- How old should my child be before s/he starts skating?
- How often should my child be skating?
- What kind of equipment does my child need?
- How do I buy skates for my child?
- Should I buy figure skates or hockey skates?
- Why are there different kinds of blades for figure skates?
- How often do I need to sharpen my skates?
- Are spin trainers any good?
- What happens after CanSkate?
- We have a skater who is in STAR Skate and s/he is practicing his/her skills. What are skills?
- What is a Freeskate?
- We have a skater who is in STARSkate and s/he is practicing his/her dances. What are the dances?
- Please explain the different jumps to us.
1. How old should my child be before s/he or she starts skating?
Generally, most children are ready to learn to skate between the ages of 3 and 5. The decision to start them in a program depends on their attention span and their level of interest in skating. It's important to make sure that the skates fit them properly and that their ankles are well-supported.
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2. How often should my child be skating?
This depends on the program. It is enough for children in the KidSkate program to skate one half hour per week to introduce them to the love of skating. Ideally, skaters in the CanSkate program skate at least twice a week in order to make progress. Generally these skaters are working towards some personal goals which may involve figure skating, hockey or ringette. A Senior level freeskater should skate a minimum of three times a week with four times per week being ideal. Advanced figure skaters will train more often and sessions will be longer depending on training goals
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3. What kind of equipment does my child need?
First and foremost, your child needs good skates. The kind of skates suitable for your child will depend on the program that you're enrolling him/her in and on your child's size and strength. Some skate brands will be more suitable for your child than others. In general we recommend that you don't buy molded (plastic) figure skates. They usually don't flex well enough through the ankle to allow a proper knee bend and range of motion. Ask your coach or our Program Director, to look at your child and recommend some options.
The second most important thing is a CSA approved hockey-style helmet. All skaters in the CanSkate and CanSkate for Preschool program are required to wear one. It is recommended that the skater in the Adult Skate and the StarSkate program wear them as well.
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4. How do I buy skates for my child?
There's no such thing as weak ankles, however, there are many skates being sold with weak ankle support! Pay attention to the thickness of the leather in the ankle area. Look for thick leather in this area. They will mold to the feet over time. Your child should be able to wiggle their toes and the heel should fit snuggly. A properly fitted skate is usually one size smaller than your normal shoe size. Avoid wearing thick socks. A thin acrylic blend of sock or stocking allows the skate to have a snug fit that allows the toes to be relaxed in the toe box.
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5. Should I buy figure skates or hockey skates?
The obvious response here is, "it depends on what kind of skating your child wants to do". Realistically, the beginner has to learn a set of basic skating skills starting with balance, posture, stroking and stopping. These can be learned on either type of skate.
The toe picks on figure skates need 'getting used to'. They are not used for very basic skating (stroking, cross-cuts) but are required for proper execution of many jumps and spins. Your child will achieve more of the fundamentals when they learn on figure skates perhaps because the lessons concentrate on technique.
The blade of a figure skate is wider than that of a hockey skate. The profile or rocker, is intended to have the right radius of curvature along the blade for moves where the skater is shifting his/her weight to the front or to the back of the skates. There are different styles of blades for dance figures and freestyle. Hockey blades are short and narrow with a deep grind and highly rockered, especially at the ends, and are designed for maximum agility. Blades for goalies aren't as rockered and have a shallower grind.
Hockey skaters tend to skate more hunched over and are much more concerned with quick starts stops and direction change. Figure skaters tend to skate in a more upright position and more fluid movements.
Figure skates generally cost more than hockey skates. The boots are usually made of leather and require maintenance. Figure skates have a 1 1/2 inch heel. They should not be used for hockey. The blades protrude more and can cause injury. Hockey skates can be used for figure skating, however, your progress will be limited.
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6. Why are there different kinds of blades for figure skates?
There are 4 kinds of blades:
- Freestyle - these have large toe picks for jumps and deep grind so you won't skid and they have less rocker for more acceleration
- Patch or Figure - these have the shallowest grind for maximum glide and tiny toe picks which are used for pushes and stops
- Dance - these are shorter blades so the skater won't step on their partner's blade - compared to freestyle, they have smaller toe picks and more rocker to make turns easier and they also are narrower and have a deeper grind to allow deeper edges
- Precision or synchronized - these are shorter that freestyle blades
- To get more information about blades, follow this link.
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7. How often do I need to sharpen my skates?
If you're only skating a couple of times a week then every six to eight weeks is probably enough. Try to make a habit of looking at your blades and paying attention to dull areas or nicks in your blades. If you see any of this happening then they should be sharpened regardless of the number of weeks before a scheduled sharpening. The usual test for sharpness is dragging a fingernail lightly over the edge. If the blade planes off a little sliver of nail they they're sharp. If the blade just slides over the nail then they're dull. Remember that it is not unusual for a blade to wear unevenly so check both edges. The inside edges may wear more quickly than the outside edges or the fronts more quickly than the tails.
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8. Are spin trainers any good?
The jury is out on this one. On the positive side, the more practice that you can get, the better you will be. One lesson with even the best coach in the world will not turn you into a good spinner. Usually a spinner costs the same as a couple of lessons, therefore if you can practice spinning without having to pay each time, then this is a good thing. It will never replace the training of a coach.
