Mar 26, 2015

Basic skills aren't all that basic

I've had parents in higher level classes yell at me for teaching cross overs.

Because as everyone knows, once you learn a basic component of your discipline, you never have to learn it at a higher level, ever. So once you've learned addition, it's just foolish to teach multiplication (which is really just fancy addition when you think about it.) Did you learn how to read in first grade? Hooray! You never have to read again.

Or maybe not.

Every basic skill: glides, crossovers, turns, have both basic and advanced applications. What's a spiral if not just a really really advanced one-foot glide?

You can simply do skills better as well-- you don't really need to teach power for Alpha and Beta skaters learning forwards and backwards crossovers (you can, but you don't need to). But higher level skaters need to understand how to use basic crossovers to achieve more power. And this has to be taught. If you're in an ISI curriculum, you have to learn "cut backs," i.e. back crossovers with no lift. And yet, strangely, it's not in the curriculum and parents get all bent out of shape when they see you teaching them. So much  better to let the kids figure them out on their own and do it wrong (which they all do because it's not very intuitive).

You can use basic positions learned early to remind skaters what you're looking for-- how do you push for outside back edges? Think about the first push of a backward crossover. Where should your free foot end up for a basic one-foot spin? It's the same as a nice Pre-Alpha one foot glide.

CanSkate, the Canadian Figure Skating beginner program, has incorporated this into their curriculum.
" Instead of just introducing a skill at one level and then leaving it, the skater will work on the same skill at many different stages. The coaches have a chance to introduce the skill, develop it and then perfect it over a longer period of time. One of the early skills is a push-glide sequence. In the old system, it was introduced only in stage two, and then skaters moved on to other skills in different stages. But now the push-glide sequence is part of every stage."
(CanSkate also gets it right by not differentiating hockey skills and figure skating skills in the early stages-- it's all just skating skills).

Basic skills are called that for a reason-- they are the basis for everything that comes after. You can't learn a proper jump if you don't understand how to check out of a turn. You can't get power if you never understand how to use your blade properly.

What are some examples of advanced applications of basic skills that have helped you or your skater?


  1. This is a timely post for me. I don't understand why my coach wants to fix my basic skills, such as stroking, crossovers, etc. She even corrected me when I was practicing on my own. Of course, I understand how one thing leads to another. I just have to remind myself that there's always room for improvement.

    1. Sometimes it's not "fixing" so much as "taking it to a higher level." Turning a double into a triple, so to speak.

  2. Crossovers, crossovers, crossovers. Forward and back, they can *always* be improved. Nothing breaks a program like sloppy crossovers, and nothing can sell a low level skater like sexy ones.