Should you enforce perfect technique at lower levels (and hence hold people back until it is perfect) – or should you accept that there are differences in acceptable technique depending on your level? My local rink has started insisting on proper technique for even for the lowest levels, such as properly bent skating leg and properly extended free leg for the outside curves (UK or USFS Basic Skills Level 4, ISI does not have a corollary to this), rather than passing them if they can just hold the edge properly for a set time. What they seem to want is the easier moves at the lower levels to be done at the standard they would be done by someone who had passed the top levels.So what should a passing standard be?
All the curricula: ISI weSkate, USFS Basic Skills, UK Levels, and CANSkate, have very specific descriptions of passing standards for each skill, right down to "fall and get up" and all the way up to triple axels. Here's an example for the edge skill above, from the USFS Basic Skills book:
Forward edges held two times the skater's height, right and left forward outside. The edges are skated while moving in a circle. After balancing on two feet, begin the edges by placing the skating side arm and shoulder forward with the free shoulder held firmly behind. Pick up the foot on the outside of the circle and glide on a forward edge in a balanced position over the skating side for two counts (instructor will count)[NB- I gather for the UK, the skating foot must be held back in a stroking position]Pretty specific and clear.
If I had my preferences, a strong skating director willing to hold the line with parents, and a culture that supported it, absolutely, every single skater should be held to the standard. There is a reason for it, namely that the next skill up (cross overs in this instance) requires mastery of the prior skill or it will be too difficult. I'm working with a hockey skater right now who has never been required to balance on one foot. Needless to say, he's having difficulty keeping up in games and drills.
I know that there are rinks that are able to hold the line, but this is what happens out here in reality:
Blame the Skating Director
This is where it starts. If the skating director caves when a parent complains, rather than backing up her staff; if she lets one coach pass according to that coach's standards (this also happens with coaches who are too strict; it works both ways), then your rink effectively has no passing standards.
Blame the Coach
This is the number one reason why rinks start getting reputations for poor skaters and low standards--coaches don't care enough to hold a kid back. They pass a kid on because they don't like her or because he's a disruptive student (not kidding). They pass their own students up, sometimes skipping multiple levels, as a marketing ploy, or to consolidate all their kids in a single level for their own scheduling ease or ego-gratification. Some coaches are just incompetent, and don't understand the passing standard, or can't teach it properly. Coaches should not be allowed to skip students without an objective panel, preferably comprising people who don't know the coach OR the kid, agreeing to it (even in recreational programs).
Blame the student
Each of the curricula have about 6 to 9 skills to master per level. Often, a student will perfectly master all but one of them, and I'll tell you it is really hard, in a recreational class situation, to not pass a clearly superior student because their t-stop sucks even though you know it's going to come back to haunt them.
Blame the program
Sometimes the student will be just skimming the passing standard--they need 2 more weeks, not 3 more months at the level. This can be dealt with by splitting every level in an A, B, and even C sub-level, but not all programs have the creativity or will to do this. As far as I'm concerned, this is the obvious solution--you feel like you're passing and you get a little ego boost. Rinks don't need to have entire separate sections for the As, Bs, and Cs; they can all be in the exact same class, just working on the skills at a different standard. Which brings us to...
Blame the curriculum
Rinks routinely divide up the cross-over levels (Alpha and Beta, or Basic 4-5-6) into sublevels, but for some reason stop doing this at the higher levels, which is just mystifying. If rinks would divide FS5 (Axel) for instance, into as many as four sub-levels, kids would not be complaining they are "stuck" because they'd be passing something. This would get rid of the parents' complaints that a child couldn't pass. It would allow softy coaches to pass a student who's just too cute to leave behind.
If the reader's rink or federation has decided enough with the fuzzy passing standards, good for them. I hope they can hold the line.