Archive for September, 2007


Awesome Figure Skating Seminar!

September 26, 2007

On Sunday I attended the PSA National Seminar in Faribault, MN at Shattuck-St. Mary’s.  It was pretty amazing.

The main presenter was Diane Miller who did three presentations on jumps and spins.  The first was a classroom presentation about how she teaches each element and the reasons behind her methods.

Then there was an on-ice segment where she got to more fully demonstrate and explain her drills.  This was my favorite part of the day.  Diane has a great eye and really explains things well.  I’m a big fan of her technique.  We were also treated to some insightful comments by Scott Brown regarding IJS and the elements we were watching.

Diane’s final presentation was an off-ice jump class and that was filled with great tips and tricks as well.  If you ever get a chance to hear Diane speak, take advantage of the opportunity.

The moves in the field part was presented by Kelly Morris Adair.  Kelly did a wonderful job of making her points and keeping the coaches that were on skates active and participating.  But sometimes you don’t really want a bunch of cold coaches doing moves exercises.  🙂

The off-ice presentation by Scott Brown on IJS was very interesting as we got to listen to some of the technical calls for Nationals last year.  Scott made the point that the technical team is almost always done with their part before the skater leaves the ice so the delay that we are experiencing between skaters is due to the judges recording their marks.  It was clear from the question and answer session that there are several areas of IJS that remain confusing to coaches.  I could tell Scott was getting a little irritated near the end by some of the confusion.

The presentation by Jill Hare from US Figure Skating about Growing Your Skating Program was also interesting, but it seemed a little off-topic for many of the coaches present.  There was also an ethics panel discussion and the mock oral PSA rating exam was very funny.  Diane Miller was the mock candidate and she did a great job of playing the part of a nervous, forgetful coach.  In any case, I think for those that have not taken an oral rating exam, it really helps to understand what the process is.

Overall, this was the best seminar I’ve attended in a long time.  I’ll continue to post some of the things I learned over the coming weeks.



Is The New International Judging System Wrecking Our Sport?

September 19, 2007

Any time there is a significant change in anything, people have a natural tendency to resist.  And there’s certainly a lot of second-guessing going on right now regarding the new judging system or IJS.  Everyone agrees that the new judging system is significantly more complicated.

I know a lot of coaches that are very upset about it.  Creating programs and choosing elements has become a bookkeeping challenge.  The focus is now on how to get the most points rather than on how to show off a particular skater’s strengths.  Many coaches feel the new rules are actually hindering skater development, particularly in spirals, spins and footwork, and the emphasis on artistry is being crushed.

I also know several judges that do not like the changes.  They feel that it has become much more complicated without really changing the results over the 6.0 system.  They are now limited to judging an element as very good (+2), good (+1), adequate or average (0), poor (-1), very poor (-2) or terrible/fall (-3).  Let’s face it, there are no +3’s!  Some judges consider it an insult to have to categorize each element into these 6 categories.  And judges are sick of seeing the same elements over and over as most skaters use the same elements to get the maximum number of points.  (And what do you think will happen to the TV ratings if the public gets sick of seeing the same stuff all the time?)

And what about accountants and other officials?  I spent some time volunteering in the accounting room at the Madison Open Figure Skating Competition this weekend.  And let’s just say it’s not pretty.  To record an IJS event, a runner needs to take the judging sheets for each skater to the accounting room immediately after that skater skates.  In the accounting room, the accountant and assistant(s) need to enter the elements as skated, the score for each element, and the component scores, for each judge!  In the 6.0 system, it takes just 2 scores per judge per skater.  Now it’s about 15-20 entries.

And that process needs to be done for every skater.  After the event, when the computer compiles the final results, the referee and technical team leader need to review the results and details of the event.  If there are any errors, the changes need to be made and new results sheets printed.  So in an event of 10 skaters, with 6 judges, there’s about 900 to 1100 pieces of data to enter!!!

So of course there will be errors.  As coaches reading this blog, please understand how complex this has become and be patient when the scores take a while to post.  It’s really become an accounting nightmare.

I asked if it was easier on accounting when the judges have computer input.  The answer was a resounding yes, but to rent and operate the computer system, the accountant estimated it would add about $8000 to the cost of a competition.  I can’t see too many local competitions footing that bill!

The only group as a whole that I’ve found to be really happy about the IJS is the technical controller and the technical team.  They feel it is adding fairness and accountability to the sport.  But many coaches cynically note that this is also the group that is directly benefitting from the IJS.

