Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rink Culture: The rink etiquette diagram

A lot of skaters have asked me a very valid question recently: How, exactly, are you supposed to get out of the way when you have no idea where skaters are going?

Good point. On a crowded public session it's difficult to get out of the way, and that's when everyone is skating in the same direction. When you get on a freestyle session, skaters are suddenly flying in all directions! Forwards, backwards, around in circles, up in the air...the list goes on, and the sudden changes of direction can come as a complete surprise even to a knowledgeable skater. Fast skaters are especially shocking, because they can be at one end of the rink one minute, and in the blink of an eye they'll be right next to you. 

I believe that there's no sure-fire way to stay out of the way constantly, but you can be as helpful as possible to your fellow skaters by knowing where skaters usually jump, spin and do footwork and spirals. 

I drew a quick diagram of a rink, indicating where most skaters will jump. I also included straight line, circular and serpentine footwork sequences. The diagram looks pretty confusing, but I included a key to help you out! 

Obviously, not ALL skaters will jump in these spots. It changes at different rinks and some skaters just jump wherever they find the space! Even if it's not perfect, I hope it helps!






Saturday, January 1, 2011

Skating Myths: Tall people can't figure skate

"You're a figure skater? But, you're so...tall."


And long-limbed. And gangly. I know. And I must admit, watching the petite skaters on TV makes me feel like quite the misfit. I see skaters about 5'5" in height complaining that they're 'giants', and I want to cry (Just kidding! Kind of). In fact, I just did a little googling and found that the average female singles skater is 5'4" or 1.63m.

...and I'm 5'11".

So, is there a point at which people become too tall to figure skate? Will there come a time when, regardless of how hard I work, I simply won't improve? I don't believe so. I believe that 'Tall people can't figure skate' is a myth.

The arguments are:


  • The more body mass you have, the more you have to lift off the ice. Therefore, a greater force is required for a tall skater to jump.
  • Shorter legs have a quicker 'burst' of energy.
  • Tall skaters have a higher center of gravity, making it easier to fall and more difficult to spin.
  • Starting and stopping long limbs is more difficult.
And I'll be the first to admit that they're all true! There's no denying these physical disadvantages, but that doesn't mean that tall people can't skate. 

I can do doubles, despite my height. I plan on doing triples, too, and I will not be letting my height get in the way of that. I won't be going to the Olympics, but I can skate! 

Taller skaters have other advantages. We have beautiful extensions, can do extraordinary spirals if we put our minds to it, and our spins, if performed correctly, will look great. We can also jump well, not despite our height, but because of it. Our long limbs can vault us into the air, providing we have enough muscle to support our body mass. 

The point is, we can skate. And I'm sure, with the correct training, a very tall skater could go to the Olympics too. Carolina Kostner is 5'7" and she's a fantastic skater. 

I don't think a certain body type should ever be ruled out when it comes to skating. I've seen short skaters, tall skaters, bottom-heavy and top-heavy skaters land incredible jumps and perform incredible spins. 

So what if there aren't many 5'11" female skaters in the world? I like a challenge. 

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Skating Psychology: An Introduction to Skating Mentality

“What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? …An idea. Resilient... highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it's almost impossible to eradicate.”

That quote is from Inception (2010). It’s a great movie. I’ve seen it twice, and both times this quote has jumped out at me because it’s so true, particularly in skating. Skating is a mental sport, and what you do with your thoughts can and will affect what you do on the ice. If you’re thinking about falling on that axel, you can bet you’ll fall on that axel. If you let a little doubt sneak its way into your mind, trust me, it will destroy you. Skating would be a lot easier if we could simply tell our bodies what to do, and let our bodies do it, but unfortunately it is human nature to question and to doubt. Questioning and doubting is fantastic for scientific discoveries and such, but not so fantastic when you’re trying to land a double axel. As soon as we think, ‘What if…?’, our previous certainty that we would land a jump is eradicated. Why? Because once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate.

My biggest issue is thinking about tiredness. As soon as I think to myself, ‘My legs are tired,’ then my legs are tired. It doesn’t matter if they’re ACTUALLY tired or not, if my brain tells me they are, it must be so. They feel wobbly and floppy and empty, and I feel like there is no way I could possibly take off for this jump, let alone land it. My next biggest issue is my ‘I’ve landed 9/10 double loops. If I fall on the 10th, I’m a failure. I’m going to fall. I’m going to fall. I’M GOING TO FALLl…’ mentality. Similarly, if I’ve landed all my double flips one session, I WILL fall on the one I show my coach.

I can’t get these thoughts out of my head now. They’re there and I just have to get used to that. I think that everyone has one of those little quirks that affect their skating. I don’t think we need to IGNORE our thoughts, I think we just need to learn to manipulate our thoughts to our advantage. More on that in another post!

Question: What thoughts mess up your jumps and spins? How do you keep a clear head? 

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My Next Post: Rink Culture: Freestyle Session Rules (Part 1)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Rink Culture: Pushy Parents or Pushover Parents?

You’ve seen them at the rink: They march in every morning like they’re on a mission, their little skater trailing behind nervously. They send Little Skater off for an intense warm up, then hand her those beautiful, expensive, high-level skates, and tell her that if they’re not on in 30 seconds, she can’t go to that sleepover on Friday. When Little Skater is practicing, Pushy Parent stands near the boards and barks instructions: “Bend your knees! Why are you skating so slowly? Hold that spin for 400 rotations, now…1, 2, 3, 4….” Poor Little Skater is only 10 years old, but she’s having the mentality and discipline of a 25-year-old elite athlete forced upon her by her Pushy Parent.

