my coach noticed me doing a T-stop with my left foot and asked me if I was a lefty (referring to handwriting). I said no. She said that was really strange (to be left foot dominant, but write with my right hand and skate CCW).

    I rotate terribly CW, though. I can barely eek out CW singles off-ice, and I can't do a CW axel off ice, I feel very stiff and can't get the snap needed to rotate it. But a CCW axel came very naturally off-ice, a week after learning it I was landing it fully rotated.

  7. ISI curriculum starts the backspin way later than USFS. It's so crucial for the axel jump, really they should not be introduced in the same level. I'd say probably preceding loop, in FS3?

    The problem is, a CORRECT backspin is much harder than forward spin because it needs to be on the outside edge. That's why the FS3 change-foot-spin can be passed even if it's inside-inside-inside instead of inside-outside-inside.

    Spinning in both directions will help the twizzles later on. Learning half-jumps both directions helps choreographing footwork... Only if we have time to tackle them all!

  8. Lots of spinning questions here. I'll put some responses in a post about spinning, coming up. For one thing, I've sent an email to the ISI rules guru Randy Winslip regarding the FS3 "back" spin. Watch this space!