Now I’m not trying to make a stand here saying the IJS is right or wrong.  I’m simply noting that the IJS it is clearly not being well received by the overall skating community.

I hope to start a discussion online in the near future on this topic.  I know it’s controversial, but I’m seeing an uncomfortable amount of resentment building within our sport.  With the recent losses of so many judges and accountants, we should really be concerned.



Frank Carroll Interview Followup

September 19, 2007

Thank you to all the coaches who submitted questions for Frank Carroll at the Skating Coach Quiz.  The interview on Saturday was really fun.  Frank and I chatted for well over an hour.  Frank is a real pleasure to speak with because he is exceptionally articulate and is very comfortable sharing what he knows.

Before the interview, we talked about what we’d do if I asked a question he didn’t want to answer.  We agreed he’d just tell me he would rather not answer.  But even though I asked a lot of questions including some about personal events in his life and some for his thoughts on controversial issues within figure skating, he answered everything.

I learned a lot from our talk.  And it was recorded so I’ll be sharing some of the best parts of the recording at the Skating Coach Quiz.  Of course I may also share some of the interview here on my blog so check back regularly.

I was surprised at how many coaches wanted in-depth technical discussions about jumps and spins.  I wasn’t sure how well that would work in an audio interview so I will save those questions until I meet Frank again.  But in the meantime, I may touch on many of those topics in this blog and at Skating Coach Quiz.



Interview With Frank Carroll

September 12, 2007

I’m very excited.  As you probably know, I’m the creator of the Skating Coach Quiz.  And I’m always looking for great content from elite skating coaches.

I feel very lucky that Frank Carroll has agreed to let me interview him.  In order to make sure I conduct a well-rounded interview, I have asked a large number of other skating coaches for questions.

I’m looking forward to this.  As I explained in a previous post, I recently attended a Frank Carroll workshop.  And it was really interesting hearing him talk about everything from technique to his expectations for the upcoming season.

In an upcoming post, I may share some of the questions that coaches submitted for Mr. Carroll as well as some of the things we talked about in the interview.



How Does The Ironman Relate to Figure Skating?

September 11, 2007

This weekend I went out and watched the Ironman Wisconsin race here in Madison.  It’s incredibly impressive.  Athletes train for months to race in a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a full marathon run of 26.2 miles.  The top finishers take more than 8 hours to complete the race.  Many competitors never finish the race at all and there’s a 19 hour limit before they close the course.  It’s truly grueling.

I had to find out how someone trains for such an event. There are incredibly detailed guides available to help any reasonbly fit athlete complete the Ironman.  A typical program takes 20 weeks of preparation and breaks down the process into mental and physical training.  The detail of such programs can be truly astonishing, but it’s really the only way to get a human body to do something so intense.

But all this got me thinking, that figure skaters do not have any similar guides to training for a major event.  Sure, some coaches have figured out a great system that works for their skaters, but most coaches are in the dark about how to help a skater peak at the right moment.

What if skating coaches had a complete guide to preparing a skater for Regionals?  Would the number of great performances at Regionals increase?  Without a doubt!

Most skaters train their physical bodies by skating regularly.  Many even have training programs that taper off or increase in intensity as the main competition draws near.  But there seems to be very little focus in skating on training the complete athlete, including nutrition, rest, and mental preparation.  I would venture to guess that less than 10% of all competitive skaters have a mental training program, and less than 1% actually take it seriously.

Getting back to the Ironman, athletes prepare by regularly focusing on race preparation, physical training, physical health, mental health and efficiency.  Every aspect of training is laid out in a weekly and daily training program.

Do any figure skating coaches out there apply similar techniques?

To optimize their performace at a major event, figure skaters should focus on a clear, step by step process that includes the following:

  • Competition Prep – including knowing all the rules, being familiar with the venue, proper eating the days leading up to the event, and equipment care such as costumes and skates
  • Training – focusing on developing the fitness required to perform the programs, and repetition of the programs to minimize the mental stress of all motions
  • Physical health – including nutrition, weight, body composition, fatique, soreness, and injuries
  • Mental health – from confidence and motivation, to stress control
  • Efficiency – with the emphasis on flexibility, equipment setup, and proper form or good skating technique

Any true training program should take all of these factors into account.  I know of no program that addresses all of these issues for figure skaters.  Yet these issues are completely understood and publicly available for many other sports.  I suspect that figure skating training methods are only in their infancy and all of these issues will be addressed in the future.  As athletes continue to compete at higher and higher levels, they are constantly looking for an edge.  Someone will discover it in figure skating.  Then training for a major event will become a science!