Nov 18, 2011

Review: The Forgotten Art of Skating Etiquette

I purchased the new DVD published by the Professional Skaters Association, The Forgotten Art of Skating Etiquette. Complaints about skating etiquette are probably in the top 3 queries here--along with coaching changes and, lately, weeks-long discussion on underwear (just kidding).

The DVD hits all the standard rules: skating patterns, spin area, right of way, off-ice behavior. It talks about neatness, avoidance of cliques, proper attire and coaching suggestions. It's got some nice bits of humor and the kids in it clearly had a lot of fun making it. There's a great scene of a locker room tantrum, someone violating the 5-second rule (yuk), and a dreams-of-glory moment when one skater pushes another one over on the ice.  We've all wanted to do that.

The host is a young woman with a sincere delivery (although she needs to learn how to use a teleprompter without looking like she's reading) but I would like to see a host with more gravitas. Specifically, I think Jimmie Santee, the Executive Director of the PSA and the writer of the DVD, should have been the host. It would give the whole thing more a tone of "I'm sick of reading the grievances about shit that could be fixed with a little courtesy and common sense."  The younger, unknown person leading the DVD just makes you think of some sweet new coach who, gosh, just wants everyone to get along, 'kay?

Some of the common etiquette lapses it misses is dealing with divots, lefty skaters, and high and low skaters sharing practice sessions. It also entirely leaves out group lessons. I guess we don't have to be nice to each other in group.

It also doesn't address non-collegiality among coaches. I have seen coaches deliberately stand in the line of sight between another coach and her student; talk on cell phones during lessons, ignore class skaters whom they do not teach in privates, ignore private lesson students if their star student is also on the ice (or worse, ignore their own private student to watch and discuss someone else's star). I've seen coaches stepping off the ice to go talk to a parent (of another coach) or to talk to parents during a group class that they're supposed to be teaching.  I've seen group lessons in the lutz corner on practice sessions (in fact, large group lessons on practice ice at all), and coaches who refuse to discipline their own skaters, including a coach making jokes about one of their skaters injuring someone. You get the idea.

Not to mention trolling innocent bloggers.

What's missing from the script is any suggestions for fixing a program where etiquette has given way to every-skater-for-herself. Having just left a program like that, I can tell you, having everyone watch a DVD isn't going to fix problems. Every coach and high level skater I know understands these rules. The PSA should be helping coaches and programs with ideas to fix problems internally, and should be stating how the PSA can support coaches and skating directors who try to clean things up.

The package would also be stronger with printed materials-poster-sized print outs of the suggested practice patterns that are used in the video, and blank sheets for rinks to create their own (the practice pattern at my rink, for instance, is slightly different than the one proposed). A small booklet with the common-sense rules from the video would also be a nice addition; or even several, so any coach buying this could give one to each of his or her students.

This video is a great idea, and PSA is exactly the right institution to promote it. I call this a great start. The content needs to be more comprehensive, with some print extras, and it needs to be backed up by an actual project of the PSA to improve courtesy on the ice.

Finally, at $15, this 10-minute video is a little pricey.  I think the PSA would better serve the problem--the increasing loss of civility and common sense on practice sessions--by simply sending these out free to every coach in their membership as they renew.  That way, everyone in the industry would know that the PSA is serious about returning collegiality to the rink.


  1. $15 for a 10 minute video? I guess they have to cover production costs, but it almost seems like it would have been more effective to just post it on youtube!

    I'd love to hear more thoughts on group lesson etiquette. Our freestyle groups are on-going turf battles between coaches. As a student, it can get very frustrating! And in our peaceful, relatively no-drama rink, it is just surprising. I guess passive-agressive behavior is the way we manage to keep the peace- no one ever actually talks about it. So it doesn't get better, but it doesn't get worse...

  2. Well, I assume they paid a videographer, an editor and someone to print it, but other than that, this thing does NOT have what could be called "production values." Posting it to YouTube, the website and then doing a big push to get people to watch it would have been a great idea. The problem with it is that it addresses the rules, which everyone already knows, and not the core of the problem which is an utter loss of collegiality and respect at a lot of rinks.

    Group lesson etiquette is a great idea for a post; it's in the hopper!

