Apr 9, 2015

Bunny hops are not just for fun

Why Learn To Skate?

By which I don't mean why learn to skate-- that's obvious. Because it's fun.

Learn To Skate (also known as weSkate, and similar to CanSkate, and Basic Skills) is where you get the fundamentals, including the part where skating is both fun and mental. If you don't get it here, you're not going to get it in Freestyle.

There's a skill in every level of every beginner curriculum that coaches blow off. "I'm not going to hold a kid back just because she can't do [XX].

Here's the skills, and here's what happens if you let it go.

PreAlpha or Basic 1
Skill that teachers let slide (so to speak): One foot glide on the weak foot.
Consequence: Really really hard and frustrating to learn crossovers
Outcome: they switch to hockey, or quit skating because it isn't fun and everyone is better than them

Alpha/Basic 2-3
Skill: Proper underpush (i.e. no toe push)
Consequence: since weSkate and Basic Skills are set up to teach a skill and then basically drop it until the kid decides to do USFS testing, toe pushes become embedded in a skater's muscle memory, and they will never unlearn it. Watch for a post about the curriculum model that drops a skill once you move to the next level.
Outcome: competitive decision made for you. I'm not saying every kid wants to or should be a competitive skater. But why make that decision for them by teaching poor skills at the outset.

Beta/Basic 5
Skill: t-stops, especially on the "hard" foot.
Consequence: snow plow stopping in the higher levels, which just looks stupid. The close-foot T position is also the basic position for a mohawk turn. Think about it.
Outcome: the embarrassment of the utter disbelief on the FS5 teacher's face when she finds out you can't do a T-stop.

Gamma/ Basic 6-7
Skill: hockey stop
Consequence: the hockey stop teaches opposition much more effectively even than drilling turns. You can make a turn without really understanding opposition. But you can't do a hockey top without getting it right.
Outcome: Poorly executed turns. Also faceplanting on 60-second drills (also never completing it in under 60 seconds)

Delta/Basic 7-8
Skill: bunny hop
Consequence: the  bunny hop teaches the basic lift and landing for every jump. Shoulders square, rock to the toe, lift the free knee through. Land on your toe pick. It also requires an absolutely solid understanding of right and left (this is harder than you think, for kids as old as 10).
Outcome: let this skill go, and that kid will struggle with every single jump.

I could go on: waltz jumps that are taught with the free leg already behind on the landing (this is a consequence of the stupid commonly used term "landing position" to mean "check out position"). Pivots that quickly just turn into spins. Never teaching mazurkas (I'm looking at you, ISI.) Back spins on the wrong edge.  Toe loops that take off forwards.

Skaters: take the time and learn the techniques properly.  Coaches: keep kids in each level until they've mastered every skill.  Skating directors support your staff by letting them keep kids in levels, and your skaters by having other classes that they can do while they're mastering the boring stuff.

In the end, it will catch up with you. If you get to testing, the judges are not going to let this stuff slide, and if a skater has been getting away with it, they're not going to understand what those judges are talking about.

What skill do you wish you or your skater had really mastered before moving on?


  1. Lutz, in the last level at our rink (USFS Freeskate 6). My daughter graduated from skating school, doesn't get to do group classes anymore, but still struggles with Lutz. Sure she was excited to pass the last level, but I wish she stayed in the group classes until she mastered all the skills they teach there.

    1. Ask the FS6 coach or the skating director about creating specialty classes for higher level kids-- moves, power, jumps, choreography, etc. are all great ways for rinks to keep upper level students engaged.

  2. Bunny hops are the work of the devil. Coaches be all "Stay off your toepick, at least until I tell you to pitch forward on it and hurl yourself into the void while kicking forward and praying you get that second toepick assist without killing yourself or anyone around you."

  3. I disagree. Axels (of any rotational level) are the scariest. Bunny hops and waltz jumps are the prep for the stupid axel. The forward take off, especially at speed on that long front edge is nerve wracking.