There are some exercises that you can do on a spinner:
- for jump landings - stand on the spinner with the landing leg - do NOT move the spinner - hold the landing position to count of 5, remember position & weight placement - KNEE OVER TOE
- salchow - use the spinner for the 3 turn, jump off the spinner and rotate, land as you normally would in a jump
- loops - get into a loop position on the spinner, give yourself some spin from the spinner, jump off, rotate in the air and land
- one foot spin & scratch spin - make sure that your hips are square, start the spinner and maintain your position - you need to have the free leg placed to the side and slightly in front of the spinning foot - push the spinner and feel the position of the hips and the shoulders - this one is tricky and getting the first push-off is key to getting some revolutions
- backspins - these are the easiest - hips should be square - feet are side by side under the shoulders - pull into position - this one is important to have as many straight comfortable revolutions as you can - it will teach you balance & keeping your back straight and your free leg crossed
On the negative side, spinning on a spinner doesn't feel the same as doing it on the ice. It doesn't allow you to replicate the normal approach of the spin. ALWAYS use it in a safe place. Never use it anywhere near anything that you can fall onto. You will literally get tossed off the spinner if your balance is wrong and hurt yourself.
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9. What happes after CanSkate?
Skate Canada uses a numbered system to guide skaters in their progress, the system is called STAR Skate. The STAR 1-5 competition program is where figure skating begins! The STAR competition program is comprised of five different levels of events for skaters who have completed the CanSkate program. It introduces participants to key components of figure skating including performance, assessment, and competition. STAR 1-5 fits into the Learn to Train level of Skate Canada’s Long-Term Athlete Development Model (LTADM).
Each stage of this national program emphasizes key skills such as turns, stroking, jumps, spins, and different aspects of performance that have been designated by figure skating experts as necessary for development and progression in our sport. It is important to note that every skater is unique and will advance at different rates due to various factors such as growth spurts and participation. To accommodate individual needs, the STAR 1-5 competition program is designed to be fluid and allow skaters to progress at their own pace, even skipping levels if appropriate; skaters may move through several levels in a season or stay at the same level – it’s all dependent on individual athlete development! At all stages and levels, parents should discuss their skater’s progress with their coach to determine the best options for them. The chart below provides a brief description of each level:
Group Elements Event
Introduces skaters to performing elements like jumps and spins in a fun group environment with their coaches. Skaters are evaluated and receive a report card and ribbon based on their performance.
Skaters now take many of the elements they learned in STAR 1 as well as new skills and perform them in a program in front of judges. Many skaters may learn a program in a group and even share music. Like STAR 1, skaters are evaluated and receive a report card and ribbon.
STAR 3 continues to build on the skills learned in STAR 1 and 2. More difficult elements like an axel jump are added and judges evaluate the programs based on more challenging criteria. Skaters also receive a report card and ribbon.
Axels are encouraged at this level and receive a bonus for successful completion. STAR 4 serves as a transition point between evaluated levels and competition incorporating a points system. Assessments are used to produce a ranking for each group of competitors. Each skater receives a report card with top finishers in each group receiving either a ribbon or medal.
In STAR 1-4, skaters are evaluated against a national standard by a panel of certified judges. Each element they perform receives an assessment of Gold, Silver, Bronze or Merit as well as an overall standing.
Skaters may perform double jumps at this level. STAR 5 is the first time skaters are rewarded points for elements and performance; it is the same scoring system used to judge top competitive figure skaters. Skaters are ranked based on total points and are provided a detailed report card. Top finishers receive medals.
What Happens After STAR 1-5?
Skaters may choose to continue in higher levels of the STARSkate program (Senior Bronze, Junior Silver, etc.) or transition into in CompetitiveSkate (Pre-Juvenile, Juvenile, etc.). Skaters may also explore ice dancing, pair skating, interpretive skating, or synchronized (team) skating. There are many opportunities for skaters and the best path for athletes to take should be a decision made collaboratively (child, parent and coach).
Helping your skater get the most out of STAR 1-5
There are a lot of options within figure skating and that can sometimes be overwhelming; here are some tips to make this a positive and fun experience for parents and children.
- Keep it Fun. The focus of STAR 1-5 should be on enjoyment and developing figure skating specific skills. Encourage skaters to have fun, try their best, and learn to find joy in all aspects of the sport. Remember this is their sport.
- Ask Questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the way the skating world works! Your coach is a good place to start as are experienced parents and club volunteers. You can also find excellent information on-line at www.skatecanada.ca, as well as your section and club websites.
- Reward Effort. Do not get hung up on results; instead, focus on personal progress and effort. Rankings only reflect the performances on the ice and not who skaters are as individuals. Skaters are not machines and top world skaters have bad days too.
- Provide Emotional Support. This is a really challenging sport. Even in the STAR 1-5 competition program skaters attempt fairly complex movements on a tiny blade and slippery surface; that’s enough to make anyone nervous! Being anxious before competition is normal and it can be helpful to explain to your children that their nerves just show they care about how much they want to do their best.