And then there are the opposites: The Pushover Parents. They stroll into the rink – a few minutes late, but that’s okay – and sit down. Pushover Parent will greet a few rink friends while Little Skater finishes up a level on her Nintendo DS. Then, the skate-tying begins: “Are your socks comfortable? Is that bruise/blister/paper cut on your little toe okay? Do you want me to put an extra band-aid on it?” Pushover Parent will kneel down and tie Little Skaters boots while Little Skater sips hot chocolate that Pushover Parent bought from the coffee machine. The skates will be too loose, so Pushover Parent will start again, only to be told they’re too tight and must be redone. When Little Skater finally steps on the ice, a few minutes will be spent retying hair (became mom did it wrong), sipping from her water bottle, and greeting friends. Then Little Skater will begin practicing her little jumps and spins that she mastered years ago, in order to avoid working on ‘That Horrible Jump’, and Pushover Parent will simply smile proudly and wave at her Darling Skater, then get the camera out and take pictures to send to Grandma.

So which is worse, the Pushy Parent or the Pushover Parent? I think it’s all dependent on the skater, and what she wants to achieve. Obviously, if the skater is 13 years old and working on her crossovers, with no intention of going to the Olympics, there’s no need to bombard her with strict training sessions, off-ice schedules and eating plans. However, if she’s 13 years old and hopes to have her triple salchow-double toe consistent next practice, there’s more reason to push.

But still, it’s not as simple as that. If you have a 13-year-old skating prodigy who is passionate about skating and hopes to be the next Yu-Na Kim, you may not need to push her as much as you think. Skaters have different personalities and mentalities; some are incredibly passionate and very self-disciplined, and they will need absolutely no encouragement, bribes or death-threats to get them to the rink. Others, however, lack this discipline. It doesn’t mean they’re not passionate, and it doesn’t mean they don’t love skating, it just means they don’t have the same discipline. This may be because they’re still young, and they haven’t developed this mentality yet, or it could simply be because they don’t have that kind of personality. If a skater is passionate but undisciplined, this is where a Pushy Parent comes in handy, to keep her on track.

There are dangers of becoming too much of a Pushy Parent, though. Yes, being incredibly passionate about your skater’s success is important, and she most likely loves your support and interest, but in some cases, too much pushing ends in disaster. You never want to make your skater feel guilty about leaving the sport, but more importantly, you never want her to leave the sport because of you. If you push her too hard, she may be reluctant or even scared to tell you she wants to quit, because she thinks it will break your heart. Even worse, if you push your skater too hard, she may stop enjoying the sport she used to be incredibly passionate about. She may begin to dread her practices, because she doesn’t want to disappoint you with her ‘sloppy’ spins and jumps. A parent’s support and approval is incredibly important to any child, and any child will stop enjoying something that involves their parent constantly picking at faults.

Similarly, there are also dangers of becoming too much of a Pushover Parent. If your child needs a bit of a push, and she’s not getting it, she’ll stop improving. When she stops improving, she’ll stop achieving what she wanted to achieve. When this happens, she’ll lose motivation. And when she loses motivation, it’s pretty much all over. If your child naturally lacks discipline, but wants to and has the potential to achieve things in the sport, allowing her to get away with being lazy is letting her down.

When I started skating, my parents were somewhat indifferent. They rarely watched me skate, and I could tell they didn’t totally approve of the sport. They didn’t really fit into the ‘pushy’ OR he ‘pushover’ categories, because they weren’t a part of my skating at all. What I wanted, more than anything, were Pushy Parents. I enviously watched girls who sat in the rink lobby, listening to instructions, criticism and advice from their parent. I wanted parents who would wake me up early in the mornings to skate before school, watch and encourage me through all of my practices, and keep me totally focused on my skating. Instead, I had parents who asked, “What on Earth is that?” when I told them I landed my first ever axel, who wouldn’t let me skate more than a couple times a week, and who made me get the bus by myself to practice. I dreamed of the day when my mother hurried me to get in the car because I was late for a practice, or encouraged me to try that jump “one more time”. But the thing is, although that was what I wanted, it wasn’t what I needed. Because I didn’t have the Pushy Parents I had always dreamed of having, I had to count on myself to attend all my practices and lessons, and to use my sessions purposefully. This has caused me to develop a very disciplined personality, because in order to succeed, I had to be self-disciplined. Recently, my skating situation changed and I have found myself skating 5 times a week, and having 2 lessons a week with a serious coach who gives me spreadsheets of off-ice training exercises each month. This sudden change admittedly has been hard on my body and mind, and sometimes (mainly at 5.30am), I haven’t felt totally motivated to go to the rink. However, the discipline I have developed over the past few years has pushed me through each practice, with no need for my parents to push me. In fact, I now believe that having Pushy Parents would have ruined my skating. I can do this my own way, and I think a Pushy Parent would irritate me more than anything.

I think the grass is often greener on the other side in these situations: skaters with Pushy Parents want them to chill out a little, skaters with Pushover Parents could really do with some encouragement. It’s difficult to change your parents, so change yourself instead. If you have Pushy Parents, work with their requests and try hard. If you have Pushover Parents, try pushing yourself.

Question: Do you have Pushy Parents or Pushover Parents? Which would you prefer? Skating Parents, what type of parent do you think you are, and how do you balance on the line between Pushy and Pushover?

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If YOU have a question to ask me, let me know! I'm eager to answer any questions, so don't be shy! Just comment on any of my posts or Youtube videos, or send a message to my Youtube inbox or profile, filling out the following form:


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My Next Post: Skating Psychology: An Introduction to Skating Mentality