  3. The comment about group lessons was very trenchant. Adults pick up on etiquette usually, and a soft word from a coach is all that's needed for a correction. But, teens and below in group lessons? It's a nightmare. Yet of the 3 rinks I've taken group at, none of them has ever talked about ice etiquette.
    At my present rink, group practice ice is a nightmare. Dozens of people, 95% under 4 feet tall zipping around the ice to their own agenda. I've been run into by kids a lot, and that's with me trying to avoid them
    The coaches on practice ice don't enforce any ice etiquette. I was knocked down by a kid skating backwards and the skating director (who witnessed it) said to me "Oh, him, he's a danger on the ice."
    Just, Friggin' great.
    If this sport is supposed to help kids mature, and learn self reliance and so on, there ought to be some kind of recognized etiquette enforcement at the group level. But I haven't seen it.

  4. The captcha was 'legram'. How appropriate.

  5. There is an interesting question here about ice etiquette and skating backwards. Someone at my rink had a real go at me about never looking where I'm going (which was REALLY unfair as I am constantly stopping what I am doing to give way to people, but anyway) - and now I'm struggling to understand how you are supposed to practice things going backwards (especially dances) where you can't always be looking over your shoulder without putting yourself off balance. Any thoughts?

    (Oh and it wasn't a coach, or anyone I had gone too near to/run into - just a random busybody!!)

  6. There's nearly no such thing as "going backwards" in figure skating. Even when your feet are moving backwards, your upper body is generally looking in the direction you're going. The exceptions are low level skaters (esp. swizzles), the lutz, and yes, certain parts of certain dances.

    Unfortunately both you and the observer had it right-- you either have to constantly stop and check to make sure your path is clear, or you have to not practice those things on crowded sessions (the exception is the lutz, which has a clear pattern--others on the ice are obligated to yield to lutzes). If you a re working with a coach or dance partner, you can do the true backward things, because you have someone with eyes forward.

    As far as ice etiquette, if the person commenting was truly random, then they are in fact in violation of a bigger breach of etiquette, namely if it's neither criminal behavior, or affecting you directly, stay out of it.

    You NEVER do back spirals on crowded sessions.

  7. How about back edge pulls? When I first learned them, I was told not to look over my shoulder, but perhaps that was not correct. I think if I look too much, the quality of the pulls goes down.

  8. Oh, and nothing infuriates me like the coach who

    -is skating forwards
    -has a student who is learning backwards, i.e. is not good enough to turn her shoulders
    -is looking at the student's feet instead of who is behind the student
    -blames the resulting accident on the student instead of herself

  9. AMS, another exception. And again, you have to use your judgment. On a crowded session, or one with a lot of lower level skaters, I'd say no to back edge pulls unless you have someone running interference for you. On a high session, people are going to be aware that these are a "blind" skill and will take care to stay out of the way.

  10. My number one pet peeve is coaches (one in particular) who ALWAYS gets in the way of everyone else on the ice. Meandering around the ice following her skater instead of either skating round paying attention to where she's going and where others are going, or standing at the boards and waiting for the skater to finish. Sending her skater to do something right where someone else is on path for in field moves or jump set up. Cutting accross our patterns in field moves or jumps or spins for no good reason. She does this to other skaters regardless of whether we are just practicing, in a group lesson or in a private lesson. Obviously if i'm just practicing i have to give way to skaters in a lesson, but near misses with other coaches are EXTREMELY rare as they can see people practicing and avoid them, this coach is either oblivious or (more likely) deliberately causing trouble.

    My other one is young beginner level skaters (low level single jumps) who have seemingly been told not to move for anyone, even if that person is in a lesson and they are practicing on their own. Most of these are taught by the coach mentioned above.

    The higher level skaters (doubles) at my rink won't jump on top of people, they will run the set up again if someone is in the way. It's the lower level ones who think it's ok to do their jump anyway, even if i'm standing right where they're going to land (when I say standing, i don't randomly stand in the middle of the ice, I mean waiting to start a field moves pattern or talking to my coach in a lesson, or working on footwork).

  11. I think you have to distinguish between poor etiquette, deliberate obstruction/interference, and simple lack of experience. Younger/lower level skaters are less likely to have the skill or ability to think on their feet, and will complete that jump pattern no matter what. Some skaters have not been taught these rules, or learned to skate at a rink where they didn't enforce them. And yes, sadly, there are skaters and coaches who simply try to make it unpleasant for others.