- Model Healthy Eating and Physical Activity. Even beginner athletes need the right fuel to help them perform at their best. Modeling healthy eating behavior and providing meals that are nutritious and balanced will benefit your entire family. Encourage participation in a range of physical activities in addition to skating - can you find physical activities that you can do together as a family?
- Communicate with your Coach. Your coach is there to help you as well as your child. Communicate with them regularly about the progress of your skater and to chart a course for development that works for your family and your budget.
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10. We have a skater who is in STAR Skate and s/he is practicing his/her skills. What are skills?
Skating skills are exercises that are skated to specific music containing edges turns and field movements designed to expand on the fundamental movements for skaters of all levels. The basic components of all disciplines of figure skating are contained in the program. Edge quality, control, power and speed are basic skating fundamentals that are mastered in the skating area.
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11. What is a Freeskate?
In a Freeskate, skaters learn how to jump and to spin in a variety of positions and to incorporate those and other skills in a program of a specified length using connecting steps and music interpretation.
Each freeskate test is divided into two parts: Elements in Isolation and Free Program. The Elements in Isolation consist of stroking exercises (which all must be assessed as Satisfactory or better in order to pass), jump and spin elements, field movements and step sequences. Of the 14 elements performed at each level, 12 must receive Satisfactory or better evaluations in order to pass that portion of the test. The Free Program is a program of a specified length skated to music of the skater's choice. The program must demonstrate certain elements in order to be passed.
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12. We have a skater who is in STAR Skate and s/he is practicing his/her dances. What are the dances?
The Discipline of Dance consists of seven levels of tests. It teaches timing, musicality, rhythm, interpretation and structure, as well as, basic skating skills such as edges, flow, control and unison. Dancers skate with partners and sometimes by themselves to various musical rhythms, including waltz tango and blues. Each compulsory Dance has a series of steps that must be skated in a specific pattern. Dancers progress through the six different test levels and can skate the Dance tests in any order within each level. A skater must pass a specified number of the test Dances at one level before proceeding to the next.
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13. Please explain the different jumps to us.
The Waltz Jump
A waltz jump begins with along glide on a right back outside edge. The skater steps forward onto a left forward outside edge, kicking the right leg up and through to begin the lift into the air. The arms should be held away from the body since this is only a half rotation jump. As with all jumps, the skater lands on a right back outside edge. The waltz jump and the axel are the only jumps where the skater takes off while facing forwards.
The Salchow Jump
It was invented by Ulrich Salchow. The salchow is an edge jump which starts with the skater going forwards and stepping into a mohawk to a right back outside edge. Without pausing, the skater continues the momentum established by the mohawk by stepping onto a shallow left forward outside edge. The right shoulder should be firmly back and the left should be a strong check following a three turn onto a left back inside edge. The right shoulder should stay firmly back during and after the three turn. The skater brings the free leg around up and through in a scooping motion from the back inside edge to lift the jump into the air. By the time the blade leaves the ice, the skate is actually facing forwards. Some skaters like to substitute the mohawk for the three turn although it is recommended a beginner use the three turn approach.
The Toe Loop
The toe loop begins with a skater moving forwards with both feet on the ice and apart. The skater does a right forward inside three turn with a check at the end of it. The skater reaches back with the left free leg and jabs the toe pick into the ice, thus pole vaulting off the toe pick and into the air.
The loop starts with both feet on the ice about a foot apart on a right back outside and left back inside edge. the weight is squarely over the right hip. The skater begins the jump by bending the knees and falling onto a deep right back outside edge. The left leg drifts across the right as the edge deepens. As the edge is about to turn into a three turn, the skater jumps off the right leg straight up into the air. It should feel like you're popping straight up.
The flip jump starts on a left forward inside edge with the right leg off the ice and in front of the body. The left shoulder is in front and the right shoulder is in back. The skater pushes forwards off the right toe. As the left foot passes the right foot, it switches from an inside edge to an outside edge. The motion is like a skate boarder standing on his skate board with his left leg and pushing forwards with the right leg. The skater uses the momentum from the toe pick push to do a left forward outside three turn to a left back inside edge. The skater reaches back with the right leg and jabs the toe pick into the ice thus pole vaulting into the air.
It was named for inventor Alois Lutz. The lutz jump is similar to the flip jump in that it is a toe jump which takes off from the left foot. The difference is in the setup and the take off edge. The jump starts with a long glide on a very shallow left back outside edge. The skater reaches back with the right leg with the left shoulder across and the right shoulder back. The skater jabs the toe pick into the ice and pole vaults into the air. In theory, the take off happened on a left back outside edge as opposed to the inside edge the flip takes off from.
It was named for Axel Paulson, the 1908 Gold Medallist who invented it. The axel is the only major jump where the skater takes off while going forwards. The setup begins by gliding on a right back outside edge. The skater steps onto a left forward outside edge kicking the right leg up and through lifting into the air. Up to this point, the axel is identical to the waltz jump. After leaving the ground, the skater pulls the arms and the legs in, which forces the jump to rotate a little less than one turn. The jump itself is one and a half rotations. The first half rotation should take place while the skater is in an open position.
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